The U18s made it four wins from four last Saturday, and more importantly booked their place in the Quarter-finals of the Youth Alliance Cup defeating Doncaster 1-0.
“I thought we dominated the game throughout,” said the gaffer after the final whistle. “We probably should have been more clinical in terms of converting the number of chances we had into goals, but the actual overall play, and decision making in possession by us I thought was outstanding.”
North End set the tone from the word go; firstly through James Boyd whose fierce shot was turned away for a corner, before Melle Meulensteen had a long-range strike that saw Doncaster ‘ keeper Jonathan Iveson into action for the first time in the game, all inside 15 minutes.
Dylan Davidson and Freddie Tracey kept the Donny shot-stopper busy producing two decent saves from the pair, before Tracey again threatened from a corner, only for his front post header to flash across goal and wide.
Pressure from the North End front line saw Iveson’s involvement in the game continue, with the Donny ‘keeper mis-hitting a clearance seeing Tracey pounce on the ball in the area; his recovery his only escape, as he flung his body in the way of The North End man’s shot.
The Lilywhites were playing with confidence, evident when they finally took the lead two minutes into the second-half. Terrific build-up play from North End resulted in Tracey leaping first to a cross to head home, despite the best efforts of Iveson who could only palm the ball into the net.
After taking the lead, North End saw their grip of the game become even tighter; Dylan Davidson should have made it two after meeting a cross at the back post only for him to rocket his effort wide, whilst possession was well and truly in North End’s favour.
But that didn’t stop Doncaster’s creativity with the hosts denied by the woodwork through Matthew Parkin on two occasions. With 15 minutes to go, Parkin surged forward before releasing a shot from 18 yards that cannoned off the post.
With the clock ticking, Parkin once again rallied his team-mates with another effort, this time a different body part but the same outcome, with his header thumping the bar, signifying North End’s win and passage into the next round.
“It was a very good team performance once again from the lads,” said Harrison who witnessed his side record their third 1-0 victory in a row.
“But what’s probably more important was the individual performances from all of the players that were involved and that’s really pleasing.
“For a number of weeks now we’ve performed very well and generally if you perform well you get a result. It’s vital they put individual performances in and come together as a team especially at this stage of their careers, so we’re really delighted, not just today but for the last few weeks, they’ve deserved to get another win today. “
After an inconsistent start to the season, things are starting to click into place for Harrison’s men. Last Saturday’s victory means North End ended October with a 100 percent record for the month, setting the stage nicely for high-flyers Shrewsbury Town’s visit to Victory Park this weekend.
“That’s why it’s called development,” said Harrison on North End’s recent surge in form. “They’re only young lads, and their improving every day, game by game.
"It’s not going to happen overnight for them and they’re going to have disappointments along the way as well but I think at the moment, it’s them who are making the right decisions on and off the ball, and they’re delivering very good individual performances which in turn generates a good team performance and I thought we thoroughly deserved to win the game today.
“They’ve got to learn to win, but again as a club we’re looking for the right decisions and the right performances; the right decisions on and off the ball and their build-up play which is what they’re doing right at the moment. Because they’re doing that, they’re going to win games and it’s great that we get another clean sheet so that’s really what the goal for all of the players is.”
PNE XI v Doncaster: Hudson, Smith, Whelan, Jagne, B Roberts, A Joseph Robinson, Davidson, Meulensteen, Tracey, Boyd, Lunney
PNE Subs: Crankshaw, C Roberts, Earl, Howard, Fensome