Academy boss Nick Harrison labelled yesterday’s 2-2 draw against Accrington Stanley as the best performance from his side this season.
But Stanley responded with two goals in five minutes to snatch a share of the spoils, leaving North End leaving the field feeling short-changed after the final whistle.
The U18s boss however was more upbeat, calling the performance the best yet since kicking the 2015/16 campaign off last month.
He said: “I thought the performance was excellent, and probably our best performance of the season in terms of the league games we’ve played in and the result didn’t reflect the score.
“Today, we were really pleased with how the players performed, but what we’re disappointed about is conceding two very sloppy goals from our point of view which the players on the pitch should do better with.”
The only thing lacking from North End’s first-half was goals - PNE asserted their dominance as early as the 12th minute when Josh Earl’s in-swinging cross was met by Jonathan Lunney, but his placed volley flew over.
Earl down the left-hand side was proving a useful outlet – again driving to the byline , but this time the youngster cut inside before firing a shot across goal that flashed just wide, before shortly after bending a first-time effort just over from a more central position.
Lunney also gave Stanley something to think about going in at half-time with a low shot, that forced ‘keeper Christian Evans into action once again to save.
North End didn’t have it all their own way in the first-half – Mathew Hudson, playing his first game since coming back from injury produced a terrific save to tip Tyler Scarth’s close-range strike over the bar.
15 minutes into the second-half, the goal finally came – Kwateng, who came up from the back for the corner getting the final touch of a goalmouth scramble to bundle the ball home, to score his first competitive goal since signing a two-year scholarship with North End this summer.
As scruffy as the first goal was, the second goal was as delightful as you like – superb build-up play that would have had Harrison pleased as punch from the touchline concluded with Meulensteen delivering a sweet shot that flew into the corner.
“We’re not bothered about how we score – the first was a scruffy goal but it’s gone into the back of the net, and the second goal is excellent play and a great finish by Melle,” told the academy boss.
“They played the game in the right way today - they attacked, and when we didn’t have the ball they defended well.
"It was just for the two incidents they scored we switched off so that’s what’s disappointing but thinking about all of the positives, we’ve had more chances then we have done, we kept the ball better, switched the play better, and put the balls in the box better, so we’re really pleased.
"They’ve got to build on the performance they’ve put in, because it was very good - I’d like to see the stats because it’s probably the most chances we’ve created in one game all season.
“We probably could have scored more goals, but at 2-0 we should have done enough to win the game, but we switched off twice with two throw-ins and obviously we’ve conceded the two goals so I think the players have got to learn that they’ve got to carry on with the performances as they did, just not switch off and concentrate a bit more when they’ve got the ball, especially into the last 10 minutes of the game.”
Collectively and individually, there were a number of performances yesterday to be pleased with going into the away game against Bury next Saturday, and Harrison singled out the performance of James Boyd at the heart of central midfield.
He added: “I thought James [Boyd] was outstanding today, and he didn’t put a foot wrong all game.
“I thought Mathew Hudson also did well on his return to action - Callum Roberts has gone home ill over the week so that’s disappointing for him, but it’s gave Mathew the opportunity to play.
“He got the all-clear on Wednesday from the surgeon, so it was a great first game for him - I’m sure he’s going to be disappointed to have conceded two goals but that’s something we can build on, and it’s good to get him back.”