Four U16s represented Preston North End’s youth team yesterday as the U18s suffered their first loss in six games against Walsall losing 4-0 at Birmingham County HQ.
With the FA Youth Cup tie against Luton just four days away, the coaching set-up made ten changes from the one that defeated Bury 3-1 in mid-week.
Elliot Watt, Tom Stead, Alex Wood and Kian Smart were all brought up from the year group below to play, some of whom were playing in their unnatural positions.
Only Callum Roberts kept his place in goal, and the shot-stopper was kept on his toes early on, pulling off a number of saves to deny Walsall.
The home side did take the lead with 20 minutes on the clock after Roberts’ parried save fell kindly to Walsall’s number nine who stroked the rebound home.
The Saddlers added a further three as the game progressed despite a strong-willed Preston side, with the majority of the youngsters playing with each other for the first time.
It would have been five had it not been for Roberts’ penalty save late on, and although disappointed in defeat, U18s coach Andy Fensome believed his inexperienced side should take heart from their performance.
“For the first 25 minutes we were under pressure,” stated Fensome; “but once the boys got into the game we had a couple of chances and hung in well for the first-half.
“There were lads playing out of position that have come in and played their first, second or third game for the U18s.
“They’re a good side Walsall – they’re high up in the league so the lads that have played would have learned a lot today. The pitch wasn't great so it wasn’t the time for pretty football, but there were some good performances from some of the younger players.
“We’ve changed the team around with the FA Youth Cup coming up - the team isn’t sorted out yet for that game but it was a good chance to give game time to lads who haven’t played as much this season play and also an opportunity for some of the U16s to play.
“That’s no excuse of course, and ultimately we’ve lost the game 4-0 – we don’t like losing any game of football at this Club, and that’s the right mentality to have, but the boys should hold their heads up high because of the circumstances, and have come out of it with some good experience under their belt.”
This Wednesday is your chance to see Preston North End’s next generation in action with the U18s taking on Luton Town in the last 16 of the FA Youth Cup at Deepdale. Kick-off 7pm.
The Sir Tom Finney stand [south] will be open for both sets of fans on the night – tickets are priced as £2 for adults and £1 for concessions – there will be cash entry at turnstiles with free entry for season ticket holders of both clubs.
For those who can’t make the game, PNE PlayerHD will be offering a live video stream and commentary of the game, so you don’t miss a kick as North End’s youngsters look to book their place in the last eight where local rivals Blackburn Rovers await.