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PNE U18s 2-2 Wrexham U18s

21 February 2016

North End U18s were denied a victory right at the death after Wrexham secured a 2-2 draw with the last kick of the game.

Freddy Tracey drew North End level mid-way through the first-half after Wrexham’s Jonny Smith broke the deadlock inside five minutes.

Preston took the lead through Jonathan Lunney from the spot, but just as the Lilywhites looked like taking three points, Smith grabbed his second in injury-time with the final whistle coming immediately after the restart.

The draw, although not a bad one in reflection denied North End back-to-back victories after beating Morecambe 3-0 last Monday, but manager Nick Harrison focused on the positives of the encounter.

“We’re disappointed because we performed very well on a very poor pitch,” told the youth coach at a muddy Victory Park on Saturday.

“We played in the right way and had enough dominance in the game to go and win it. It’s a lesson for the players in terms of game understanding and game craft at the end of the mtach that they have to see it out and win it 2-1.

“Credit to Wrexham, they kept going and they had one or two players who did really well - I’m pleased with our performance but disappointed we couldn’t see the game out.”

It was Wrexham who adapted to the conditions quickest with the visitors taking the lead after four minutes – a simple ball over the top managed to find its way to Smith, who surged towards the penalty area before slotting the ball past Callum Roberts.

But North End cancelled the deficit 18 minutes later – James Boyd met Melle Meulensteen’s inventive ball from the left to tee up Tracey who blasted the ball home from point blank range.

Wrexham’s Jordan Davies smashed a low drive into the path of Roberts whilst Smith, who proved a live wire all game had a header denied by Preston’s shot stopper all before half-time.

But in the 69th minute Preston took the lead - Lamin Jagne’s long ball had just about enough weight for Boyd to latch onto, and as the midfielder looked to advance at goal, he was brought down just inside the box with the ref pointing to the spot.

Up stepped Jonathan Lunney who converted the penalty to grab his sixth of the season, calmly placing the ball beyond Reece Airey into the right-hand corner.

Lunney could have grabbed a brace had his audacious effort not bounced the wrong side of the post and wide, whilst Josh Earl let loose a thunderous shot that flashed off target just before.

With the clock ticking, Wrexham pushed further forward in search of an equaliser. Preston’s defence managed to withstand the pressure right up until the 98th minute, after a free-kick was cleared only as far as Smith, who placed his finish into the corner past a bunch of crowded bodies to snatch the Welsh side a point.

There was an allusion that the eight minutes added on by the referee because of stoppages was far too much, but Harrison refused to use that as an excuse as to why his side didn’t take home the maximum number of points.

“It’s up to the referee how long he plays,” acknowledged the North End boss. “If the referee’s gone over time we have to deal with that. They did, and that’s why they scored at the end.

“We didn’t make good decisions in possession. We gave a silly free-kick away and we didn’t defend it well enough, and that’s why we’ve drawn the game when we should have seen the game out and won it 2-1.

“It’s frustrating because until then, we defended really well but you’ve got to go until the very end. It’s no good doing it until one minute to go, you’ve got to do it right until the ref blows the whistle, so hopefully it’s a lesson the players can learn.

“The players want to be first-team players, whether that be at Preston North End or elsewhere so they’ve got to learn to win games and see games out. We’ve not done that today, but if they can learn from that then great because that’s what it’s all about.”

Harrison also took time to credit both teams with what was an entertaining spectacle for the neutral, with both sides keen to play expansive football despite a mud-drenched pitch.

It was a good game," he continued. "The pitch hasn’t helped the football that both teams want to play but that’s how it is, and it’s the same for both teams.

“I thought both teams coped with the conditions well. For large portions of the game, we passed the ball well and played forward when we needed to, but unfortunately we just couldn’t see the game out when we got ourselves in front. They’ve got to keep going until the final whistle and have a little bit of game understanding at vital parts of the game.”

For the latest news from the Preston North End Academy, follow us on Twitter: @PNEAcademy.

PNE line-up: C Roberts, Tait (Crankshaw 71’), Whelan (c) (Hancox 81’), Jagne, B Roberts, A Jo Robinson, Lunney, Boyd, Tracey, Meulensteen, Earl.

PNE subs not used: Cottam, Creech, Burgoyne.


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