PNE U18s continued their winning start to 2016 with a 3-1 victory over Bury.
Nick Harrison made three changes to the side that booked Preston’s place in the Northern Final of the Youth Alliance Cup – Mathew Hudson and Clive Smith both travelled to Derby with the first-team paving the way for Callum Roberts and Earl to start, whilst Tracey started up top as oppose to Tom Barry for the game.
Earl was into the action straight from the off with a long-range punt straight down the throat of the Bury shot stopper, whilst Adam James Robinson’s shot inside the box was charged down for a corner early on.
Action in both boxes was sparse throughout, primarily because of the blustery conditions that surrounded Springfields training ground but whenever North End did gain a sight of goal, they more often than not found the net.
Just after the half hour mark PNE took the lead, the forward line pressed the Bury defence forcing them to lose possession and Tracey took full advantage with a splendid finish into the bottom corner.
“We were a lot more clinical then we have been this season,” said Harrison to the Club website after North End made it five wins from five in a relatively comfortable afternoon for the Lilywhites.
“We felt we had chances, particularly in the first-half that went across the box that we should have taken but when we had the clear cut chances we finished most of them off - It’s great to see our forward players in the last couple of games scoring goals.
“It was a good performance taking into account the weather conditions - the players did really well to play the kind of football they did in the wind. We said it was going to be difficult because Bury are a good team and they caused us a threat going forward, but we attacked the ball well and performed superbly as a team.”
Preston continued to pose a threat in the second-half – Earl’s header hit the turf before forcing the Bury ‘keeper to stretch to save, whilst James Boyd struck from the edge of the box after Melle Meulensteen’s free-kick came back out, but the midfielder drove his shot off target.
With the wind against him, Meulensteen broke from the half-way line and tenaciously surged towards the edge of the box, but his shot flew just over the cross bar.
With 67 minutes on the clock, birthday boy Jonathan Lunney marked turning 18 with an assist after squaring the ball inside the box into Earl who tapped home from point-blank range to double the advantage.
And Lunney was again involved in the third - after his initial effort was saved, Tracey pounced on the rebound 15 minutes from time to nod the ball into an empty net to give Preston a three goal cushion.
Miller reduced the deficit for Bury from a corner, but North End barely had chance to kick off again from the goal as the referee blew his whistle making North End victors, and Harrison believed the fact that his players stuck to the game plan was pivotal in North End taking home three points.
Harrison added: “What we wanted to do is try and pass the ball progressively whenever we could, and the weather conditions was one of the main reasons for that.
“Sometimes we had to pass it back to go forwards, but with the conditions and how we wanted to play against Bury, we asked the players to pass it forward whether it be short or long as much as possible.
“We’ve very pleased with the winning run we’re on. I’ve said all along from the start of this season that it’s about the performances just as much as the result and the players learning and developing and I think that’s where we are right now.
“The players know that because they’ve got to progress as individuals and the team has got to progress and long may it continue.”
“We want to win every game and it doesn’t really matter what kind of competition we play, whether it’s a friendly, league or cup game every game has got to be approached in the same way.
“Installing winning habits in all of the players is just as important as performing well and understanding the game, and playing the game in the right manner, so it’s great that we’re doing well in the league and the cups and we’ll look to progress in all of the competitions.”
PNE XI: Roberts, Crankshaw, Whelan, Boyd, Burgoyne, A Jo Robinson, Lunney, A Ja Robinson, Tracey, Meulensteen, Earl
PNE subs: Jagne, Creech, Tait, Barry, Davidson