The U18s recorded back-to-back wins yesterday morning with a convincing 1-0 win over neighbours Fleetwood Town, at Victory Park, Chorley.
The victory was even more creditable bearing in mind the lengthy injury list boss Nick Harrison faces, especially in defence.
Absentees in the back four meant the youth-team coach blooded Precieux Ngongo and Lewi Fensome, fresh from the U15 and U16 set-up into the side, alongside Sean Whelan and Josh Earl in defence, both of whom were playing outside of their usual positions.
But that didn’t stop the Lilywhites chalking their fourth clean sheet of the season, and Harrison told the Club website he’s willing to give more players from the younger sides a chance, providing they can make the step-up.
“We had an U15 and an U16 playing in the back four – both played 90 minutes, and both played really well,” Harrison said.
“But we’re not surprised that they played well because we know we’ve got some good players throughout the academy, and if they’re doing well, and if we feel it’s right for them to step into the U18s, we’ll give them their chance.
“I think that’s a message to the U18 lads that they have to be on their toes – there are a lot of young lads that are pushing for their place.”
It took a while for North End to get into the swing of things, but they were a worthy threat once they found their rhythm.
Lamin Jagne and Jonathan Lunney couldn’t find the target with their efforts, but Boyd certainly did - a beautiful lifted ball by Lunney from the byline reached the North End goal scorer at the back post who powered the ball into the net.
Preston where dealt a scare five minutes from the break when Mamadou Djabi was through on goal, but Mathew Hudson got his body behind the shot before Fensome blocked the rebound.
That aside, the PNE shot-stopper didn’t have much to do as North End controlled the game for most of the 90 minutes, and Harrison put that down to a real team effort.
He continued: “The lads worked hard, they were organised and that resulted in keeping a clean sheet.
“They knew if they wanted to win the game, they had to come together and work hard for the team which they did.
“I thought Lamin Jagne and Sean Whelan were both excellent – there were a number of good individual performance but at the end of the say, it’s the team that gets the three points.
“We’re really pleased with most parts of the game and the performance - they’ve got the win and the three points which is great because that’s what they train for in the week, but it’s pleasing for us that we’ve put on a performance, because that’s important for their development.
“We’ve got players who are taking on board lots of information and applying it on the pitch, and we’ve talked about young lads who are stepping up to U18s and the demands of it, so every training session and game is for the development of the players.”
Seven minutes into the second-half, Hudson again stood firm to deny Djabi in another one-on-one situation, whilst at the other end, a shot by Tom Barry was blocked by a Fleetwood shirt when it looked like it could have sneaked in.
North End failed in their attempts of doubling the advantage meaning a nervy ending to the game, but once Nathan Sheron was sent off for a second bookable offence, it all but secured North End taking the spoils.
PNE XI – Hudson, Fensome, Ngongo, Whelan, Earl, Crankshaw, Jagne, Meulensteen, Lunney, Boyd, Barry
PNE Subs – A Joseph Robinson, Cotton, Davidson, Creech, Howard