Preston North End U19s showed their class as they beat Morecambe 4-1 away from home in the EFL Youth Alliance League.
North End dominated from start to finish as they soared to victory thanks to a brace from Jacob Holland-Wilkinson and a goal each for Lewis Leigh and Teddy Mfuni.
Academy manager Nick Harrison made three changes from the team that beat Sutton United on penalties in the FA Youth Cup.
James Pradic, Kian Best and Noah Mawene dropped out and were replaced by Ollie Lombard, Kitt Nelson and Jacob Holland-Wilkinson.
North End started on the front foot. Mikey O’Neill played a great ball through to Vaughn Green who skipped past the keeper, but he couldn’t find a North End player in the box.
Green was hunting for goals early on in the game as he tried his luck from distance, but it went over the bar.
North End did take the lead halfway through the first half, a great ball from the left by Jacob Slater found Holland-Wilkinson open in the box who headed the ball into the top left-hand corner to open the scoring.
Before half-time North End had chances to extend their lead as two goals were disallowed for offside, the first through Nelson and the second through Holland-Wilkinson.
The Lilywhites made a double substitution at the break, Lombard was replaced by Pradic and Green couldn’t continue after picking up a knock and was replaced by Noah Mawene.
Just five minutes into the second half North End doubled their lead. A free-kick was won on the edge of the area and Lewis Leigh stepped up to take it and fired it in off the post with a superb finish.
North End were really piling on the pressure in the second half, Holland-Wilkinson found himself through on goal, but he fired his effort over from inside the area.
PNE did make it three however on the hour mark. O’Neill whipped a corner to the back post and Teddy Mfuni was lurking to fire it home.
North End were running rampant in the second half and just four minutes later it was four. Mawene won the ball back in the middle, he played it through to O’Neill who squared it to Holland-Wilkinson to tap home for his second of the game.
The Lilywhites pushed for a fifth but somehow the ball didn’t hit the back of the net. Holland-Wilkinson’s initial effort was saved, Nelson’s follow up was cleared off the line and then Mawene’s effort was tipped wide of the post.
North End made another double substitution to finish the game. O’Neill and Mfuni made way and on came Max Wilson and Theo Mawene, the latter making his first appearance for the U19s, in action with his brother Noah.
Wilson nearly made an instant impact as he capitalised on a poor pass back from the defender, but his effort was hit wide of the post.
Nelson will have been wondering how he didn’t score as he fired wide from point blank range after a quick counter attack from North End.
Holland-Wilkinson was pushing to get his hattrick, but his last effort of the game saw him fire wide from inside the area.
The hosts did manage to grab a consolation late on as the Morecambe attacker finished smartly into the bottom right-hand corner.
Manager Nick Harrison was pleased with his side's performance as they continued their impressive run of form.
“I thought the was another really good performance. It's always difficult on the 3G astroturf, the ball bobbles up and the lads are trying to pass the ball and make the right decisions.
“We’ve obviously scored four goals, but we should have scored more.”
PNE U19 have had a successful first half of the season as we head into Christmas and Harrison reflected on the season so far.
“I think it’s been a really good season so far, not because of the league table or where we are in the cup, because of the performances of the players and how they are progressing.
“This is what youth development is about, it's about developing players, it’s about players being on a bit of a journey and that what has been really pleasing about a number of players.
“Since the start of the season until now, players have got better and they will continue to get better as the season goes on, we hope that this will help them break into first team level and make a career.”
Harrison also gave an update on Vaughn Green, who went off with a knock at half-time: “It was just precautionary. Vaughn has had a problem with his knees in the past and because we were playing on astroturf we just didn’t want to take any chances.”
In their next game the U19s will travel to Salford as they look to make it five wins in a row.
PNEU19 Line Up: Lombard (Pradic), Mfuni (T.Mawene), Blanchard, Leigh, Nevin (C), Nelson, Seary, O’Neill (Wilson), Green (N.Mawene), Holland-Wilkinson, Slater.