Preston North End U19 eased to a commanding 4-0 victory over Accrington Stanley.
Noah Mawene, Levi Lewis, Teddy Mfuni and Jacob Holland-Wilkinson all got their names on the scoresheet as the Lilywhites bagged another important win in their pursuit of the Youth Alliance title.
There were four changes to the side that won 2-0 at Shrewsbury Town the week before. Lewis came in for Joe Blanchard, who earlier this week joined Lancaster City on work experience.
Meanwhile, James Pradic, Mawene and Aaron Bennett all started, replacing Ollie Lombard, Mikey O’Neill and Joe Rodwell-Grant respectively.
North End wasted no time in seizing control of the match as after just four minutes, Mawene was in the right place to sweep home Josh Seary’s cutback and fire his side ahead.
They almost doubled their lead three minutes later as Bennett looked to catch the Stanley goalkeeper off his line with an audacious effort from far out, but his shot lacked the necessary height and accuracy, and fizzed wide of the post.
After that, Accrington began to grow into the game and a 12th-minute well-worked move almost found them an equaliser, but the eventual shot was high over the bar.
Lewis Leigh then had a speculative effort saved by the Accrington ‘keeper just a few minutes before Lewis found the net with a low drive from a tight angle.
The left wing-back’s strike had earned PNE their two-goal cushion and also looked to have knocked the stuffing out of their opponents who up until that point had been looking the more likely team to score.
On the half-hour mark, it got even worse for the hosts when a delightful, floated cross from Lewis was met at the back post by Mfuni and the towering centre-back prodded home a third for Nick Harrison’s side.
They took that three-goal margin into the break and came out for the second half looking to extend it.
Seary had a good opportunity to do so on 54 minutes, but his shot was well blocked by an Accrington defender.
On 59 minutes, Bennett had three golden opportunities to find the net in quick succession, but fired at the Stanley goalie each time.
In the 71st minute, substitute Vaughn Green almost caught out the Accrington ‘keeper with a fierce strike at his near post and soon after he struck the base of the post with a low shot.
Two minutes later, Green had another opportunity to score as he raced on to a fantastic flick-on from Holland-Wilkinson but, under pressure from a retreating defender, he could only drag his shot wide.
The fourth for North End finally arrived on 83 minutes as Holland-Wilkinson finished off a good move with a powerful hit that left the 'keeper with no chance, rounding off a dominant display from his side in style.
It had been a comfortable win for the Lilywhites and helped strengthen their bid for the Youth Alliance title.
Manager Nick Harrison was happy with the win but felt it could, and perhaps should, have been won by an even bigger margin.
Speaking to PNE.Com, he said: “I was pleased with the performance and delighted to have scored four goals and kept a clean sheet.
“But we probably deserved to score two or three more from the chances that we created.”
He also felt his players performed very well but wished they had stuck to the basics more.
“I thought we performed really well when we passed the ball and played simple,” said Harrison.
“We showed some good movement and we opened up the opposition well and created a lot of chances.
“But there were other bits where we just tried to complicate the game and maybe had a touch too many or half a second too long on the ball, and they’re things that we want to keep working on.”
The North End players will be looking to build on this win when Burton Albion come to Springfields on Tuesday for the Youth Alliance Cup sectional semi-final.
Speaking on the upcoming tie, Harrison said: “I’m sure they’re looking forward to it. They should have lots of confidence at the moment on the back of some good results and some good performances.
“The challenge for the boys is to do what we ask of them every week which is perform well, win the game and that should see them through to the next round.”
PNE line-up: Pradic (Lombard, 56), Mfuni, Lewis, Leigh (Green, 56), Nevin (C) (Wallbank, 76), Slater (Best, 68), Seary, Amaral, Holland-Wilkinson, Mawene, Bennett (Nelson, 68).