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Discussion in 'Preston' started by themaclad, Sep 13, 2017.
Next season probably loaned out
Neil Hoping Players Can Take Their Chance
Manager Alex Neil is looking forward to giving some players an opportunity to show what they can do this weekend in the FA Cup clash at Sheffield United.
The manager made changes to his side in the previous round against Wycombe Wanderers, which saw a number of players keep their place in the team for the follow league games having impressed the gaffer, and Neil is hoping for more of the same on Saturday.
The PNE boss holds the FA Cup in high regard, and feels a good cup run can only be a positive for the club and for his squad.
Speaking to iFollow ahead of the trip to Bramall Lane: "If somebody offered me three points or to be through to the next round of the cup I would probably take the three points. I’m not saying it’s not as important, because it is, however our goal this season is to try and get as close and into that Play-Off position as we can.
"I think a good cup run is excellent for the club, it’s excellent for the players and we have a really healthy squad at the minute in terms of two players in each position and things like that.
"So to give other guys an opportunity to show that they should be playing without jeopardising any points I think is a great thing.
"Like you saw in the last round, some of the lads took that opportunity and subsequently stayed in the team since then so I think it’s a great chance for me to give some of them a shot."
The gaffer believes a positive run in the cup could reap rewards in the league, and hopes Saturday's tie can kickstart a winning run.
"We've been in relatively good form in terms of not having lost games, however we are in a position at the moment where we want to start turning draws into wins.
"I think that's going to be the crucial transition for us in terms of getting those wins and getting three points on the board.
"I understand this is a cup game but we need to look at the bigger picture and I think good performances and good wins build confidence, build momentum and we want to try and make sure that we keep going with that."
Chris Wilder's Blades are the opposition this weekend, North End were 1-0 winners when the sides faced each other last month but Neil has been impressed with the Yorkshire side this season.
On the last encounter, the manager said: "We've done a lot of analysis on them and they were one of the best teams I've seen in terms of, there hadn't really been anyone who has completed dominated them, which is unusual.
"Usually there is one really poor performance somewhere along the course of the season and I would go as far as to say I think we are one of the best teams to play against them, certainly that day.
"So we are going to have to put in another performance like that to make sure we try and win, but they are good at home, they are a good side, they've got some good players.
"I think they are very much like us, they are a working man's club, they put in the time, the effort, the grit. They are well organised, they work really hard so it's going to be a really tough match.
Easter Monday game against Derby now on telly 12.45 kick off
PNE U18 1 Accrington Stanley U18 2
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A much-changed Preston North End youth team fell to a 2-1 home defeat against Accrington Stanley’s youngsters on Saturday.
Stanley scored roughly half an hour into each half, as Harry Waterhouse broke the deadlock before Alex O’Neil doubled the visitors’ lead.
Ethan Walker pulled one back for the Lilywhites in a late onslaught on the Stanley goal but it proved to be no more than a consolation effort.
Nick Harrison made 11 changes from the side which beat Blackpool 5-2 last time out and those coming into the side made a strong start. Darren Brannigan had the ball in the net inside five minutes, but his header from Kian Smart’s cross was disallowed for offside.
Neither goalkeeper was truly tested until 25 minutes had passed, when Tom Riley shot straight and Callum Lenton and Harry Garstang did likewise at the other end as Toby Savin held onto his effort.
Waterhouse opened the scoring for Accrington in the 30th minute. He made a strong run to edge of the area before finishing into the bottom right corner with his left foot.
The visitors could have doubled their lead before the break, as Johnjo Morris glanced Joel Mills’ corner just wide of the left-hand post.
It was an open start to the second-half as North End had a couple of chances in attack, Brannigan first showing great movement to collect a Kamol Campbell through ball into the area but shot straight at Savin from a tight angle.
Waterhouse threatened to double his tally at the other end on a couple of occasions, first attempting a chip which failed to trouble Lenton before he poked wide of the bottom right corner one on one from the edge of the box.
Garstang almost equalised for the hosts just before the hour with a powerful free-kick which curled marginally wide of the top right corner.
Campbell also threatened from distance, showing neat footwork to earn the space to shoot, but Savin did well to hold his effort.
In the next attack, Accrington doubled their advantage, in the 73rd minute. O’Neil, who had just come on as a substitute, beat Lenton with a gentle chip in the box after finding space down the left.
Precieux Ngongo headed in from a Harry Garstang cross on the left with five minutes to go, but the linesman’s flag denied North End for a second time.
