PNE U18 sealed a comeback win with three second half goals away at Salford City.
The hosts drew first blood with an overhead kick which gave them the lead at the break, but a Jacob Holland-Wilkinson brace turned the game on its head.
Aaron Bennett added to the scoreline to make it five unbeaten for the young Lilywhites in March.
There were three changes to the team from last weekend’s 3-3 draw at Shrewsbury, as Lewis Coulton, Vaughn Green and a returning Harry Huddart slotted into the starting line-up.
A scrappy opening saw both sides competing to get a hold of the ball and push into their respective attacking thirds.
Captain for the day Noah Mawene attempted to get into the channels and found success from doing so, winning a free kick just outside the right side of the box.
Bennett dinked it to the far post and Joe Blanchard flicked it back across, but it was dealt with well by the hosts.
They went up the other end up and secured a corner, from which the opener was scored. The ball into the box wasn’t cleared and it fell to the centre half, who converted an acrobatic effort with 20 minutes gone.
North End sought an instant response and nearly struck back straight away when Josh Seary was played through and shot over the bar.
Seary had a clearer chance when Mawene picked him out in the box, but he could only place his strike straight at Brad Rose in the Salford goal.
An equaliser looked increasingly likely as the victors continued to press. Bennett went agonisingly close when his effort rolled just past the post.
Just before half-time Coulton whipped a teasing cross in from the left, but no one could get on the end of it.
The young Lilywhites did draw level shortly after the interval when Green sprinted down the left and crossed to Holland-Wilkinson, who finished first-time.
Both sides hit the woodwork following the goal. First, Ben Finley’s low shot bounced off the post and across the face to safety, and then Green’s fierce strike hit the outside of the upright at the other end.
The first change for North End saw Jacob Slater replace Coulton.
Salford nearly had success from a corner once more when a floated ball in caused danger in the six-yard box. Oliver Lombard appeared to be fouled but play continued and the goalkeeper recovered well to stop the eventual shot on the line.
That save proved to be crucial as Holland-Wilkinson completed the comeback soon after. The striker’s initial shot was blocked but the ball bounced back to him and he made no mistake at the second time of asking from inside the box.
Salford had barely recovered when PNE hit them with another blow. Bennett was played in and took a couple of touches before firing in off the post from just outside the box to make it two in two minutes.
North End defended their lead well and looked the more likely to score the fifth goal. Holland-Wilkinson had the opportunity to secure his hat-trick having cut in on his right but blazed over.
The full-time whistle brought the young Lilywhites their fourth win in their last five, during which time they’ve scored 21 goals.
Professional Development Phase Coach Andy Fensome put the free-scoring run down to a clinical edge in recent weeks.
“It’s not easy to score goals and we do seem to create a lot of chances in games, it’s just now that those chances seems to be paying off,” he said.
“It’s just a case of taking the chances when they come along. We’re sort of emphasising it, not particularly in training but we do obviously have crossing and finishing sessions and our forwards do their ILP’s and our midfield players take chances.
“It is good that the goals are getting shared around but when the ball goes into the box, we want people in and around it.”
Fensome believes the side recovered well from a poor start which saw them having to fight to get to grips with the game.
“It was a bit of a scrappy game, especially the first half. We didn’t start particularly well and for the opening 20 minutes I thought we were a bit slow and didn’t play to what we had talked about.
“[We were] a little bit sloppy which sort of gave them the impetus with the wind and put ourselves under a bit of pressure.
“Then the next 20 minutes we got a foothold in the game, started to pass the ball better, created some chances and caused them problems and that’s the main thing.
“What we’ve said to the lads is you’ve got to have resilience, you’ve got to show resilience. Obviously we want the results but performances are important.”
The U18s will be looking to round off an unbeaten month when they travel to Carlisle on Tuesday, which Fensome reckons will present a different kind of task.
“It’ll be very challenging,” he added. “It’s a team that will play another sort of set way. They’ll be sort of direct and have big, physically strong lads and our players have to be able to cope with that.
“That’s the biggest thing for me – we have to be able to cope with the demands that other teams put on us, and be able to emphasise our good points of play, which is our passing, our pattern of play, the movement that we have at times.
“That comes from having to battle and winning the ball back in the first place. It’s good to go into the game off the back of another win, but it’s also good that the lads are becoming a bit more resilient in the games now.”
PNE line-up: Lombard, Nicholson, Coulton (Slater 60'), Dooley, Huddart, Blanchard, Seary, Mawene, Holland-Wilkinson, Bennett, Green.
Subs not used: Duggan, Mfuni, Lewis