Preston North End Academy manager Nick Harrison is hoping his team’s final game of 2020 is a positive one, as they head to Lincoln City in the FA Youth Cup third round on Tuesday night.
The young Lilywhites face the Imps at the LNER Stadium at 7pm this midweek, after the game was originally postponed a couple of weeks ago, with a home tie against Watford next up for the victors.
Speaking to iFollow PNE from their UCLan training centre, Nick said his side were all looking forward to it: “It was disappointing when the game was cancelled a couple of weeks ago, but it is a great game to finish the year off and everybody is looking forward to it.
“There has been a buzz around the squad all season; we have seen a lot of positives. We only have a small group of 17 scholars and we have had a number of U16 and even U15 players move up and it has been good to see their progress.
“But we have also seen a number of U18 scholars get opportunities with the first team and every time they have been up with the first team, when they have come back in with us, we have seen a big difference from them in terms of their maturity levels and their intensity, so it is good for everybody.
“It just passes on to the other players, especially the young players that we see coming through.”
A number of the players have also been out on work experience loans as well, which has aided their development.
“That has been something that has worked for us as a club for a long time; we saw Ben Davies in his early days go out on loan and recently Adam O’Reilly and Ethan Walker – before his injury – and it has worked well for Jacob [Holland-Wilkinson] and Joe Rodwell-Grant and I am sure that will continue when football resumes in some kind of normality,” continued Nick.
“First and foremost, we have to concentrate on the game on Tuesday and I am looking forward to seeing those players in action and I am sure that everybody else is as well.
“We have been really pleased with the season so far; especially with the number of players involved.
“We have scored goals and we always challenge our players to do that; we want to create lots of chances and score lots of goals. At the same time, we want to be difficult to beat and make it difficult for teams and that is what I am hoping for on Tuesday.
“We want our players to play in the right way and create lots of chances and attack when we can, but we want to see is well is our players dig in and realise how important it is to win games.
“When the FA Youth Cup comes along, yes, we look at the performance, but they understand the importance of winning, because that’s what matters at the next level.”
So, what of their opponents? Lincoln City sit fifth in their division of the youth alliance league, having scored 18 goals so far this season and Nick expects a tough test.
“They are a good team. They beat Oldham in the last round; they work very hard and have got some really good players and they can score some goals.
“I think it is going to be a really tough game. We haven’t played Lincoln very often; I think the last time was about four years ago in another cup competition, so I think it will be a really tough game, but those are the type of games we want our players to be in.
“We want game to be tough and our players to be challenged and that will be the case on Tuesday night.”
And the only disappointment going into the tie is that no-one can be there to see the players perform: “It is a shame. If the tier system had been different then we might have got some people in, but it is just important that everyone is safe and I am sure the families of the players will catch up on the video when they can and the most important thing is the players get the opportunity to play in these sort of games,” he added.
We will have a live stream of the game on PNE.Com and the club’s YouTube channel on Tuesday night from just before kick-off. It will be a video stream only, with no commentary, but check the website from just before 7pm to watch the young PNE side in action.