The hosts did one pull one back shortly after in the 87th minute, though. Tyrhys Dolan rushed down the left flank and played Brannigan into a crossing position, who drilled it across with Ethan Walker lurking as he prodded it into the bottom corner.
PNE dominated those final stages as they looked to rescue a point and they might done so deep into stoppage time when Garstang’s free-kick was headed goalwards, but Savin made another excellent save to seal victory for his team.
Harrison, the youth team manager, said his side didn’t show the same quality in the final third which was evident in last week’s victory over Blackpool.
“I thought we created lots of chances throughout the game,” he told PNE.com. “It’s just the decision making, either in the box or the final third, which wasn’t like it was last week when we scored five goals.
“We had Connor Simpson in the team last week who scored three goals and we had similar kinds of chances today but couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net, and I feel that’s the difference in terms of the quality of the players
“The pitch didn’t allow us to pass it freely, it was a very heavy pitch but we challenged the players to play on that and gave them the tools to do that; we had to play forward quickly and work it off the striker. I think we could have done that better, although we created plenty of chances.”
Harrison took positives from how his players fought to get back into the game but felt his side could have done more to avoid going 2-0 down.
“I’m pleased with the way we finished but disappointed with the two goals we conceded in particular. We should have got something at the end, although I felt we struggled at the start of the second-half where Callum Lenton did well to save us a couple of times.
“Their first goal was a bit of a sucker punch for us. We had a bit of sustained attack in the first-half but didn’t defend the counter attack well enough which is frustrating.
“I felt we were always going to score and we finished strongly but because of the way we conceded the goals, it made it difficult for us to get a positive result out of the game.”
Harrison explained his reasoning for making wholesale changes while looking forward to next week’s Youth Alliance Cup northern semi-final against Wigan Athletic.
“We made the changes simply because a lot of the lads have had a lot of games recently, and with the cup game coming up next week, we felt some of them needed a rest. We also wanted to give others an opportunity, so we were a young side today and had a young back four who are learning.
“It's a semi-final against a very good team. We’ve beat Wigan once this season and they’ve beat us, so it’s even at the moment. We’re all looking forward to that and it’s a challenge for players, they want to get into a final and hopefully go onto win the competition.”
PNE line-up: Lenton; Simmons (Day, 76), Ngongo, Armer, Campbell; Smart (Pollard, 76), Garstang; Wood, Mason (Dolan, 52), Jolly (Walker, 63); Brannigan. Subs not used: Cottam.
PNE U18 0 Wigan Athletic U18 3
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The youth team were knocked out of the Youth Alliance Cup with a 3-0 defeat to Wigan Athletic at the northern semi-final stage of the competition.
Mwiya Malumo’s first-half brace set Wigan on their way to victory before their lead was extended with an own goal 25 minutes from time.
North End made a bright start at Christopher Park, the Latics’ academy training ground, Tyrhys Dolan having a shot deflected behind for a corner inside two minutes, from which Cameron Day headed just wide.
A flowing Lilywhites move then saw the ball worked from right to left, where Mike Howard crossed to the back post for Connor Simpson, who couldn’t divert his header goalwards.
James Cottam was first brought into action after ten minutes, when Charlie Jolley was played into space in the box but the Lilywhites stopper palmed his effort away, while Latics ‘keeper Theo Roberts made his first save with a low dive to his right to deny Adam O’Reilly from outside the box.
Ethan Walker delivered well from a wide left free-kick on 20 minutes and Simpson connected with it at the back post, but headed marginally over.
Despite the Lilywhites’ positive start, it was Wigan who opened the scoring after 23 minutes. A through ball down the centre looked to have been dealt with when Day made a brilliant challenge in the box, but the ball fell kindly for Malumo, who finished into the bottom left corner.
North End might have equalised on the half hour when Howard’s curling effort was deflected just wide, while Divin Baningime had a close range shot well blocked at the other end.
Wigan doubled their lead in the 36th minute. Malumo was on target once more, pouncing to score from a few yards out after Cottam had parried Joe Downey’s initial effort from outside the box.
The Latics went close a few times early in the second-half, as Cottam saved well from Charlie Jolley in the box before Malumo shot straight at the PNE ‘keeper from just outside the area.
But North End still showed plenty of attacking intent and might have pulled one back on a few occasions, O’Reilly first converting just wide of the bottom right corner when the ball broke to him on the edge of the box before Howard found the target from distance but left Roberts untroubled.
