Preston North End’s U18s fought back to earn a well-deserved point during a 3-3 home draw against Morecambe on Saturday.
Tom Barry, Myles Mason and Alex Wood all scored equalising goals during the entertaining affair, with the latter’s 85th-minute strike securing a draw for the Lilywhites.
Neither side could create a clear opening in the opening minutes, with Wood’s slaloming run into the area posing the greatest threat early on. Despite that, it was Morecambe who opened the scoring after 14 minutes.
Steve Yawson got forward down the right side and although his initial cross was blocked, the rebound fell straight back to him as he teed up Ben Hedley, who shot into the bottom left corner from just inside the area.
Melle Meulensteen shot just wide from outside the box before another dangerous run from Wood earned PNE a penalty. The winger was brought down after he beat his man down the right, and Barry smashed the spot-kick down the middle to make it level.
However, Morecambe went back in front just three minutes later. Joe Nelligan and Leif Davis combined well on the left as the latter found space inside the area before his shot from a tight angle was deflected in.
Oscar O’Neil almost produced another equaliser moments later, as Mike Howard’s cross was cleared into his path on the edge of the box, but his placed effort drifted just wide.
Hedley forced PNE ‘keeper Callum Roberts to save from distance late in the first half as Morecambe finished the opening 45 minutes ahead, but the Lilywhites came out stronger in the second half.
Harry Garstang had a shot cleared off the line after the visitors’ keeper dropped a cross, whilst Roberts caught Yawson’s close-range effort at the other end.
Meulensteen then forced another save from the Morecambe goalkeeper, but he couldn’t stop substitute Mason from heading in in the 67th minute. Josh Earl found space on the left side of the area and crossed for the striker, who glanced a terrific header into the bottom right corner.
Earl’s long distance drive then went just wide but the visitors regained the lead soon after, as Yawson dribbled into the area and slotted into the bottom left corner.
Garstang shot wide whilst Meulensteen’s shot was comfortably saved, but Morecambe could have extended their lead, too, as Ben Fletcher drilled over from inside the box before Roberts denied Yawson one on one.
Lewis Fensome then volleyed over from outside the box before Wood got the final goal of the game. Garstang threaded him in with a fantastic pass to the left side, and the winger side-footed in with his weaker left foot to bring the tie level once more.
PNE could have won it late on as Mason had two efforts cleared off the line and Earl had a close-range volley saved in a matter of seconds, but the game ended level as the two sides shared the points on this occasion.
Academy manager Nick Harrison took plenty of positives from the match: “I thought the players showed great character to come back and draw the game.
“Ultimately we had chances at the end to go and win it, but what’s cost us is some very poor individual defending for each of their three goals. We’ve got enough going forward to score goals and win games, but we have to cut out those individual mistakes.
“This game shows that we’re capable of scoring goals. We’ve got good ability going forward and we have players who are creative, but it was just about making good decisions in terms of getting the ball out wide, getting it into the box and moving it quickly. It shows that our players have the ability to go and score goals, but what’s frustrating for us is that we’ve not won the game.
“Apart from the individual mistakes for the goals, I think we defended well. Their striker was a real handful – he’s a good player and has played in their first team – and he did well in causing problems for us, but our players have got to learn to deal with that. If they want to play for Preston North End, they’ve got to learn to defend against Championship players. We were much better going forward in the second half and we could, and should, have won the game.
“We were off the boil and a bit lacklustre in the first half – we didn’t win enough second balls or hurt them enough in behind the defence. That was the difference between the first and the second half.”
Nick was also pleased with the difference the substitutes made after the break: “I thought Myles Mason made a massive impact. He came on, ran about and was very lively which caused problems for their defenders. He’s still got to learn to play more in behind at times but overall he and the other substitutes made a great contribution in the game.”