Preston North End will match their successful run to last year’s FA Youth Cup fifth round if they can overcome Everton at Deepdale on Wednesday night.
The Lilywhites had a tremendous journey in last season’s competition, beating Carlisle United and Exeter City away in the third and fourth rounds before they were cruelly eliminated on penalties against Luton Town in PR1 last February.
And while this evening’s clash with the Toffees, a category one academy, will be tough – the Lilywhites now have experience when it comes to beating sides with a higher academy status this season.
Nick Harrison’s side held on to beat category two side Sheffield United 1-0 in November’s third round tie at home, and the academy boss refused to rule out another upset in tonight’s game.
“Our players can compete against any kind of team, at any level. If they do compete, work hard and show their qualities on the ball, then I think we’ve got a real chance.
“We just want our players to compete and hopefully show what they can do.”
The Lilywhites come into the game off the back of Saturday’s 3-2 away defeat against Morecambe, but having rotated slightly in that game, Harrison is confident of seeing a better display tonight.
“We obviously made some changes in the team with this game in mind. We rested a few players, which we felt was important, and made some changes during the game.
“I think I’ve said before, ahead of the last FA Youth Cup game, that our players can compete against any kind of team, at any level.”
Among those left out from Saturday’s win was goalkeeper Callum Roberts, who played a vital role in the win against the Blades in the last round by making a string of fantastic saves.
And the imposing shot-stopper is looking forward to testing himself against quality opposition once again. He said: “There’s a real buzz around everyone and if we just play our normal game and do what we do best, then no-one can really play a game where you think ‘Preston weren’t really in it’.
“We will prepare by watching videos and examining how they play, and for me as a ‘keeper, I’ll look at past penalties. That didn’t come in the last round but you never and you have to prepare because anything can happen in a game of football.”
Before the defeat to Morecambe, PNE started the year with an impressive 2-1 away success at Wigan Athletic. They have also provided plenty of encouragement in the cups thus far this season, winning five out of six matches in all competitions.
Everton also come into the game fresh from defeat, having lost 2-1 at home against rivals Liverpool at the weekend. However, Kevin Sheedy’s side had gone 13 games unbeaten prior to that derby loss and are fifth in the 12-team U18 Premier League North with 26 points from 16 games.
You can read more from Harrison and Roberts in Wednesday’s The One And Only, available for free on the night at Deepdale.
The Sir Tom Finney Stand south will be open for the game, and season ticket holders of both clubs can enter for free on the night. Admission for non-season ticket holders at £4 for adults and £2 for concessions.
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 byclicking here.