That duo combined to set up the Lilywhites’ best opening on the hour, O’Reilly switching the play superbly to pick out Howard’s run down the right before Roberts saved one on one, and the goalkeeper also saved well from Dolan and Walker on the rebound.
However, Wigan netted their crucial third goal shortly after in the 65th minute. Mitchell Culshaw’s initial shot from close range down the right was parried into a North End defender, that touch enough to take it over the line.
Howard might have pulled one back for the Lilywhites in stoppage time as he saw an effort well blocked by a Latics defender before firing another just over from Walker’s dangerous low cross.
North End couldn’t get a goal back, leaving Wigan as 3-0 winners, and although youth team manager Nick Harrison felt there were some pleasing aspects to take from his side’s performance, he said the goals conceded were avoidable.
“It was a funny game, because I thought it was quite even overall, but the mistakes we made for their goals was the difference,” he told PNE.com. “When we got the chances one and one, from a few yards out and a couple of shots outside the box, we didn’t take them.
“We really dominated for the first 15 minutes but we got unsettled for their first goal which we should have done better with from a defensive point of view, and the second goal is unfortunately a mistake from the goalkeeper which he will learn from.
“We then finished the first-half strongly again and on reflection, we had plenty of chances to make it even, but you shouldn’t have to score three or four goals to win a game; we’ve got to be far better at cutting out of those mistakes.
“Generally, I’m quite pleased with how players did, especially from an attacking point of view, because I thought we threatened them. It’s disappointing that we couldn’t get that end product, but we just needed that little bit of extra quality or devilment and desire to score. Overall, I was generally pleased with how we played, but you can’t win games and make those kinds of mistakes.”
Harrison was disappointed to exit the competition but is looking forward to handing more opportunities to all of the players in his squad with his side third in the North West Youth Alliance and having a Lancashire FA Youth Cup semi-final still to come.
“We just want more games, so if we had won today it would have been another game – it doesn’t matter what competition it’s in.
“This is all about development – the more games you play in, the better you develop and the more challenging games you play in, the better you become. We’re disappointed to go out of the competition, but we have got lots of games in the league to look forward to as well as the semi-final of the Lancashire FA Youth Cup.
“There will be lots of opportunities for the players, whether they’re at the older end of the spectrum or the younger ones coming through. But as well as looking at players coming through, we want players to know how to win games and get into good habits that way.”
PNE line-up: Cottam; Day (Wood, 71) Fensome, Stead (Smart, 81), Campbell (Armer, 73); O’Reilly, Baxter; Howard, Dolan (Garstang, 66), Walker; Simpson. Subs not used: Lenton.
u18s not doing so well but at their age it is a question of how they develop and avoid serious injury.
Bury U18 3 PNE U18 1
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The youth team lost only their second North West Youth Alliance away match of the season yesterday as Bury ran out 3-1 winners at the Carrington Training Centre.
The hosts took the lead just before the half hour mark, Callum Hulme scoring from distance before Tyler Barnes headed in a second five minutes from half-time.
Lewis Fensome pulled a goal back for North End before the break but defender Bobby Copping got the Shakers’ crucial third midway through the second-half.
The visitors made the better start to proceedings, Darren Brannigan having the first opportunity as he headed wide from a Jack Baxter free-kick inside ten minutes.
Tyrhys Dolan’s strike from the edge of the box provided the first test for Bury ‘keeper Scott Moloney, who dived to his right to save following a silky run from the Lilywhites attacker.
Mike Howard then headed over from Ethan Walker’s corner before he showed great agility to intercept Moloney’s pass out from the back, but dragged his shot wide of the near post.
Dolan was next to cut out a Moloney back pass, the ‘keeper palming the resulting shot away before Kamol Campbell fired narrowly over.
Despite those opportunites, it was Bury that took the lead in the 28th minute. Joe Adams picked out Hulme 30 yards from goal, who dispatched into the top left corner via the crossbar.
The visitors continued to threaten in attack, though, as both Jack Baxter and substitute Josh Pollard stung the goalkeeper’s glove from outside the box, while Brannigan had a close-range shot blocked from a corner.
However, it was Bury that got the next goal. Saul Shotton headed an Adams free-kick into substitute Barnes’ path, who nodded into the bottom corner from just a few yards out.
The Lilywhites did pull a goal back before half-time. It was Fensome who connected with Walker’s corner, his powerful header proving too much for Moloney.
The hosts could have increased their advantage again before the break, but Campbell made a vital challenge to prevent Wealth da Silva from facing James Cottam one on one.
