Preston North End U19s battled to victory as they beat Fleetwood Town 2-1 to earn three points in the first group game of the Youth Alliance Cup.
Jacob Slater scored his second goal in as many games to give North End the lead, before Finlay Wallbank doubled PNE’s lead right before half-time to give North End a healthy advantage going into the second half.
Fleetwood pulled a goal back in the 87th minute but North End were able to hold on to pick up all three points.
Academy manager Nick Harrison made two changes from the team that lost 5-3 at home to Salford last week. James Pradic and Rio Pemberton came in for Oliver Lombard and Jacob Holland-Wilkinson, with the latter having joined AFC Fylde on a youth loan until 18th September.
The home side started the brighter of the two teams, a slick passing move found its way to Josh Seary on the right-hand side, but his first-time effort was fired wide.
The first 15 minutes were open with both teams attacking with pace but there were no real chances for either side in the opening period.
Just two minutes later Slater gave North End the lead. A fast counter attack from a Fleetwood corner saw Slater played through on goal and he slotted the ball nicely into the bottom left-hand corner to make it 1-0.
Fleetwood thought they had equalised after a scramble in the box, but the linesman adjudged the striker to be offside and the goal was ruled out.
Mikey O’Neill then found himself with some space on the edge of the box, he blasted an effort towards goal but it went over the bar.
It was the visitors turn to come forward next as Zane Marsh flew down the right wing and put a tantalising ball into the box, Bill Jones brought it down but fired over while on the turn.
Fleetwood continued to pile on pressure, but the North End defence was standing strong to close out the half.
Even with the Fleetwood pressure it was the home side who scored the next goal. Wallbank broke down the right-hand side and thanks to a deflection his shot found the bottom right-hand corner to double North End’s lead right on the stroke of half-time.
Just four minutes after the second half restart North End had a chance to add a third. A clearance from the keeper fell to Pemberton but his effort was high and wide.
It was all PNE in the first quarter of the second half. It was great work from Pemberton on the right-hand side to get a cross into the box which found O’Neill, his effort however, cannoned off the post to keep the score at 2-0.
The visitors reacted by making a double change, Donte Thompson-Prempeh and Roman Khela were replaced by Harry Clarke and Pharrell Brown.
North End then made their first change of the game replacing Rio Pemberton with Kitt Nelson.
Time was running out for the visitors who saw a long-range effort well saved by Pradic.
PNE made their second change of the game taking off goalscorer Finlay Wallbank and replacing him with Noah Mawene, who made his return from injury after a spell on the sidelines.
North End had another chance to seal the game, substitute Nelson controlled the ball in the box but he misshit his shot and it went wide.
North End made their final change of the game with Levi Lewis making way for Kian Best.
With just three minutes of normal time remaining Fleetwood pulled a goal back, substitute Brown’s shot was well saved but the rebound was tucked home to reduce North End's lead.
Just two minutes later Fleetwood nearly equalised, a well worked move was eventually fired just over the crossbar.
Mawene had a chance for North End to seal it in the dying embers of the game but his shot was fired over the bar after some great work from Finlay Cross-Adair.
North End managed to hang on to pick up the three points in a tight contest, and speaking to PNE.Com after the game, Nick Harrison felt Fleetwood did well but believed his team deserved the win.
“I thought it was a really good performance and obviously a great result, I thought we deserved it throughout the game.
“I thought Fleetwood did well and competed well, I just thought we showed good quality at the right times to finish the game off.
“I’m really pleased with the way the players have responded from last week."
Going into the next game and trying to build on this win, Harrison just wants the players to continue working on their development.
“We just want the players to keep working hard in training and as academy staff we want to see them keep developing and learning.
“When the next games come along its up to the players to put everything that they’ve been practicing into action, today I thought they did that really well."
PNE U19 Line-Up: Pradic, Seary, Lewis (Best), Taylor, Mfuni, Blanchard, Wallbank (Mawene), O’Neill, Pemberton (Nelson), Cross-Adair, Slater.
Subs not used: Barry, Mahaffy.