North End bowed out of the FA Youth Cup at the last eight stage as Stoke City were 3-1 winners at Deepdale.
First half goals from Jordan Greenidge and Tyrese Campbell gave the Potteries side an unassailable lead, with the latter adding a third mid-way through the second half, to set up a semi-final against Manchester City for Kevin Russell’s men, despite Joshua Earl’s lateclose rangestrike.
Greenidge capitalised on the failure of North End to clear a long ball, drove into the right hand corner of the box and drilled a right-footed effort into the bottom corner from 18 yards out just before the quarter hour mark.
The Lilywhites responded well with Oscar O’Neil counter-attacking down the right hand side before drilling a low ball into the six yard box, just a yard in front of the out-stretched leg of Harry Garstang.
And they continued to knock on the door as Kian Smart found space 12 yards out to meet Charlie Lyons’ cross from the left, forcing Mate Deczki in the Potters goal to make a fine diving stop.
O’Neil continued to be a threat making runs from his deep lying midfield role and he controlled and spun from an Earl drilled cross from the left, forcing Luis Da Silva to make a last ditch block giving the home side their first corner of the game at the opening half’s mid-point.
However, the Premier League side were a threat on the break and Greenidge almost made it two with 12 minutes of the first half left, crashing a close range effort against the bar after collecting Campbell’s miss-hit shot.
And the same man was given another opportunity as he ran onto a long ball right down the middle of the pitch, but couldn’t keep his dipping shot down, the pacy effort flashing over Roberts, but also over the bar.
But it was another long ball that undid the home side on 42 minutes. No.10 Campbell, son of former Arsenal and Everton striker Kevin, collected the direct hit from the back, beat his marker before drilling low into the bottom left hand corner from just inside the penalty area.
The second half began with the young PNE side looking for a quick reaction and Earl’s looping header had Deczki beaten, but it landed just on the roof of the net, having got a strong effort to Lyons’ left wing delivery.
But the tie was over with 22 minutes left when the two goalscorers combined for a third. Greenidge broke with pace down the right and pulled the ball across to the back post where Campbell fired in from close range.
Russell – the assistant manager at Deepdale under Darren Ferguson – saw his side try to close up shop after the third goal, but the home side kept pushing and got their just rewards with nine minutes left.
Earl reduced the deficit, firing home from close range after a melee in the box where skipper Melle Meulensteen and substitute Michael Howard had both seen shots blocked, before the ball fell at the feet of the left winger five yards out to slam home into the bottom left hand corner.
It could have been a very nervy last few minutes for the visitors had Lyons’ volley from a spilled corner been a couple of yards lower; Deczki failing to claim Meulensteen’s deep ball from the left, but the red and white striped City men held on for a place in the last four.
PNE line-up:Roberts, Creech, Lyons, Smart (Mason, 69), Day, Burgoyne, Wood (Howard, 64), O’Neil, Garstang (Barry, 86), Meulensteen (c), Earl. Subs not used: Cottam, Stead.
Stoke City line-up: Deczki, Edwards, McJannet, Balde (Twyford, 73), Souttar, Da Silva, Dunwoody (c), Sorenson, Greenidge, Campbell, Szereto. Subs not used: Allen, Read, Da Silva Monteiro, Vazoumana.
Referee: Mr D England