Preston North End’s Academy progressed to the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup for the first time in over 50 years with a thrilling victory at Deepdale.
Joshua Earl had given the young Lilywhites a first half lead, but a Dons penalty, converted by Jayden Antwi took the game to the added 30 minutes.
A deflected 20-yard effort from Antony Hartigan put the visitors ahead in the 105th minute, only for another penalty, this time from PNE skipper Melle Meulensteen, leveled matters in the fifth minute of stoppage time in the first period of extra-time.
And the winner came from substitute Alex Wood with five minutes remaining, curling into the bottom left hand corner after a quick break involving Tom Barry and Earl.
The young Lilywhites, playing their third consecutive home game in the elite youth competition, were up against it in the opening stages, goalkeeper Callum Roberts making a fine stop to deny Nathan Wood and then Cameron Day timed a tackle perfectly to rob Toby Sibbick after the visitors’ No.2 cut open the North End defence.
However, the home side grew into the game and after Dylan Davidson gave Wimbledon a warning, with a shot that was by Bursik in the Dons goal, they took the lead just before the half hour mark.
Earl did superbly well to win the ball in a 50/50 tackle in the left hand corner of the box, nicking it away from a defender before unleashing a half volley with the bouncing ball which flew past Bursik and into the top right hand corner from 15 yards out.
Day was calm and composed at the back, controlling and clearing off the line after Wood had beared down on Roberts before lifting the ball over the stopper toward the goal, until the intervention of the centre half.
The second half saw both sides turnover play a little too regularly, without too many clear cut opportunities, but the London-side were given the chance to level the game up 17 minutes from time. Jack Burgoyne was adjudged to have fouled by referee Steve Copeland and Antwi stepped up to fire with pace and power into the top right hand corner from 12 yards.
The striker had the ball in the back of the net again only four minutes later, but this time the linesman’s flag went up, much to the relief of the Lilywhites.
There was a chance to win it in normal time for Michael Howard with three minutes left on the clock after Meulensteen had fed him in a left hand channel, however, Bursik did well to come out and smother the effort of the young PNE forward.
The game went into the 30 added minutes and the first period saw the yellow-shirted visitors on top; Roberts denying Antwi, before the same man – the second top scorer in this year’s competition - fired over the bar from close range.
And they grabbed the goal their chances at that stage merited in the 105th minute when the ball came out to midfielder Hartigan, whose 25 yard shot took a deflection off a North End defender taking it away from Roberts’ reach.
But Harrison’s men did not let their heads drop and in the fourth minute of stoppage time in the opening period of extra-time substitute Tom Barry burst into the left hand side of the box and went down under pressure from Wimbledon captain Paul Kalambayi and again Mr Copeland pointed to the spot. PNE’s own skipper Meulensteen sent Bursik the wrong way once again drawing the scores level.
And it looked for the second successive round to be going to penalty kicks to decide the winner until five minutes from the end when North End broke with pace, Barry crossing from the right and Earl kept the ball alive before it fell to Wood just to the right of the penalty spot, who calmly curled the ball into the bottom left hand corner, sparking delight and celebrations from the home side, which were once repeated a few minutes later after excellent game management from the Academy side saw them hold on for a last eight place against either Stoke City or Brighton & Hove Albion at Deepdale once again.
PNE line-up: Roberts, Creech, Lyons, Smart, Day, Burgoyne, Howard (Barry, 100), O’Neil (A Wood, 81), Davidson (Garstang, 80), Meulensteen, Earl. Subs not used: Cottam, Stead.
AFC Wimbledon line-up: Bursik, Sibbik, Scott, Kalambayi, Bird, Walker (Akoto, 58), Hartigan, Chapman, N Wood (Carpene, 111), Antwi, Williams-Bowers (Nelson-Roberts, 73). Subs not used: Ogbebor-Onaiwu, Urhoghide.
Referee: Mr S Copeland