Youth team captain Lewis Fensome is looking forward to making his FA Youth Cup debut and testing himself against Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday afternoon.
The second-year scholar is set to make his first appearance in the competition in the Third Round tie, after he missed out last season when he suffered a season-ending broken leg in October 2016.
But the defender has fought back from that setback in great style and is now excited for the challenge of facing Premier League opposition in the highly anticipated match.
“I’m really excited for the game after missing so much football and watching the lads do as well as they did in this competition last year,” the 17-year-old told PNE.com. “I wanted to be out with them doing that, but this year, hopefully we can just get just as far.
“It was really good to see them do so well and I couldn’t have been happier for the lads because it made it a good season, it was fantastic to watch them overcome some difficult teams.
“After last year, we are raring to go and want to make the same statement. We don’t want to be knocked out at the first hurdle, even if it is against a team like Tottenham.
“The lads are putting some pressure on themselves but we also know that we’re underdogs and have nothing to lose, so hopefully we can get the balance right and perform well on the night.
“We’re definitely the underdogs because they’re a top Premier League team and top category one academy, but that’s nothing to fear. They can still be beaten and can concede goals just like any team can, anything can happen on the night and hopefully we can come out the better side of it.”
Fensome has enjoyed a fine individual campaign, scoring four goals from the back for Nick Harrison’s team before heading out on a work experience move to Lancaster City in late October, where he has held down a regular spot in the Evo-Stik Premier Division side’s backline.
In his absence, the youth team have kept up their fine form with five consecutive victories coming into this game, and the captain hopes he and the fellow scholars can carry that momentum into the FA Youth Cup contest.
“I think we’re unbeaten in a while now and we’ve had five wins, which is really nice to have going into the game. We’ve gone out and played our own game this season, it might not always happen in the first-half but it has come through for us in the second-half in most games.
“Most of us have been together since we were 15 or even younger and now we just know each other so well on and off the pitch in terms of what everyone needs. That’s definitely shown this season, I think it’s clicked a bit more in the team.
“We had a really young team last year, often having more first-years than second-years which was really pleasing as Nick [Harrison] was giving them chances to prove themselves and they were keeping their places in the team.
“I think that will stand us in good stead this year, especially with the lads who played in the run last year, they have that experience now and can hopefully help those who haven’t played in the FA Youth Cup before, including myself.
“We’re definitely excited because it’s a great night to show, against some good players with lots of people watching, that we’re just as good as them and can compete with them.”
Fensome expects a tough test from Spurs and a different pattern of play from other matches played this season, but still believes North End’s youngsters will grasp the occasion and enjoy it.
“We will have to be patient as they may have more of the ball, but we might just need that one chance to win the game.
“We’ve been trying to get used to the way that Tottenham play but we’re definitely going to have to show real maturity with and without the ball, especially as a team, we’re going to have to come together and stick together for 90 minutes.
“I can see them letting us have some of the ball, but we might have to give up possession and let them have it sometimes, too, but we’ve been working on all different strategies in training because you never know what could happen. We’ve been preparing for different scenarios as a team and I think we’re all comfortable with that.
“You always enjoy it when you’re playing well and that’s what we want to do, it’s a big night for us because it’s a really important game. We have to try to play to our strengths and if it doesn’t go our way, we have to accept that and find a way to make it right.
“We will make sure the lads enjoy it by what we do before and after the game, it’s not going to be the end of us if we lose, so we will just have to stick together.”