Preston North End will secure a two-legged FA Youth Cup semi-final tie against Manchester City if they can get past Stoke City on Monday night.
The quarter-final tie is North End’s first involvement in the last eight for over 50 years, but they also welcome a Potters side to Deepdale that hasn’t featured at this stage of the competition since 1984.
Academy manager Nick Harrison, who has seen his side lose just once in eight games so far this year, says the Lilywhites will be concentrating solely on Monday’s match before thinking about the competition’s latter stages.
“What’s been pleasing since the new year is how hard we’ve worked,” Harrison said of his team’s start to 2017.
“We just want that to continue from now until the end of the season, no matter what the game is; whether it’s in the league, the cup or a friendly.”
And the youth team boss believes that strong work ethic will play a key part against Stoke.
He added: “I think we’ve got good players. We see them day in, day out and know what they’re capable of; you don’t get to the quarter-final without having good players.
“But it’s all down to work rate. If they work hard, they’re capable of much, much more.”
The young Lilywhites have already played in PR1 three times this season, most recently beating AFC Wimbledon 3-2 after extra-time at the beginning of this month.
They had previously beaten Everton on penalties in the fourth round in January and Sheffield United by a 1-0 scoreline in November’s third round tie.
And first-year scholar Alex Wood, who scored the winning goal in that Wimbledon victory, has admitted that playing at the home of PNE is a great feeling for the academy players.
Speaking of the run so far, Wood said: “We weren’t expected to beat Everton and possibly not Sheffield United either. After one win we’ve become more and more confident, especially at Deepdale.
“It’s always good playing in your home stadium and it gives you a bit more confidence, especially when you’ve been winning games there.”
PNE are well equipped for their latest FA Youth Cup challenge against Stoke. The Potters are a category one academy , while North End’s is category three, but Harrison’s side have already beaten another of the highest ranked youth set-ups in Everton this season.
Stoke, who compete in the Premier League U18 North division, had also played all their FA Youth Cup matches this season at home until now.
They have twice triumphed on penalties after two 2-2 draws against West Ham and Brighton and Hove Albion in the third and fifth rounds, with those victories coming either side of a 4-1 win against Nottingham Forest in the fourth round last month.
The winner of the tie will travel to Manchester City for the first leg of the semi-final by March 18 before hosting the Citizens in a second leg tie by April 8.
You can read the full pre-match interviews with Harrison and Wood in the free edition of The One And Only, available around the ground on the night.
Admission is free for all supporters of both clubs, with the Sir Tom Finney Stand south open for the game, so get down to Deepdale and support the young stars of the future.
There will be live updates on the Academy’s official Twitter page @pnefcacademy throughout the night, and the game will be streamed live on PNE PlayerHD so if you can’t make the game, you’ll be able to watch live with full audio commentary. If you haven't already, you can subscribe to PNE PlayerHD now by clicking here.