Youth team coach Andy Fensome says Preston North End’s U18s are full of confidence ahead of their trip to face Oxford United in the FA Youth Cup fourth round on Wednesday night.
The Lilywhites defeated Bristol City 2-0 in the previous round and go into the tie on the back of a 6-1 victory over Walsall at the weekend. That win saw them advance to the Youth Alliance Cup northern semi-final, while they also sit top of their league in the EFL Youth Alliance.
Fensome told iFollow PNE that the side’s recent good form and opportunities to be involved with the first team have had a positive impact on the players’ self-belief.
“We’re creating chances and I think the Bristol City game gave us a lot of confidence that we can go out and play, we can perform, we can pass the ball, and going down to Oxford on Wednesday, we hope for the same sort of performance.
“The three young pros that train down with us day in, day out provide an incentive. The boys know that they can get pro contracts here. It’s not just about doing well and not getting anything so if they do well, there’s an opportunity.
“They get the opportunities to go down with the first team when needed, and in the bounce games and reserve games that get played. Quite a lot of them have been up to train with the first team so they do know what’s it about and there is the opportunity if they do well.”
Wednesday night’s opponents beat Maidenhead United 1-0 in the last round to reach this stage and Fensome believes that Oxford will prove to be tough side to play against.
“They’re a good side. They’re doing well in their league, so they’re a team to be aware of."
“I think some of their players have played first team football already, speaking to one of their managers down there last time. They’re getting in and around the first team squad quite a lot. They train at the same facilities. They’ve got an opportunity and hopefully our boys will go down there and give a good performance.”
The match will be played at the Kassam Stadium, as North End’s youngsters take to the field at another league ground, following a number of games at Deepdale.
“It’s another experience and that’s the way we look at it,” Fensome continued.
“It’s great to play at Deepdale. Not everybody gets that opportunity, especially under the lights, and then to go away and play at Oxford, again is another opportunity for the boys to learn.”
With the draw for the fifth round having already been made, the Lilywhites know that a local derby with Blackburn Rovers, who face Charlton Athletic in the fourth round, is the potential reward for victory over Oxford. But Fensome is keen to ensure that the focus is firmly on Wednesday’s clash.
He said: “I’ve said before, it’s not about the next round, it’s about the one that you’re in. We do the same with the league games.
"It’s not about looking forward to the one after the next one and the one after that, it’s about concentrating of the game you’ve got coming up and that’s very important."
“That’s all we’re focused on really. We could only really focus on this game on Wednesday after the cup game that we played on Saturday. What we said to the players was we’ve got to win this one first, then we’ll start talking about Oxford after that.”
Watch the full interview with Fenners on iFollow PNE now by clicking on the video above.