The youth team continued their winning start to the season with a comfortable 3-1 triumph over Shrewsbury Town in their first home league game on Saturday.
Jack Baxter put the Lilywhites ahead from the penalty spot early on before both Lewis Fensome and Mike Howard scored their second goals in as many matches after the break, their efforts coming either side of Reiss Corfield’s reply for the visitors.
North End created a tonne of chances during the match and were in creative mood from the beginning, going close through Howard’s left-footed drive before Harry Garstang tapped wide under pressure from goalkeeper Cameron Gregory inside two minutes.
Shrewsbury were denied the opener in the fifth minute by the offside flag, while at the other end, Garstang earned space to shoot thanks to some quick footwork but his effort was pushed away.
The home side made the breakthrough in the tenth minute after Howard’s marauding run into the area was unfairly halted by a Shrewsbury defender, earning PNE a penalty. Baxter showed great composure from the spot, powerfully converting into the top right corner.
That lead could have been doubled only two minutes later, Howard showing superb determination and pace in behind to nudge the ball towards an onrushing Alex Wood, who poked it just wide of the bottom right corner.
Shrewsbury caused more problems as the half went on, Charley Higgs forcing Callum Roberts into a comfortable low save moments before Lifumpa Mwandwe headed over from a Ryan Barnett corner.
Garstang again went close for PNE midway through the half, glancing a header wide from Jack Armer’s deep left-wing cross, with Oscar O’Neil stinging Gregory’s gloves from range shortly after.
The visitors might have equalised just before the half hour but Roberts superbly denied Mwandwe from a tight angle on the left after neat combination play with Tyrone Ofori.
Roberts was kept busy from range but remained comfortable, while Tom Stead and Fensome both nearly profited from Wood’s set-pieces but sent headers wide and straight at Gregory.
The second-half wasn’t quite as lively but there were still chances aplenty for North End, Adam O’Reilly seeing his first-time drive expertly tipped over by Gregory minutes after the interval.
PNE doubled their advantage in the 58th minute, Wood’s corner causing havoc as it eventually reached Fensome to rifle home from a few yards out.
O’Reilly hit the target from range again five minutes later, his sweeping effort this time well claimed by Gregory as Roberts tipped wide a dangerous low strike from Mwandwe at the other end.
Garstang poked wide one-on-one after a great run through the middle as the chances continued to flow, but the visitors had been improving and pulled one back after 69 minutes.
A Shrewsbury attacker teed up a right-wing cross for Corfield after North End had failed to clear, the midfielder coolly placing into the bottom corner from 15 yards to halve the deficit.
However, the Lilywhites restricted the visitors to few opportunities thereafter and deservedly grabbed the game’s decisive fourth goal in the 90th minute. Wood followed up a brilliant run by finding Howard in space on the left who then drilled a powerful effort under Gregory to seal the win.
That made it two league wins out of two for North End – much to the delight of boss Nick Harrison.
“I thought we played very well today,” he told PNE.com. “We worked hard to get the lead but while it’s 1-0, you give teams that belief that if they can just nick one, then they are back in the game.
“Getting the second goal was good and then we just took our foot off the gas a little bit and didn’t take the chances that came along, and obviously, we’re disappointed to concede the goal because it would have been nice to get a clean sheet.
“We should have gone into the half-time at three nil really, and that then takes the pressure off the team a bit more.
“Overall, though, the lads worked their socks off in and out of possession and at the end, you can see that with a little bit of quality, we’ve got that third goal and there was only one team that was going to win it today.”
Harrison named an unchanged starting XI and subs bench from last weekend’s win against Morecambe and he explained that he was pleased with how his players continued implementing an attractive, passing style of football once more against Shrewsbury.
“They’re young lads and they will make mistakes, but they’ve got to stick with it [the style] because if they learn from a bad touch or pass and can make it better, then that’s all we after. But I thought we passed it really well today and certainly created lots of chances.
“They deserved to be in the starting XI. There’s one or two on the bench and not even in the matchday 16 that have worked really hard during the week and were unlucky not to make the team, but again, that’s football.
“It’s all about keeping the shirt and today I thought all the lads, not just the starting XI but also Ki [Smart] who came off the bench, made a real impact on the game today.”
PNE line-up: Roberts; Simmons, Fensome, Stead, Armer; O’Neil, Baxter; Wood, O’Reilly (Smart, 72), Howard; Garstang. Subs not used: Ngongo, Cottam, Jolly, Mason.