A place in the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup is at stake as Preston North End’s youth team welcome Bury to Deepdale for a 7pm kick-off on Friday night.
The winner of the fifth round tie will host the successful side from another all North West clash – Liverpool or Wigan Athletic – in the last eight of the competition, with North End looking to reach that stage again after a sensational run led them there in the 2016/17 season.
This season, the Lilywhites have overcome Charlton Athletic on penalties in the third round and last month soared to victory against Norwich City, both higher category opponents, and while Bury hold the same Category Three status as PNE, Nick Harrison is preparing for another tight encounter.
“The fact is that we know that Bury are a good team and they have some very good players,” said the Academy manager. “I think the staff and certainly the players know it’s going to be a really tough game.
“We’ve drawn the three games we’ve played against them this season in 90 minutes, so I think that shows how tough the game is going to be.
“Hopefully we can go one step further this time; that’s our objective. We’ve got full belief in the players that they can do it but ultimately it will be down to them on the night.”
Bury, whose U18 side are coached by former PNE defender Ryan Kidd, entered the competition at the first round stage and have recorded victories over North Shields, Fleetwood Town, Stevenage FC and most recently Peterborough United to set up this tie with the Lilywhites.
The two league meetings between the sides have both ended all square and seen an injury time equaliser in favour of either team, the last of which came just under two weeks ago in a 2-2 draw at Carrington with the Shakers drawing level at the death on that occasion.
The Greater Manchester outfit progressed with a penalty shootout win following a 1-1 draw in the Youth Alliance Cup in December and so with such close encounters having already played out this term, Jack Baxter admits North End must be prepared for any eventuality once again in this meeting.
“You always have to prepare for that in any cup game,” said the 18-year-old. “You have to think about the possibility of not winning in 90 minutes and then if you don’t win in 120, you have to prepare for penalties and extra time as well just to make sure you get that preparation right and if it does come down to it, you’re ready for it and able to deal with it.
“The other two teams [Norwich and Charlton] were very good on the ball and kept it very well, but I feel against Bury it will be more of an open game but with more possession for us and that will allow us to pass it better, keep the ball and hopefully create more chances.”
You can read the full interviews with Nick and Jack in our free FA Youth Cup edition of The One And Only which will be available around Deepdale before kick-off on Friday night, with player profiles of those set to be involved also on offer.
All supporters are welcome to attend and season ticket holders of both PNE and Bury can gain free entry, with tickets otherwise priced at £4 for adults and £2 for concessions (over 65s and under 18s). Under 11s can also watch without charge when accompanied by an adult.
The Sir Tom Finney Stand will be open tonight, with entry through turnstiles 5-7. Season card holders of both clubs can gain entry by showing their current season card at the turnstiles.
For those who can’t make it to Deepdale, iFolllow PNE will be providing live coverage of proceedings with commentary team Jonathan Breeze and Graeme Atkinson on air from 6.55pm.
We will also have live text commentary from Academy Twitter account @pnefcacademy and additional post-match reaction on PNE.Com.