Preston North End’s U18 side are set to commence the 2020/21 EFL North West Youth Alliance league season at home to Carlisle United this Saturday, their first competitive game since March.
The young Lilywhites returned to training last month and have endured a packed pre-season schedule in preparation for the new campaign, which will conclude on Saturday 1st May and includes a three-week Christmas break.
The first away game of the season is a trip down the M55 to local rivals Blackpool on Saturday 19th September, with the reverse fixture coming on Saturday 30th January.
Nick Harrison’s side will face the only newcomers to the league, Bolton Wanderers, away on Saturday 28th November, before hosting the Trotters in the corresponding fixture on Saturday 3rd April.
The season will then draw to a close on May bank holiday weekend at home to Tranmere Rovers.
Reacting to the fixtures, manager Nick said: “We’ve been excited about the season since we came back in and it’s great to see a normal fixture list that everyone is looking forward to.
“In terms of mentality, we don’t see much difference in the pre-season games and the league games, because at this level it’s all about development and progression.
“We have crammed as many games in as we can because the boys have missed a lot of football, so we have been playing catch-up, but we are really pleased with how the boys have responded to the training schedule.”
Away from the league, the under-18s have been drawn against Bolton and Doncaster Rovers in Group 4 of the Northern section of the Youth Alliance Cup.
The competition is made up of Category Three and Category Four Academy sides and split between the North and the South.
The winner of each of the eight groups will progress in the Northern section to face off in the knockout phase. The respective winners of the Northern and Southern sections will then contest a final to determine the champions.
North End will host Bolton on Saturday 17th October before making the trip to Yorkshire two weeks later on Saturday 31st October where they will be looking to avoid a scare against Doncaster.
Nick commented: “It’s a good opportunity to play against different teams, players and systems, it helps the players continue to develop and progress, which is the main aim.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a friendly, league or cup game, the objective is always the same, we want to win the game and we want the players to perform because that’s what development is all about.
“Our aim ideally is to make a path to the first team and get the players in that group, which is extremely difficult and if we can’t do that then we want to develop players that can have a successful career in the long term.”
Find the young Lilywhites' fixtures for the 2020/21 campaign listed in full below. All fixtures are in the North West Youth Alliance league unless stated otherwise.
H Saturday 12th September, Carlisle United, 11am.
A Saturday 19th September, Blackpool, 10.30am.
A Saturday 26th September, Morecambe, 10.30am.
H Saturday 3rd October, Fleetwood Town, 10.30am.
H Saturday 10th October, Accrington Stanley, 10.30am.
H Saturday 17th October, Bolton Wanderers, KO TBC (Youth Alliance Cup).
A Saturday 24th October, Port Vale, 11am.
A Saturday 31st October, Doncaster Rovers, KO TBC (Youth Alliance Cup).
H Saturday 7th November, Shrewsbury Town, 11am.
A Saturday 21st November, Salford City, 11am.
A Saturday 28th November, Bolton Wanderers, 11am.
H Saturday 5th December, Oldham Athletic, 11am.
H Saturday 12th December, Walsall, 11am.
A Saturday 19th December, Tranmere Rovers, 10.30am.
H Saturday 9th January, Rochdale, 11am.
A Saturday 23rd January, Carlisle United, 11am.
H Saturday 30th January, Blackpool, 10.30am.
H Saturday 13th February, Morecambe, 10.30am.
A Saturday 20th February, Fleetwood Town, 10.30am.
A Saturday 6th March, Accrington Stanley, 11am.
H Saturday 13th March, Port Vale, 11am.
A Saturday 20th March, Shrewsbury Town, 11am.
H Saturday 27th March, Salford City, 10.30am.
H Saturday 3rd April, Bolton Wanderers, 10.30am.
A Tuesday 6th April, Rochdale, 1pm.
A Saturday 10th April, Oldham Athletic, 11am.
A Saturday 24th April, Walsall, 11am.
H Saturday 1st May, Tranmere Rovers, 10.30am.
All fixture dates and times are subject to change; follow @pnefcacademy on Twitter to keep updated throughout the season.