An early Melle Meulensteen penalty put North End’s Academy side in the fourth round the FA Youth Cup, with a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United at Deepdale.
The Blades, a Cat 2 Academy, had progressed to the third round with wins over Crewe Alexandra and FC Halifax Town, but could not break down a resolute PNE side.
It was a blistering start from Nick Harrison’s side and O’Neil – one of two sons of former PNE players in the starting XI, both playing their first games at Deepdale (the other being Kian Smart) – burst into the left hand edge of the area, before being fouled by Tom Charlesworth, referee Barry Lamb having no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Second year Meulensteen stepped up and calmly fired down the middle of the goal, giving Josh Perryman no chance in the goal.
The visitors had a lot of possession in the first half, but without causing too many problems for Callum Roberts between the sticks. In fact, the best chances came the way of the home side.
Mid-way through the half the ball was worked well down the right to Dylan Davidson, who crossed into the six yard box. The ball was half cleared to Meulensteen on the edge of the ‘D’, but the No.10’s curling effort was just over the bar.
The captain had a third chance on 33 minutes, this time Josh Earl did well on the left hand side to pick up Meulensteen on the penalty spot, but he could only find the chest of Perryman.
In the second half Roberts was certainly the busier keeper as pressure came from the men from Bramall Lane. His first stop was a strong hand ten minutes into the latter period, getting down to his right to keep out a low effort from Regan Slater.
With four minutes to go he was all that stood between PNE and extra time as he was one on one with United substitute Joseph Cummings, who had collected a flick on from fellow change David Parkhouse, but the PNE No.1 made himself big and did superbly to make the save.
In the first minute of five added on for stoppages the Blades finally had the ball in the back of the net, when the lively Jordan Hallam slotted into the bottom left hand corner, but the linesman’s flag went up, much to the relief of the Lilywhites, who showed strength of character to hold on and put themselves into the fourth round draw on Friday 9th December.
PNE line-up: Roberts, Burgoyne, Campbell, Smart, Day (Howard, 88), Stead, Davidson, O’Neil (Creech, 82), Garstang (Kwateng, 84), Garstang, Meulensteen, Earl. Subs not used: Lenton, Mason.
Sheffield United line-up: Perryman, Charlesworth, Cantrill (Cummings, 56), Gilmour, Graham, Semple, Smith, Slater, Burton (Parkhouse, 67), Hallam, Mallon (Greaves, 73). Subs not used: Warhurst, Ford.
Referee: Mr B Lamb