North End bowed out of the Lancashire Senior Cup at the first round stage as Premier League Everton triumphed 3-0 at Southport’s Haig Avenue.
A first half header from Leandro Rodriguez was added to by Conor Grant’s low drive early in the second half and then a long range curling effort by Liam Walsh, to give David Unsworth’s Toffees a place in the last eight of the famous old competition.
The home side’s opener came after only ten minutes when skipper Ryan Ledson dinked a cross from the left byline, by the edge of the penalty area, for Uruguayan striker Rodriguez to head home unmarked from two yards out at the back post.
This had been no more than the Blues had deserved after the opening exchanges, Rodriguez already denied by the legs of Jamie Jones three minutes earlier after a through ball between the two North End centre halves of Ben Davies and Josh Heaton by Conor McAleny.
North End’s experienced spine – with seven professionals in the starting line-up - was diminished extremely quickly; Jordan Hugill and Kyel Reid both forced off with what looked like knee injuries, having picked up the knocks in strong tackles by the young Toffeemen within the first half hour.
But it was after the changes that the Lilywhites came into the game; their high-pressing game forcing mistakes the side watched by the senior manager, Roberto Martinez, leading to more possession and ultimately more opportunities at goal.
The best of which came after two of the remaining professionals combined as Josh Brownhill was sent into the box by an excellent ball from Andy Little down a right hand channel. The Academy product got into the box and fired hard and low towards the bottom right hand corner, but ’keeper Mateusz Hewelt saved with his legs and then got across the goal to get down low to his left to deny Little with a follow up from 20 yards.
The yellows had started the second half in the ascendency again, Little looking a physical challenge for Pennington and Browning – who had been lucky to stay on the pitch at the end of the first half for a late challenge on Ben Davies – to deal with, however, this pressure was released when the lead was doubled as Conor Grant fired into the bottom right hand corner from 15 yards after good work by right back Callum Lees.
It was three at the mid-point of the half when a short corner was played out to Liam Walsh, who curled a shot into the top right hand corner from 30 yards out from a deep left hand channel, Jamie Jones with no chance in the goal.
Andy Little had an excellent chance to reduce the arrears just a minute after the third, heading wide after substitute James Boyd’s driven shot from the right corner of the six yard box had been pushed away by Polish stopper Hewelt.
Another save by the feet of former Blue Jones denied Rodriguez his second and Everton's fourth with ten minutes remaining and an excellent block-tackle by JJ Lunney prevented Gethin Jones getting on the scoresheet just 13 minutes after coming on.
Jamie Jones made another fine stop with his legs to deny Ryan Ledson in a one-on-one with the Everton captain, after the midfielder had broken through the middle of the North End defence as the home side finished strongly against the now youthful PNE line-up without adding to their tally.
Everton line-up: Hewelt, Lees (Yates, 67), Mellon (Jones, 67), Ledson (c), Pennington, Browning, Grant, Walsh, McAleny, Rodriguez, Henen (Evans, 76). Subs not used: Yates, Gray, Jones, Williams, Evans.
PNE line-up: Jones, Smith, Whelan, Jagne, Heaton, Davies (c), Little, A James Robinson, Hugill (Lunney, 13), Brownhill, Reid (Boyd, 27). Subs not used: B Roberts, James, Earl.
: Mr D BondReferee