PNE U18s are through to the Northern Final of the Youth Alliance Cup after beating Carlisle United for the third time this season.
Harrison made three changes from the 3-1 win against Fleetwood at the weekend with Mathew Hudson, Clive Smith and Oliver Crankshaw coming in, in place of Callum Roberts, Callum Tait, and Dylan Davidson
Tom Barry, fresh from his hat-trick exploits at that game flicked a header wide from a Jonathan Lunney corner, whilst Lunney and James Boyd both had efforts straight at the Carlisle shot stopper whilst the game was still young.
Crankshaw had two chances in quick succession, both of which failed to hit the target, and Adam James Robinson’s shot at goal ricocheted off a United leg before being cleared.
10 minutes before half-time, Lunney had a great chance to break the deadlock from a long ball over the top, only for the second-year scholar to fire his effort over.
Eight minutes before half-time, and a ball in behind the Preston defence forced Hudson off his line to jump onto the loose ball, marking a rare period in which Carlisle weren’t rooted to their own half, and Harrison believed those United tactics were enforced, rather than planned by his counter-part.
“The players, certainly in the first-half made them retreat by the way we passed the ball,” said the youth coach.
“It’s a style of play that the boys are going to have to learn to play against – I’m sure we’re going to come up against teams that will press us but I think our boys are more than capable of playing against both types of opposition.”
A head injury to Jack Burgoyne late in the half saw Harrison switch his side around, with Clive Smith moving to centre back, whilst Crankshaw dropped to right back giving Davidson room to slot in the right side of the midfield.
And it seemed to do the trick – just minutes after the restart, the ball came back out to Davidson whose shot was hammered home, taking a deflection on the way in, finally giving North End a lead they deserved, and Harrison explained to the Club website the reasoning for shuffling the pack as oppose to just a straight swap.
He continued: “We know Dylan’s got pace and he’s a threat, and we felt at half-time if we kept playing, a goal would come eventually.
“It was great we got it as quick as we did in the second-half but we were just disappointed we couldn’t finish the game off and get two or three more goals.
“It should have been far more comfortable for us, and their coaches have mentioned that straight after the game. We dominated it throughout and we created lots of chances that we didn’t take, so we’re frustrated we weren’t more clinical in front of goal.”
North End made their second sub of the game 10 minutes into the first-half, with Barry coming off for Lamin Jagne, and the substitute almost made an instant impact, meeting Lunney’s cross to volley wide of Carlisle’s goal.
Davidson’s efforts of grabbing a second were denied by Carlisle’s goalkeeper Morgan Bacon who parried a curling effort away from goal, whilst at the other end, Kieran Hall shot straight at Hudson, who stood up well to the Cumbrians pressure.
Other than that, the Blues didn’t really test North End’s resistance, and North End held on for the 1-0 win to book their place in the Northern Final, where they’ll face Shrewsbury Town.
The final is just one of a number of games for the youngsters to look forward too in the coming months with the FA Youth Cup tie at Deepdale on the horizon next month, and Harrison admits it’s an exciting time to be part of the squad.
“We’ve got lots of games to look forward too - in the league and in the cups and that’s what it’s all about,” Harrison added.
“It’s much better than training as they’re going to get more from the games and playing in the games and playing in the conditions against different teams so we’re looking forward to all of the matches and hopefully we can stay in the competitions for as long as possible.
On making it win number four in a row, he continued: “It creates that winning habit, and that’s what we want. We want to play in the right way and we want our boys to get a winning habit and an understanding of how to win games and at the moment that’s happening.
“I’m sure at some point we’ll hit a bit of bad form, and that’s where the boys learn as well so at the moment we’re happy and long may that continue.”