Preston North End U19s recorded their third win in a row with a 2-1 victory over Rochdale at Springfields.
In an action-packed first half, a strike from Noah Mawene and a Joe Rodwell-Grant penalty fired North End 2-0 in front before the visitors pulled one back on the brink of half-time.
Manager Nick Harrison made three changes to the starting 11, bringing in Lewis Coulton, Lewis Leigh and Rodwell-Grant in place of Joe Blanchard, Kian Taylor and Kitt Nelson respectively.
It was a frantic opening to the game and Rodwell-Grant came close on five minutes with a stooping header that sailed just over the bar.
Moments later, the Lilywhites took the lead after the ball broke loose in the Rochdale penalty area and Mawene calmly stroked the ball home from close range.
Unfortunately for the energetic midfielder, his game ended ten minutes later as he was forced off with an ankle injury after turning awkwardly and he was replaced by Nelson.
Despite losing their goalscorer, North End continued to look dangerous with Rodwell-Grant a constant thorn in Rochdale’s side, making his first appearance for the youth team since his two senior appearances off the bench for the first team.
It was the striker who stepped up to take the penalty on the half hour mark after Levi Lewis was brought down in the area and he made no mistake, cooly dispatching his spot kick and doubling PNE’s lead.
The hosts appeared to be cruising to a comfortable victory but on 42 minutes a lapse of concentration from a corner saw the Dale pull a goal back, making the score at half-time 2-1 to North End.
The Lilywhites started the second half determined to ensure they didn’t let their lead slip and Jacob Slater saw a goal bound shot deflected wide for a corner almost immediately after the restart.
Rochdale’s best chance to level the score came on 58 minutes when a crisp shot from the edge of the area brushed the side netting on its way just wide of the post.
Minutes later, an impressive run and pass from industrious midfielder Mikey O’Neill provided an opportunity for Rodwell-Grant to increase his tally but his strike was off target.
The 66th minute saw the second PNE substitution as Rio Pemberton replaced Lewis Coulton, who produced a fantastic display in his first start since returning to the side last week.
Rodwell-Grant continued to be a threat, bringing a smart save from the keeper with a close-range effort on 77 minutes and forcing a Rochdale defender to block his shot after an impressive solo run four minutes later.
Kian Taylor replaced Nelson on 87 minutes for the final stages of the game as North End ended the match as the victors.
The 2-1 scoreline could have been more for North End after such a dominant performance from the boys in white, however manager Nick Harrison wasn’t too concerned, with the performance key for him and his staff.
Speaking to PNE.com after the game, he said: “We’re looking at the performance first and foremost and I thought overall we played well. We started the game really well, I was pleased with the number of chances we created. We should have scored more but I was pleased with the performance overall.”
On the goal conceded minutes before the break, Harrison said: “It’s really frustrating that it was a set-piece piece because the coaching staff do a lot of work on the set pieces with the players and spend a lot of time going into a bit of detail. We can’t concede sloppy goals from set pieces like that just before half-time.”
“It probably gives the opposition a bit of belief so they come back at you but I’m pleased with how we stood up to that.”
The 2-1 win is the third win in a row for the Lilywhites, but Harrison is more encouraged by performances than results at this moment in time.
“I’m not looking into too much detail about three wins on the bounce. I think it’s good momentum for the players but we’ve just got to keep looking at the performances as a group and individuals. We’ll just keep working with the players and helping them.”
PNE Line-Up: Lombard, Wallbank, Lewis, Leigh, Mfuni, Coulton (Pemberton 66'), Cross-Adair, Mawene (Nelson 17' (Taylor 87')), Rodwell-Grant, O'Neill, Slater
Unused substitutes: Duggan, Best