Preston North End U18s were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Shrewsbury Town on Saturday.
The Lilywhites took a 2-0 lead in the first 20 minutes through Tom Stead’s header and Melle Meulensteen’s penalty, but Shrewsbury’s John McAtee pulled one back just before the half hour and Tyrone Ofori drew matters level just four minutes into the second-half.
North End saw much of the ball in the opening stages as Kamol Campbell and Dylan Davidson frequently combined on the left in the opening stages, but no-one could reach the latter’s array of inviting crosses to put the home side ahead early on.
The visitors might have gone ahead as Aaron Gilpin tapped a cross wide of Callum Roberts’ upright, but it was the Lilywhites who took the lead shortly after in the 11th minute.
More menacing play by Davidson on the left earned PNE a corner, and Stead’s thumping header from Meulensteen’s delivery proved too much for the goalkeeper – whose touch only pushed it further into the top right corner.
Roberts saved well at the other end before Callum Tait cleared off the line, but the home side then doubled their advantage after 17 minutes.
Tom Barry showed neat footwork in the box before he was brought down and awarded a penalty, with Meulensteen stepping up to dispatch a typically cool spot-kick straight down the middle.
Shrewsbury missed a few half chances through George Hassall in the following moments, but North End’s defence was eventually breached in the 28th minute, with McAtee glancing a header into the bottom left corner from a cross on the right.
The visitors tried their luck with a couple of efforts from range but were unsuccessful, while Barry saw a shot deflected wide at the other end.
Davidson also went clean through on goal but the move eventually broke down, as PNE held on to their lead until the half-time break.
However, Shrewsbury equalised within five minutes of the restart, as Ofori met a cross on the far side and tucked his finish inside the near post in the 49th minute.
A midfield battled ensued as PNE changed from their 3-5-2 shape in the following 20 minutes, with Charlie Lyons and Leon Creech entering the action as the home side made a strong finish to the game.
More good play from Davidson on the left went unrewarded, although the Northern Irishman almost combined with another substitute – Harry Garstang – with some intense pressing that would have given PNE a clear scoring opportunity but for some quick thinking by the opposing goalkeeper.
Alex Wood replaced Campbell as North End controlled the play in the final ten minutes, but they were unable to break their opponents down. Oscar O’Neil’s long-range effort three minutes from time proved the closest either side came to scoring before the game was brought to a close at 2-2.
Academy manager Nick Harrison was most pleased with the dominance his players showed towards the end of the match.
“I felt we finished the game really strongly and I thought for the last 20-25 minutes we put them under real pressure,” said Harrison.
“I’m pleased with the way that we finished the game, because I felt that we had a number of chances to go and actually win it, which we probably would have done on another day.”
Despite his side taking an early two-goal advantage, the boss wanted to see more in the opening stages from his players. He added: “We didn’t start the game well and we weren’t on the front foot.
“Although we created a number of chances, I felt Shrewsbury put us under a lot of pressure and they just didn’t deal with their attacks well enough. We found ourselves 2-0 up through little bits of quality that the boys showed.
“We should have made the game more comfortable once we went 2-0 up, but we didn’t quite manage that and obviously found ourselves only winning 2-1 at half-time. The players felt their first goal was offside, but that’s not conclusive on the video.”
However, Harrison praised his side’s first goal, and encouraged the players to show more in their next game against Tranmere Rovers on Tuesday afternoon.
He said: “Scoring from set-pieces is all about the ball into the box and the movement of the players wanting to attack the ball, and I felt Tom Stead did that really well for his goal. That’s what we want more of – from him and the other defenders who are in the box.
“We need to play on the front foot. We’ve told the players that they need to start the game better than that if they’re going to get more positive results.”
PNE line-up: Roberts, Tait (Creech, 61), Burgoyne, Stead, Day (Lyons, 53), Campbell (Wood, 79), Smart, O’Neil, Meulensteen, Davidson, Barry (Garstang, 72). Subs not used: Cottam.