The youth team made a winning start to their league season on Saturday, beating Morecambe 2-1 at the Pye Motors Stadium.
Lewis Fensome headed in the opener within two minutes but the Lilywhites were pegged back by Kaleb Young’s strike ten minutes later.
But Mike Howard restored the visitors’ lead early in the second half, his close-range strike enough for the victory.
North End were in the ascendancy from the very off and went ahead almost immediately. Alex Wood had just seen one of his dangerous corners from the left turned behind for another on the right, and his delivery was this time met by a powerful Fensome header to make it 1-0.
The Lilywhites kept possession well in the aftermath of the goal but conceded an equaliser in the 13th minute. Lewis Simmons had made an important clearance to deny Morecambe a shooting chance in the box, but it was from the resulting corner that the Shrimps equalised. A dangerous delivery eventually fell into Young’s path, who fired into the bottom corner from just a few yards out.
PNE, however, built on their good possession by creating a number of good chances. Garstang headed a Jack Armer cross marginally over before Oscar O’Neil’s first time strike was diverted away from the bottom left corner at the last moment.
Wood continued to cause problems with his set-piece delivery and even hit the crossbar with one of his corners, while Adam O’Reilly connected well with a volley on the edge of the box but hit it straight at the ‘keeper.
Morecambe had some good opportunities as the half came to a close, but goalkeeper Callum Roberts was on hand to stop Nathan Dutton Kay’s cross from the right byline and then collect Young’s header from another of the former’s deliveries.
Roberts remained busy in the opening moments of the second half, most notably denying Dutton Kay when the full back controlled well on his chest and then fired towards the bottom corner, the PNE stopper spreading himself superbly to keep it out.
The hosts were pressing high in those first minutes after the break but PNE coped well while remaining a threat in attack, allowing them to retake the lead after 59 minutes.
It was another corner which led to the goal, but it took a few more attempts to get the ball over the line. Tom Stead first headed across goal and Fensome then helped it on to the back post where Howard provided a cool finish from a few yards out.
North End started to see more of the ball once more and opened up the Shrimps’ backline a number of times. Fensome might have added to his personal tally, heading over and wide from Wood’s corners before Howard was awarded a penalty after being brought down on the right.
Garstang stepped up but placed his effort just a little too high as it rebounded off the crossbar, while O’Neil flashed a vicious long range drive marginally wide minutes later.
The hosts increased the tempo late on, but were kept out by the Lilywhites’ solid backline, the most prominent opportunity being a comfortable stop for Roberts from a Leif Davis free-kick.
The visitors saw it out for a 2-1 triumph and U18s boss Nick Harrison was pleased to see his side perform well while also emerging victorious. “I thought the first-half was actually the best we’ve played in five weeks,” he told PNE.com.
“We passed the ball really well and progressed the ball through the thirds and into midfield where players were brave to get on the ball.
“We dominated the first half and their goal came against the run of play really. I thought we should have won it by a more comfortable margin. Obviously, we have to score the penalty to make it 3-1 and the game becomes more comfortable.
“At the end, we missed two or three headers in the box which were quite easy chances, so we’re pleased with the performance and the result, we’ll just probably want to put more chances away if we can.”
Harrison also explained that implementing the work completed during pre-season was the most pleasing outcome of the game: “I’m looking for the performance first and foremost and that’s what I’m more pleased about today; we passed the ball better, our movement was good and we were brave to get on the ball.
“We played forwards when we could and took the sting out of it when we needed to as well. It is important to win for the lads, it gives them confidence and we all want to win, but ultimately I’m more pleased with the performance.
“We’ve tried to just influence the game a lot more when we’ve got the ball, passing the ball and opening teams up that way and punishing teams when we get the opportunity. We didn’t quite that bit right today but in terms of the build-up, it was much better.
“We’ve got to create momentum with the performances – we’ve got to churn out good performances and results week in, week out. That’s what we strive for.”
PNE line-up: Roberts; Simmons, Stead, Fensome, Armer; O’Neil, Baxter (Smart, 77); Wood, (Mason, 89), O’Reilly, Howard; Garstang. Subs not used: Ngongo, Cottam, Jolly.