Youth team coach Andy Fensome believes Tuesday’s FA Youth Cup fourth round tie against Norwich City is a chance for North End’s youngsters to show what they have learnt as they look to advance to the next round.
Fensome was on the touchline alongside U18 manager Nick Harrison as the Lilywhites edged past Charlton Athletic at Deepdale in the third round of the competition, winning 3-1 on penalties after the sides couldn't be separated following 120 minutes.
The former North End defender told iFollow PNE that he was pleased with how the players performed and he felt that it was a great learning opportunity for them with plenty of positives to take, including playing at Deepdale for the first time for some.
“To win on penalties is great,” said Fensome. “Jack Baxter scoring in normal time, missing in normal time and then going up and taking one, having the confidence and the guts to take one in the shootout. He missed but again he’s learnt from that, he’s scored this weekend from the penalty spot, so he’s learnt from that and he’s somebody that has been with the first team.
“For the rest of the boys, even playing on Deepdale, playing in the extra time in the game, learning what goes on, what we are looking for, the build up to the game, its just another good experience for them.
“Hopefully we won’t get as many players going down with cramp. But again, I think that’s intensity, playing at Deepdale under the lights, a lot for the first time and hopefully they will have learnt from that.
“It may be the build-up, maybe they’ll do something a little bit different, we can help them with little things to hopefully stop that this time.”
Opponents Norwich survived a scare against Port Vale in their third round tie. After leading 2-0, Vale pulled it back to 2-2 in the last ten minutes before The Canaries netted an 89th minute winner to advance.
Fensome is expecting a stern test from Norwich who have a number of talented players and anticipates it will be a different sort of game for the away side than when they played Port Vale.
“They’re category one. They’re a good side. They’ve got some good players. They’ve got some internationals playing in the team, something again that our boys don’t quite play against week in and week out,” Fensome continued.
“The intensity of the football will be high, the quality of the players that they are playing against will be high, it’s something they’ve got to learn from and deal with.
“Hopefully it will be a different game. Port Vale sat really, really deep. It was something that Norwich had to deal with. They probably don’t experience that in their week in, week out programme so they sat ten players behind the ball, Port Vale, and Norwich then had to break them down and when they did break them down, they looked very good.
“They were up against a team that then came and fought back. They had to deal with going to 2-2 and then they got, for me, a lucky winner with it straight in from the corner but hopefully we will put on a good test for them.”
It is an exciting time at North End for some of the young players. Scholars Ethan Walker and Adam O’Reilly both made their first team debuts against Aston Villa last month and Fensome detailed how important it is to take those opportunities and make an impression as well as the positive effect it has on the rest of the Academy.
“For the lads that have made their debuts and the ones that have been up training with the first team squad over Christmas, it’s a fantastic chance to show what they’ve got, what ability they have, and it gives the rest of the lads in the squad that insight to what goes on.”
A potential fifth round tie against Peterborough United or Bury and another chance to play at Deepdale is an added incentive for the players ahead of the game and Fensome admitted that he has seen an increase in intensity in training as the game approaches.
“It should be a motivating factor for them, but it is something that we will only partly use. The main thing is playing this one and being good enough to win this tie,” he added.
“The intensity has been really high in the last three days, so it’s something that they’re all fighting for. They want their place in the team.”
Watch the full interview with Fenners on iFollow PNE now by clicking on the video above.