It was a much more even start to the second-half, although Brannigan very nearly equalised right at the start of it when he controlled Walker’s left-wing cross and was denied from just a few yards out.
At the other end, Cottam was forced into a couple of stops from tight angles as Bury attacked down North End’s right.
Just before the hour, Dolan hit a superb first time pass for Howard down the right, who raced into the box and saw Moloney produce yet another save.
But the hosts looked dangerous in attack, too, scoring their third goal in the 66th minute. A corner was only cleared as far as Copping, who controlled 10 yards from goal and curled into the bottom right corner.
Chances remained for the visitors, Josh Pollard intercepting in the final third before Moloney got in the way of his shot, while Bury’s ‘keeper turned another powerful Baxter strike behind for a corner.
Bury saw out the game well, though, North End’s best chances in the final ten minutes falling to Howard and substitute Precieux Ngongo, who headed over and wide respectively.
Youth team manager Nick Harrison was happy with his side’s performance but said improvements need to be made at both ends of the field.
“I thought it was a really, really good performance from the team and some individuals in particular,” he told PNE.com. “We really opened up Bury when we were attacking and created numerous chances that we should have scored from.
“The game is all about what you do inside both boxes. We’ve had a really strong start and if we take our chances, then we might get one and then another in quick succession and the game could be over.
“We didn’t do that and we’ve conceded a bit of a sloppy goal which we could have dealt with, it’s a good finish from the lad, but we shouldn’t give the ball away so cheaply.
“Then we’re on the backfoot a little bit and again, we concede from a set-piece which isn’t good, one of the lads didn’t track their runner and we find ourselves 2-0 down, but we showed good character to score straight after that.
“The message to the players at half-time was that we were still in the game and we just need to take one of the chances and we might end up winning the game. For all the chances we had at the start of the second-half, we concede a really sloppy third goal and then the game is over.”
Harrison added that his players must learn to convert positive performances into positive results.
“We told the players at full-time that they have to start taking responsibility to not concede goals and off the back of today’s game, the learning points are not to give the ball away cheaply in silly areas and to track your runners inside the box.
“If the players can do that, then we stand a better chance of winning games. Putting all that to one side, I thought the performance and the way we played was very, very good.
“What’s disappointing for us is that for as well as we played, the boys have come into the changing run at full-time and have lost the game.
“It doesn’t matter how often we say that the performance was brilliant because at first team level, that’s not good enough and that’s the level the players need to reach.”
PNE line-up: Cottam; Wood, Fensome, Day (Ngongo, 73), Campbell; Smart (Pollard, 33), Baxter; Howard, Dolan, Walker; Brannigan. Subs not used: Lenton, Jolly, Mason.
Maguire back in light training
Maguire, Horgan and Browne in Republic squad to play Turkey
Cunningham also in Republic squad
PNE U18 1 Wrexham U18 3
11 March 2018
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The youth team fell to a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Wrexham at UCLan Sports Arena on Saturday.
Niall Freeman netted either side of half-time to put the Welsh side in control before Dan Stephens scored a third with 20 minutes remaining.
Josh Pollard reduced the deficit in the 75th minute but there was to be no late comeback from North End’s youngsters.
Manager Nick Harrison made five changes from the side which faced Bury four weeks previously, with this the young Lilywhites’ first outing since then.
PNE’s first effort towards goal came after seven minutes, Harry Garstang controlling well to nudge it to Adam O’Reilly on the edge of the box, who then exchanged passes with Tyrhys Dolan before curling a first-time strike just over.
Neither side was able to have a sustained period of possession early on with the two defences looking strong; the visitors’ most dangerous moment an unsuccessful penalty claim from Freeman after his skilful run was halted in the box.
The Wrexham forward was the man responsible for breaking the deadlock after 31 minutes. It was a fine strike from Freeman, who received the ball just outside the box and after nudging it past a PNE defender, he unleashed the ball into the bottom right corner.
The hosts might have cancelled that strike out four minutes later, when Connor Simpson crossed low from the right for Kian Smart, whose deft flick was heading wide but a deflection almost took it goalwards before Wrexham cleared.
Dolan showed great close control to take it down the right and into the box in first-half stoppage time, but was unfortunate as his goalbound shot was blocked.
The Lilywhites had a couple of half chances early in the second-half, but Garstang’s free-kick and Smart’s piledriver from distance were both comfortably held by goalkeeper Dane Rigby.
Wrexham could have doubled their lead within ten minutes of the restart when Freeman ran free down the left, but his placed shot was well held low down by Cottam.
