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Match Reports

Match Report: Gillingham U18 1 PNE U18 2

18 January 2023

Preston North End U18s secured a place in the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup thanks to a 2-1 comeback victory over Gillingham.

The hosts took the lead inside the opening minute through Ronnie Sithole, but a leveller from Felipe Rodriguez-Gentile sent the sides into the break level.

Home skipper Alex Giles saw red with ten minutes to go and North End made their advantage count on 86 minutes, when Kian Best struck a fantastic free-kick to set up a fifth round tie against Luton Town.

PNE named a strong team, with the likes of Finlay Cross-Adair and Kaedyn Kamara – who both featured in the senior version of the competition earlier in the month – named in the starting XI. 

The game got off to a bad start, though, as the hosts took the lead as the clock hit 60 seconds thanks to a superb strike from Sithole, which flew above the head of James Pradic in goal. 

PNE settled from that point and had the next few opportunities of the tie. Firstly, Noah Mawene sent a low strike just inches wide, before Jacob Slater tested Taite Holtam in goal, who was up to the task. 

There was nothing Holtam could do, however, on 22 minutes when Rodriguez-Gentile – following on from his five goals in the previous round – wonderfully lobbed the ‘keeper, after being found by Cross-Adair. 

Cross-Adair then nearly got on the scoresheet himself less than ten minutes later after being cleverly found by Kitt Nelson, but his strike went across the face of goal and just wide. 

There was soon to be a lengthy stoppage, as Gillingham man Elliott Moore received treatment following a strong but fair challenge from Kian Best, and the youngster left the field on a stretcher with everyone’s best wishes. 

The action was lively from the off in the second half, and PNE felt they could have had a penalty on 58 minutes when the ball appeared to strike an arm inside the area, but nothing was given. 

At the other end, there were shouts for a red card as James Pradic brought down Joe Gbode as he broke through on goal, however the referee opted for a yellow. 

That was to prove important for PNE, too, as the Wales youth international came up with a superb double save just minutes later to deny Sithole and then Matt MacArthur. 

On 65 minutes, Cross-Adair came close for North End, breaking through on goal and sending a powerful effort towards Holtam, who managed to make the save. 

With ten to go, the hosts lost their captain as central defender Giles was shown a second yellow, and PNE soon made their advantage count. 

Best stood over a free-kick on 86 minutes, before sending it over the wall and superbly finding the bottom corner, cuing huge celebrations on the pitch and on the touchline. 

North End managed the game superbly from that point to seal victory and set up a fifth round tie away to Luton Town, with a date for that fixture to be confirmed in due course.

PNE U18 line-up: Pradic; Wallbank, Taylor, Best; Seary (Eccleston, 90+5), Kamara, Mawene, Nelson, Slater; Cross-Adair, Rodriguez-Gentile. Subs not used: Davis, McGhee, Wilson, Horan, Pemberton, Havard.


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