The youth team produced a dominant display to beat Wigan Athletic 3-0 and put last weekend’s derby defeat to Blackpool behind them.
Tom Stead deservedly put the visitors ahead after 25 minutes by poking home from a corner, before Darren Brannigan and Harry Garstang added some much-merited gloss to the scoreline after the break.
North End were in confident mood from kick-off and had numerous opportunities early on, Ki Smart first sending a diving header just wide of the near post from Alex Wood’s right wing cross.
Brannigan struck the side netting after good work from Hafizul Rahman, and Smart then drew a great diving save from goalkeeper Jordan Perrin with barely five minutes played.
Callum Roberts saved Charlie Jolley’s low effort from a tight angle moments later, his only meaningful piece of action for the first half hour.
Lewis Fensome showed off his aerial prowess from set pieces, first seeing a header towards the bottom right corner deflected off the line before Perrin palmed away another of his nodded efforts from a corner.
Midway through the half, Perrin could only parry Garstang’s effort towards the bottom right corner but a defender scrambled Brannigan’s rebound off the line.
However, the Lilywhites did make the breakthrough shortly after in the 25th minute. Stead reacted quickest to a loose ball in the box after Wigan had failed to clear a corner and hammered it into the roof of the net.
Wigan began to attack more after going behind and might have equalised almost immediately, but Mwiya Malumo struck it just over on the bounce after finding space down left.
Malumo had a shot from much closer distance superbly blocked by Jack Armer after the half hour and Roberts saved from Anthony Plant’s header with half-time approaching.
Rahman and Fensome twice combined in the final minutes of the half, the former’s cross deflecting onto the post and behind and the latter’s header was tipped over from the resulting corner.
At the other end, Roberts made a fantastic one-on-one save against Malumo, ensuring his side remained in front at the break.
Few clear chances followed early in the second-half, Joe Downey shooting wide from range and Malumo heading straight at Roberts while Smart headed wide from Garstang’s corner.
The visitors grabbed their second in the 62nd minute. Brannigan capitalised on a loose ball as the referee allowed play to continue with Perrin down for Wigan, the PNE striker keeping his composure to finish into an empty net from just inside the area.
Wigan saw more possession as they looked to get back into the contest, but North End kept their attack quiet. Downey hit a testing free-kick from 25 yards but Roberts saved comfortably, and the Lilywhites had more chances late on as the game opened up.
Tyrhys Dolan curled just wide of the right-hand post from the opposite side of the area with ten minutes to go, and Maffes hit a similar effort wide at the other end.
With two minutes to go, the Lilywhites struck the decisive third goal. Roberts had saved brilliantly from Malumo’s header just moments before Garstang was picked out centrally at the other end, and he then drilled a shot into the bottom left corner.
That sealed a fine morning’s work for Nick Harrison’s men, who was delighted with his side’s display.
“Ultimately, the game for lads at this level is about learning how to win,” the youth team manager told PNE.com. “We challenged the players to bounce back from last Saturday and asked if they could stop the opposition from scoring and take our chances at the other end, and I thought we did that fantastically.
“It was certainly a dominant performance in the first-half, we started really well and it carried on from there. The game could maybe have been two or three at half-time, they had a couple of chances as well but we could have been two or three up in a short space of time.
“Above all, though, we’re pleased that they’ve created the chances and started so well, it was a really positive start. We have to take our chances inside the box, but that’s exactly what we did today.”
Harrison was also pleased to see the team keep their first clean sheet of the season.
“Keeping a clean sheet is massive. We talk to the players a lot about the importance of what we do in both boxes, so if we protect our goal and make it difficult for them, then there’s a good chance of us keeping a clean sheet.
“I thought we dominated possession in the first-half, they came at us in the second-half which is what you would expect because they’re losing the game, and it took us a little bit of time to get organised.
“But our lads were really resolute and stood up to them so I’m delighted with the clean sheet and delighted to score three goals. I thought we were worthy winners today and it’s pleasing to see that we’ve got three different names on the scoresheet.”
PNE line-up: Roberts; Wood (Pollard, 75), Fensome, Stead, Armer; O’Reilly, Baxter; Smart, Garstang, Rahman (Walker, 45 (Dolan, 60)); Brannigan. Subs not used: Campbell, Cottam.