Goals from Adam O’Reilly, Lewis Earl and Louis Potts put Preston North End into the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup with a convincing victory over Norwich City at a snowy Deepdale.
Captain O’Reilly opening the scoring just after the hour mark from the edge of the box, after a pull back from Potts and then Earl converted with a close range header from Tyrhys Dolan’s corner just before half-time.
After weathering the storm, both figuratively and literally, in driving snow, after the interval, they made the game safe 20 minutes from time when Potts poked home from eight yards out; the referee giving the goal after an assistant had initially signalled for an offside.
A fourth goal was incorrectly ruled out, despite O’Reilly’s close range finish from substitute Jerome Jolly’s cross being cleared when already almost a yard over the line, but nonetheless it was an excellent team display from the young Lilywhites, who set up a tie against Ryan Kidd’s Bury in the next round at Deepdale.
The Academy had started the game brightly and Ethan Walker looked dangerous once again, carving space on the left just three minutes in, his ball across narrowly missing Dolan when begging for someone to finish at the back post.
The youngest ever league player to play a senior game for the club was heavily involved in the first half an hour and his 40-yard free kick bounced dangerously in the box, before flashing just wide of the right hand upright.
But Nick Harrison’s men deservedly went ahead on 34 minutes. Potts drove down the right and looked to have taken the ball too far, put he pulled it back from the byline and O’Reilly calmly stroked the ball into the net past Canaries stopped Daniel Barden from the edge of the penalty area.
And the lead was doubled two minutes before half-time. Dolan had shown quick feet to win a corner on the right-hand side and delivered a superb cross to the back post and Earl - the younger brother of first team left back Josh – timed his run perfectly and headed calmly home from five yards out.
The snow had been falling softly in the first half, but the second period began in a blizzard, with the pitch covered in a layer of white as a frenetic opening 20 minutes began. In this period the visitors had the best of their chances – striker Adam Idah, a former school and team-mate of North End’s O’Reilly back in Ireland – twice went close after finding space in the box, but on both occasions he was unable to test Jimmy Corcoran in goal for PNE.
But with 20 minutes left the game was all but over as an excellent move saw Dolan do well down the right, deliver into the box, the ball being recycled on the left by 15-year-old left back Lewis Coulton, who found Jolly – on for Walker – in the Town End penalty area.
Jolly was then tackled by Norwich skipper Lomas that took the ball into the path of Potts, who poked the ball past Barden. Initially the assistant on the Sir Tom Finney Stand side’s flag went up and the goal seemed to have been disallowed, but Merseyside referee Mr Copeland was much closer to the action and saw that the ball had come off a City foot to play in the North End No.9 and the goal was given.
If this was an excellent piece of officiating by the match official; four minutes later came something more questionable. This time Jolly raced down the left, beating Ethen Vaughan convingly before delivering a perfect ball into the six-yard box, where O’Reilly timed his run brilliantly and slid the ball into the net.
Andrew Omobamidele slid back and scooped the ball away, but it was clear at the time from the marks in the snow just how far the ball was over the line, however, the assistant was not up with play and did not signal for the goal and somehow it was not awarded.
The closing minutes were then easily played out by the home side, with the yellows unable to force Corcoran into any meaningful action and the game ended 3-0, with the Lilywhites – in front of all the first team coaching staff and much of the first team squad – deservedly booking their place in the last 16 and a clash with their Youth Alliance North West Conference rivals from Greater Manchester.
PNE line-up: Corcoran, Simmons, Coulton, Baxter, Earl, McFayden, Dolan, O’Reilly (c), Potts, Pollard, Walker (Jolly, 55). Subs not used: Williams, Cottam, Nolan, Brannigan.
Norwich City line-up: Barden, Vaughan, Ahmadi, Omobamidele, Lomas (c), Dronfield, Hondermarck (Omotoye, 63), Milovanovic, Idah, Thorvaldsson, Olopade (Giurgi, 80). Subs not used: Berkeley, Blair, Richardson.
Referee: Mr S Copeland