The visitors soon had their second, though, Freeman extending the lead after 59 minutes. The forward raced onto Rigby’s kick forward to face Cottam one on one and although the North End stopper got a hand to his low strike, it wasn’t enough to prevent it reaching the bottom right corner.
Kamol Campbell nearly halved the deficit in style shortly after with a powerful strike from range arrowing towards the bottom right corner, but Rigby managed to palm it away.
The next goal again went the visitors’ way. Sam Pilkington curled a free-kick over the wall which looked destined for the bottom left corner and although Cottam dived well to save, defender Dan Stephens was in the perfect position to convert the rebound.
The Lilywhites had the better of the play from there on and pulled one back in the 75th minute. Josh Pollard, who had only been on the field for four minutes, took up a great position in the box to meet Simpson’s low cross from the right and sweep home with a composed effort.
The hosts applied the pressure in the final moments and came close when Dolan met Lewis Simmons’ right-wing cross – his effort ultimately lacking the power to test Rigby – but that added intensity came too late to change the outcome of the contest.
Harrison, the youth team boss, felt his side didn’t threaten Wrexham enough in possession.
“I thought it was a poor performance overall,” he told PNE.com. “We obviously had a very different team to previous games and the team’s getting a lot younger, but that should be a challenge for those players.
“We knew we’d have a lot of the ball – that’s how they set up because they defend deep and we spent some time talking about that with the players on Friday.
"We did pass the ball well at times and got into good positions, but we just didn’t hurt them with the final pass or get our shots on target.
“We didn’t capitalise on our chances, we didn’t hurt them or get enough bodies forward at times and the movement wasn’t quite there, so we’re disappointed with that.
“The three goals we conceded are far too easy for them and we shouldn’t concede those types of goals at this level, our goalkeeper should have done better, too.”
“That aside, we’re still disappointed with how we performed, some of the passes weren’t there, the movement wasn’t there and we didn’t cause enough of a threat really.”
Harrison was pleased with the impact of the North End substitutes in the contest and encouraged his players to take all the opportunities to play that come their way between now and the season’s end.
“In the last 15 minutes or so, we could have got back into the game and drawn it or gone on to win it if we took our chances. The substitutes did change the game and we’re delighted with the impact they made.
“We need players who are willing to make the right runs and pass the ball with decisiveness because that’s what was missing today – either the passes were off or the movement wasn’t quite there and that’s not good enough for Preston North End.
“The only people who can fight for a place are the players themselves. We have lots of players at U15 and U16 level and those who are excelling will get their chance, but no matter what age you are, when you’re on the pitch, you’ve got to take your opportunity.”
PNE line-up: Cottam; Day (Simmons, 63), Ngongo, Armer, Campbell; Smart (Pollard, 71), Baxter; Dolan, O’Reilly, Garstang (Jolly, 63); Simpson. Subs not used: Lenton, Brannigan.
Bodin and Maxwell in Welsh squad going to China
PNE U18 0 Carlisle United U18 1
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The youth team hit the woodwork twice and missed a late penalty as they slipped to an unfortunate 1-0 defeat against Carlisle United.
The young Lilywhites paid the price for a slow start, as Max Brown’s strike after two minutes proved to be the difference between the teams.
There were four changes in the North End side which lost to Wrexham the previous week, U16 striker Louis Potts one of the incomers as he made his first appearance for the youth team.
The young attacker would go on to impress, but the opening moments of the match belonged to the visitors, who capitalised on their first opportunity to go ahead.
There were less than 100 seconds on the clock when Brown took down a cross from the right in the box, turned away from a defender and fired into the bottom left corner with his left foot.
Four minutes later, North End ‘keeper Callum Lenton produced a great save to prevent the visitors from doubling their lead, palming away Liam McCarron’s strike from outside the box before the Carlisle man saw another effort from range edge past the post.
The home team’s first sight of goal came after 13 minutes, as the ball dropped for Cameron Day on the volley, his effort hitting the target but leaving goalkeeper Regan Ward untroubled.
Their first major opening was midway through the first-half when Potts broke down the right side of the box thanks to a quick one-two with Adam O’Reilly, the striker placing his shot towards the far bottom corner only for it to be blocked.
Carlisle were well denied by Lenton again just after the half hour when he tipped away Belchior Papa’s swept effort from the right side of the area.
Less than ten minutes later, Papa was presented with another great opportunity but he tapped Liam Brockbank’s delivery wide from just a few yards out.
Ethan Walker, who replaced an injured Jolly late in the first-half, provided a threat cutting in from the left in the second-half, very nearly equalising for North End just before the hour.
