Tyrhys Dolan scored his first goal for the youth team as they came from behind to beat Port Vale 3-2 at UCLan Sports Arena on Saturday.
Dolan took advantage of a goalkeeping area to head home six minutes in, only moments after Lucas Green-Birch had put the visitors in front.
Mike Howard and Oscar O’Neil then scored either side of Matthew Ward’s free-kick to ensure the scoring was complete by half-time.
It proved to be a dominant first-half performance by the Lilywhites but it was Vale who broke the deadlock with four minutes gone. Kyle Johnson’s initial shot from the edge of the area was blocked and diverted into Green-Birch’s path, his effort finding the bottom left corner from similar range.
But it was only a minor setback for North End who were level within two minutes. Vale goalkeeper Dequan Crockwell failed to claim Kamol Campbell’s cross from deep on the left, allowing Dolan a simple header at the back post to equalise.
The hosts then took the lead in the 13th minute. It was a great a move out from the back and with O’Neil finding space outside the box, he slid a perfectly weighted through ball into Howard’s path, who finished into the bottom right corner via the post.
Chances began to flow for the Lilywhites as Howard had an acrobatic volley well stopped by Crockwell before O’Neil curled just over the top right-hand corner from the edge of the box.
However, Vale drew level on 25 minutes. Matthew Ward curled his free-kick up and over the North End wall for the equaliser, finding the top right corner from 25 yards.
Vale might have gone in front moments later but Campbell produced a superb block to put a Johnson effort out for a corner, from which the visitors planted a header marginally wide.
North End were back in front shortly after, though. Howard’s stunning free-kick on the half hour bounced down from the crossbar where O’Neil reacted quickest to control and finish into the bottom left corner from a few yards out.
PNE might have extended their advantage before the break as Jack Baxter’s long-range strike was parried wide, Harry Garstang shot into the side netting from inside the area and Tom Stead headed just off target from a corner.
It was more of an even affair after the restart and Vale almost equalised minutes into the second-half but Johnson fired wide of the near post from a good position, while Garstang volleyed wide at the other end.
Stead had a couple of chances for North End after the hour, first shooting just wide from some distance before heading against the crossbar, and Garstang shot straight at Crockwell shortly after following good hold up play on the edge of the box.
Vale increased the pressure in the final 20 minutes or so as James Cottam saved well from Maxwell Chimenes’ low strike from distance before holding onto another close-range effort.
PNE substitute Myles Mason was superbly denied by Crockwell towards the end as the ‘keeper held his strike from inside the box, while Cottam saved again at the other end from Jack Wakefield.
Fellow substitute Ethan Walker went close in stoppage time when Crockwell tipped his shot over from the edge of the box after making a fantastic solo run inside from the left as North End claimed a 3-2 win.
Youth team manager Nick Harrison took plenty of positives from the performance.
“I thought in the first-half we were outstanding, we passed it really well, played it quickly and the movement was sharp. We wanted to go forward and score goals and we did that,” he told PNE.com.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed to concede the two goals. The first is a bit of an error from the goalkeeper, who did really well after that and that’s great to see.
“Overall, we were outstanding in the first-half in every capacity, we worked hard, passed it well, found some good spaces and scored three goals, so what more can you ask for?
“We created a lot more chances that we should have scored from and put the game to bed, and that’s what the players have to work hard at.”
Harrison felt his side could have controlled the second-half more had they increased their lead earlier in the contest.
“We showed good character in the second-half, we didn’t concede and we came under some pressure at times because if you are 3-2 down, you have a belief that you can get back in the game and Port Vale did, credit to them.
“One way we can make it a little easier for ourselves is by putting those easy chances away when we’re inside the box and that puts the game out of sight, then we can start to control the game a bit more in possession.
“It is great to win but we’re looking for the performance as well and I think that’s why we might have been a little frustrated that, although we did win, which is great because we want to create a winning habit, we’ve got to try and make the right decisions for 90 minutes and not just 45.
“We’ve got to do that throughout the game and that’s what the players must strive for because that’s what they’ll have to do at the next level, especially in the Championship.”
PNE line-up: Cottam; Smart, Stead, Armer (Lyons, 86), Campbell; O’Neil, Baxter; Dolan (Walker, 59), O’Reilly, Howard; Garstang (Mason, 73). Subs not used: Day, Lenton.