Preston North End U19s recorded a stylish 4-0 win over Morecambe at Springfields.
Jacob Holland-Wilkinson fired the Lilywhites in front in the first half before second half goals from Vaughn Green, Josh Seary and Harry Nevin rounded off a dominant display from North End.
Four changes were made to the side that triumphed in last week’s derby against Blackpool. Levi Lewis and Mikey O’Neill were replaced by Kian Taylor and Josh Seary.
Meanwhile, Jacob Slater replaced Lewis Coulton, who earlier this week joined Bamber Bridge on loan, and young goalkeeper Jacob Barry was called up through the ranks to replace Oliver Lombard.
A minute’s silence was observed before kick-off in the Lilywhites’ last home game before Remembrance Day.
North End were caught out on the counter attack just two minutes in and were reprieved by the linesman’s raised flag, signalling that Morecambe’s goalscorer was in an offside position and the goal was disallowed.
Nick Harrison’s side then took control and Vaughn Green should have scored after nine minutes as Slater picked him out with a cross from the left, but the forward missed the target with the close-range header.
Moments later, Lewis Leigh came close with a speculative free-kick from 25 yards out that stung the gloves of the Morecambe goalkeeper as he tipped it over the bar.
The breakthrough finally arrived on 27 minutes as Seary went on a blistering run down the right before sending a superb cross over which was expertly controlled and drilled home by Jacob Holland-Wilkinson, giving North End a 1-0 lead.
The pair linked up again five minutes later and almost doubled their side’s lead, but this time Holland-Wilkinson dragged his shot just wide of the far post.
The hosts went in at half-time with just the one-goal lead but it could have certainly been more.
They went back out onto the pitch evidently hungry for more goals as immediately after the break, Slater hit a shot from the edge of the area that fizzed just wide of the top corner.
On the half-hour mark, PNE doubled their lead as Green raced on to a delightful flick from Holland-Wilkinson and made no mistake with a clinical finish.
Buoyed by his side’s two-goal cushion, Nick Harrison made two substitutions as Kitt Nelson and Finlay Cross-Adair replaced Taylor and Rio Pemberton respectively.
North End continued to pile on the pressure and their third goal came on 76 minutes as Seary made a surging run into the penalty area and slotted past the Shrimps goalkeeper.
With a goal to add to his assist, Seary was brought off, capping off an outstanding match for the Irishman. He was replaced by Finlay Wallbank, making his return to the U19s side, while Kian Best also came on in place of Slater.
Barry had been faultless in between the sticks in his first ever match at U19 level and on 87 minutes the opportunity to blood another youngster with 13-year-old Li-Bao Stowell brought on to play out the final few minutes of the game.
During that time, captain Harry Nevin, who had been imperious in the air all morning, headed in North End’s fourth from a corner.
The eventual 4-0 scoreline did not flatter the young Lilywhites who had produced a commanding display in both attack and defence.
Manager Nick Harrison was particularly happy, saying to PNE.Com after the match, “It was a really pleasing game, it was a good result and a good performance.
“We performed well, created a number of chances and scored some really good goals. The scoreline should have been a lot more but overall, I’m really pleased.”
He believes his side are rapidly improving and is encouraged by the standard of performance the players are producing at the moment.
“The players do a lot of work in training,” he said. “Every game that we go into, we want to play the right way, we want to create chances, we want to stop the opposition from scoring goals and stop the opposition from creating chances. I thought we did that really well today and we’ve done that really well the last couple of weeks.
“I think we’re progressing, it’s all about development and the players and the team are developing. Long may that continue.”
Harrison also credited Preston North End’s youth set-up for the quality of the two young goalkeepers who stepped up.
He said: “We’ve got good players at this academy and all the way through the age groups, it’s a credit to all the coaching staff that we have.
“I thought the two goalkeepers who played the part today did brilliantly. It’s pleasing that they got a clean sheet as well.”
PNE line-up: Barry (Stowell, 87’), Mfuni, Blanchard, Leigh, Nevin (C), Taylor (Nelson, 61’), Seary (Wallbank, 77’), Pemberton (Cross-Adair, 61’), Green, Holland-Wilkinson, Slater (Best, 77’)