Preston North End’s U18s fought back to earn a well deserved 1-1 draw against Accrington Stanley at the weekend.
The Lilywhites went behind midway through the second half but substitute Akwasi Kwateng earned his side a point with a terrific header in the third minute of stoppage time.
North End started the game well and saw plenty of the ball as they pressured the opposition, but a couple of decent crosses from Jack Armer and Leon Creech ultimately came to nothing.
While the home side were in the ascendancy, though, Callum Roberts had to remain alert in the PNE goal and he made a great stop at his near post midway through the half.
And Roberts did well again moments before the break, as an Accrington header went right across goal before the PNE stopper held on to a back-heeled effort close to goal.
Harry Garstang had an equally inviting opportunity at the other end, but he was unfortunate as his shot from inside the six-yard box went just wide.
The second half started in a similar vein, with PNE controlling the play.
Ki Smart almost caught the Stanley ‘keeper out with a lob from far out but the visiting stopper could do nothing about Oscar O’Neil’s effort shortly after, as the Lilywhites midfielder raced through midfield and arrowed a powerful shot against the crossbar.
Melle Meulensteen was the next to try his luck, as his shot was tipped over by the Accrington goalkeeper in the 54th minute, and the Dutchman’s whipped delivery from a free-kick threatened to cause a problem not long after.
However, it was Accrington who took the lead in the 68th minute, as Joe Rathbone headed in from a left-wing cross just outside the six-yard box.
Ethan Walker had already been introduced from the bench before Alex Wood and Tom Barry were sent on to assist North End’s search for an equaliser, but it was defender Tom Stead who looked to have brought it level in the 84th minute.
The centre-back got on the end of Meulensteen’s corner with a powerful header, but he too was denied by an excellent save from the Accrington goalkeeper.
Akwasi Kwateng then came on with five minutes remaining, and he went close just a minute from time when Josh Earl flicked on Meulensteen’s free-kick, but the substitute’s shot was blocked.
However, Kwateng combined with Creech to devastating effect in the 93rd-minute.
Creech crossed from the right as Kwateng raced over from the left to nod the delivery into the bottom left corner, earning the home side a fully merited 1-1 draw.
Academy manager Nick Harrison was pleased to see his players fight right until the end. He said: “Yet again, the players have shown good character – like we have in other games – to come back and salvage a point.
“The game was probably a good one to watch for a neutral – both teams had a good go.
“We had a lot more possession than Accrington but that’s not how you win games, you win by putting the ball in the back of the net.
“If we had just played with a bit more intensity and been at it a little bit more, especially in the final third, we could have scored more.”
Harrison believes his team just need to find the right balance in their play. He added: “I thought we passed it really well in the first half, but we’ve got to do that for a reason and that’s to go forward so we can create chances and score goals.
“In the second half we didn’t pass it as well but we looked more threatening, so we’ve just got to find that right balance.
“We had a lot of the ball throughout the game but didn’t really punish them enough with it when we had the chances – the final pass wasn’t quite right or we didn’t get on the end of something.”
The academy boss also revealed his desire to see more intensity from his team. He added: “I thought if we played with the same intensity as we did in the second half against Carlisle last week then we would have won the game.
“The intensity is key. We played with much more enthusiasm and intensity last week against Carlisle, and that’s why we created better chances and got on the end of things. That’s what we asked of the players again today but we just felt that was lacking in certain areas.”
Harrison, whose four second-half substitutes had a great impact on the game, concluded: “Credit to all the substitutes – who I felt all played a part in the game – but we’re disappointed that we had to chase the game to get something out of it.
“If we could have notched it up a gear then we could have come away with three points.”