PNE U19s continued their winning run as they beat Shrewsbury Town 1-0 in the Youth Alliance League.
Josh Seary’s second-half strike was enough to separate the two sides during a tough encounter at Springfields.
Academy manager Nick Harrison made four changes from the team that beat Salford City 4-0 last weekend. Oli Lombard, Joe Blanchard, Finlay Cross-Adair and Vaughn Green made way for James Pradic, Levi Lewis, Dana Amaral and Aaron Bennett.
Bennett was making his first appearance of the season after a lengthy spell on the side-lines with a knee injury.
It was an entertaining start to the game with both teams looking to get on the ball and attack the opposition.
The first chance fell the way of North End, Bennett broke forward from midfield and played Mikey O’Neill through but his effort was fired wide of the right-hand post.
It was the visitors however who enjoyed the majority of the opening stages of the first half. Shrewsbury took the game to North End, running at the defence and getting balls into the box but the Lilywhites defence was able to stand strong.
The game reached the half hour mark and North End started to grow into the game.
Bennett was extremely lively, he picked the ball up on the right, skipped past a couple of defenders and squared the ball back to O’Neill but his effort lacked the power to trouble the 'keeper.
North End were piling on the pressure to end the half and Bennett was once again involved in the action; he was played in on goal but his strike was straight at the keeper.
Just before the half-time whistle O’Neill fired wide of the left-hand post after some good build up play.
North End made a substitution to start the second half with Bennett making way as he continues to build up his match sharpness following his injury and was replaced by Green.
The Lilywhites started the second half just how they finished the first. The ball fell to Green in the box but he couldn’t get a proper connection on it.
North End did manage to take the lead in the 53rd minute though. Great link up play between O’Neill and Noah Mawene on the right saw Mawene find Seary who had ventured into the right side of the box, he was able to drive towards goal and fire the ball past the 'keeper from a tight angle.
North End pushed for a second straight away as Lewis Leigh tried his luck from distance, but he blasted his effort wide.
The Lilywhites really started to dominate proceedings after some really quick one-touch football, O’Neill was found on the edge of the area but his effort was once again well saved by the 'keeper.
The visitors started to put pressure on North End as the game entered the final stages but North End were able to hold on for the win to make it seven league wins in a row and remain top of the league.
Nick Harrison felt it was a tough game but was pleased with his side's performance.
“I thought it was a real competitive, tough game." Nick told PNE.Com.
“Credit to Shrewsbury Town I thought they made it really difficult for us. Once we got going and got to grips with things, I thought we performed really well and dominated the game and probably should have scored more than we did.”
Harrison felt this was the sort of game that the young team needed to help them learn and develop.
“This game is exactly what the team need. The team are only going to learn by being challenged and put under pressure and I thought they had to cope with that.
“Once we got the ball down and dominated then that’s when the quality comes through, I thought we passed the ball really well and created some really good chances.
“However, throughout the game we had to dig in and defend really well and work hard for each other, as much as winning the game is good I just thought that side of the game and their attitude was very good.”
Forward Aaron Bennett made his return to the team today after a missing a long period of time through injury and Harrison was really pleased to see him playing again.
“It was really pleasing to see,” Nick continued. “It’s been a long journey for him, and I was really pleased that we could get 45 minutes for him.
“He’s got a long way to go and has a lot more hard work to do but it’s really pleasing to see any player return from a lengthy injury and hopefully we can keep improving and developing him.”
The U19s are back in action next week as they travel away to Port Vale in the Youth Alliance League.