Preston North End U19s recorded an impressive 3-1 win over Shrewsbury Town in their final home match of the season.
It was a fairly dominant performance from the young Lilywhites as goals from Felipe Rodriguez-Gentile, Kitt Nelson and Ellis Horan secured all three points.
There were six changes made to the team that thrashed Stockport two weeks previously, with Li-Bau Stowell, Dana Amaral, Kian Best, Ethan Eccleston, Kaedyn Kamara and Horan all coming in to the side.
The game began in frantic fashion and it took ten minutes for the first shot on goal when Shrewsbury’s Dennis Antal received the ball in the area at the end of a swift passing move but skied his shot.
This chance served as something of a wake-up call for PNE who soon began to dominate the ball and threaten the Salop area but, for a while, that final ball was just lacking.
On 23 minutes, another good opportunity came the way of the visitors when a midfielder connected with a low volley on the edge of the area, which Stowell did very well to tip wide of goal after seeing it late.
Just past the half-hour mark, North End’s first clear-cut chance arrived when Kacper Pasiek received the ball on the left edge of the penalty area and chipped an effort which hit the top of the crossbar, denying the wing back a fantastic goal.
There was an extended period of time added on at the end of the first half and the Lilywhites used that to their advantage, taking the lead in the eighth minute of stoppage-time when Rio Pemberton sent in a lofted cross from the right for Rodriguez-Gentile to nod home at the back post.
Shrewsbury threatened early on in the second half as Harvey Watts forced another fantastic save out of Stowell just three minutes after the interval.
On 59 minutes, substitute Nelson got involved, receiving the ball after Pemberton was dispossessed in the area and seeing his fierce effort saved by the opposition goalie Frankie Beckles.
Just three minutes later, the visitors pulled level when Watts again tested Stowell with a low effort and the ‘keeper could only parry the ball into the path of Theo Knight for an easy tap-in.
Similarly to the first half, the North End players seemed to use this setback to spur them on and came close on two occasions in quick succession on 67 minutes when Nelson flicked Horan’s cross onto the roof of the net before Pemberton scuffed a shot after being found in the area by Eccleston.
But, moments later, they made no mistake when Horan tried a shot which bounced up into the air off the thigh of the Shrewsbury defender and Nelson watched it drop before unleashing an unstoppable volley into the back of the Salop net.
Having restored their lead, the Lilywhites had another close call on 77 minutes when Antal rattled the top of the crossbar with a powerful free-kick.
Six minutes later, Stowell again earned his stripes, tipping an audacious overhead kick attempt from close range over the bar.
Horan almost put the game to bed with four minutes to go when Pemberton clipped the ball back to him and he forced Beckles into a low save at his near post.
But with the final kick of the game, Horan made no mistake after Nelson drove through the Shrewsbury defence and laid the ball off his for teammate to lift over Beckles and secure the victory for his team.
Coach Andy Fensome was delighted with the team’s performance as they look to end a mixed campaign on a high note.
He said: “It’s always good to win the games, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the first game, the last game or in the middle of the season.
“We have struggled at times, but the lads have worked hard the last couple of weeks in training to try and put things right and I thought they were excellent today.”
Fenners was particularly pleased with the way his team played and how clinical they were in front of goal.
“The performance was more pleasing than anything today,” he said.
“I thought we played really well at times. We moved the ball really quickly, we switched the play when we needed to and we created plenty of chances.
“We always create a lot of chances but we don’t always take them so the fact we converted the chances we created today was really pleasing because that’s another thing we’ve worked on.”
PNE line-up: Stowell, Nevin, Pasiek (Seary, 60), Amaral, Best (Taylor, 45), McGhee, Eccleston (Blake, 90), Horan, Rodriguez-Gentile (Nelson, 45), Pemberton, Kamara (Wilson, 45).