North End’s Academy returned to winning ways with a thumping victory over Rochdale at Victory Park on Tuesday afternoon.
The young Lilywhites had to content with a difficult Chorley surface, but still passed the ball well and put their north west youth alliance opponents to the sword, with all four goals being well executed.
It took them 24 minutes to break the deadlock, a corner from the left came out to Lunney in the right hand corner of the area; he got a shot away with his left foot which left the bar shaking, but James Boyd met the rebound and fired hard and low into the bottom left hand corner with the Dale goalkeeper still scrambling from the initial effort.
It was 2-0 just after the half hour mark when Josh Earl showed a clean pair of heels to one defender, before checking back to beat another on the left hand side of the box, before clipping a ball perfectly to the back post for Lunney to power a header past Wade in goal for the greater Manchester outfit.
The Lilywhites dominated proceedings and had chances to further extend their lead long before they added a third on 69 minutes. This time young forward Dylan Davidson collected a ball from Boyd down the right hand side and crossed to the back post to where Jagne dived in to head home.
And the midfielder man got his second and PNE’s fourth with 13 minutes to go. A free kick was awarded 25 yards out in a very central position after Boyd was brought down and Jagne got real pace and dip on his effort that left the young Rochdale stopper with no chance.
Speaking about his side’s dominant display Academy manager Nick Harrison was delighted with the U18s attitude, considering the state of the pitch, he said: “We were really pleased with the performance; especially with the state of the pitch. We said before the game that some of the best players in the world come from places where the pitches are not great and they had to deal with it and we believe we have players who are good enough to do that and we asked them to be brave and still get on the ball and we were really pleased that we took to that.
“We were even more pleased that we scored some goals, because we haven’t done that in the past few games. Scoring was on the agenda and we did that and really we should have had more.
“The lads were brave to get on the ball, even with the bobbles, because technically we have players who have a good touch, but if you don’t concentrate and have the right attitude and want the ball, it doesn’t matter what type of pitch you play on.
“We were really pleased they wanted to do that and didn’t shy away from the ball and when they did and we switched play and got the ball forward I thought it was fantastic.”
All four of the goals were well crafted and further chances that were created for Jagne – who missed a chance in the first ten minutes that would have given him a deserved hat-trick – Earl, who was a constant threat on the left, Boyd and substitute Leon Creech, who forced the visiting keeper into a fine save late on and Harrison was delighted with the quality of his side’s attacking intent.
“We played proper football. We got the ball wide and got it into the box. We got it forward and we backed it up with our midfield players getting into the box and getting on the end of things and that is the proper way to play.
“We are not just going to walk it in or score from 30 or 40 yards, we have to play the game in the right way and we moved it and switched it and got the ball out wide and looked dangerous when we attacked,” he added.
PNE line-up: C Roberts, Burgoyne, A Joseph Robinson (Crankshaw, 72), Meulensteen, Whelan (c) (Creech, 75), B Roberts, Lunney, Jagne (Hancox, 80), Davidson, Boyd, Earl. Sub not used: Cottam.
Rochdale line-up: Wade, Chea, Hamzat (Piggott, 73), Lenehan, Evans, Hollins, Mata, Kisimba, Pratt (Prescott, 68), Smalley, Stewart. Sub not used: Price.