Tyrhys Dolan sent Potts into space down the right and the striker sent a superb low cross to the back post for Walker, who struck well first time but his placed effort crashed against the crossbar.
The hosts opened up Carlisle more in the final 20 minutes as Day’s glancing header from a corner was cleared and Jack Baxter almost caught out Ward in the Carlisle goal with a low free-kick from a tight angle down the right which was turned behind for a corner.
Walker went close after drifting inside from the left and unleashing a powerful shot just wide of the top right corner, while the windy conditions almost helped a deep Baxter free-kick into the top corner, but it instead looped just over
The Lilywhites could have won it in the last four minutes of normal time alone as they were first awarded a penalty in the 86th minute, Jay Kelly seeing red for an off the ball incident at a corner. Baxter stepped up confidently, but his spot kick went over the crossbar.
Then, in the 90th minute, Walker was again picked out on the left side of the box, this time by O’Reilly’s cross, but he couldn’t beat the angle as his strike hit the outside of the post and went wide.
The Cumbrian side held on for the three points, leaving youth team manager Nick Harrison disappointed by the result but more encouraged by his side’s performance.
“From a performance point of view, we’ve been better much today than in previous weeks,” he told PNE.com. “We’ve passed the ball better and created more chances but you have to put the ball in the back of the net and we’ve not done that.
“We’ve got young players involved in the group at the moment, so decisions aren’t always perfect but overall, I thought we used the ball well and created a number of chances, we just needed to be more clinical to get a positive result out of the game.
“I felt we really dominated the game but that was also down to the fact that they were protecting a 1-0 lead. It’s disappointing how we conceded the goal because there are little errors from a defensive point of view which we could have dealt with.
“It’s disappointing we didn’t keep a clean sheet but even with that in mind, we had enough chances to win the game by two or three goals. The players have got to be a lot more clinical in front of goal.”
A total of seven first-year scholars and three U16s were involved at some stage for the Lilywhites and Harrison felt confident that if his young side can maintain their performance levels, improved results will follow.
“As it’s getting towards the end of the season, we’re getting a number of young players coming into the squad. Louis Potts made his first appearance for the U18s today and we also had Ethan Walker and Tyrhys Dolan from the U16s on the pitch, as well as several first-year scholars.
“We’re delighted with the way they performed today but their objective as footballers is to win games and they need to learn to do that quickly.
“I think we’ve just got to keep creating the chances; we believe we’ve got quality players. Today just hasn’t gone for us, we’ve hit the post, hit the bar and missed a penalty, so it could have been a completely different story.”
PNE line-up: Lenton; Fensome, Day, Armer, Campbell (Simmons, 60); O’Reilly, Baxter; Dolan, Smart (Pollard, 60), Jolly (Walker, 37); Potts. Subs not used: Ngongo, Cottam.
New 3 and a half year deal for Davies
Browne and Maguire start for the Republic
Port Vale U18 2 PNE U18 4
22 Hours ago
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The youth team put in a fantastic away performance to beat Port Vale 4-2 on Saturday.
Ethan Walker and Lewis Simmons scored inside ten minutes to put the Lilywhites ahead before James Steele pulled one back midway through the first-half.
Second-half substitute Louis Potts then netted a brace before Harry Benns scored a stoppage-time consolation for the hosts.
North End’s dominance was evident from the first whistle, the visitors needing just four minutes to break the deadlock.
Captain Lewis Fensome played a testing diagonal to the left side of the box and following a scramble, Josh Pollard nudged it back for Walker to curl a brilliant finish into the far right corner.
The same duo helped to set up PNE’s second after eight minutes. Fensome’s low cross from the right flashed across goal out to Walker on the left, who cut back onto his right foot and crossed for Simmons to nod home in the centre.
Myles Mason could have made it three in the next attack when he beat goalkeeper Mawgan Blight, who had rushed off his line, to the ball around 40 yards from goal, but delayed his shot for too long and the chance was gone.
Simmons nearly had a second when he won back possession in Vale’s own box but blazed his shot just over the right-hand post.
In the 22nd minute, the hosts struck against the run of play. Matthew Ward sent in an inviting delivery from the right and Steele, Vale’s captain, got a touch to divert it past ‘keeper Callum Lenton.
Fensome very nearly cancelled that out almost immediately when he made a surging late run into the box to meet Walker’s left-wing cross, but his header crashed against the left-hand post.
Tyrhys Dolan and Pollard both sent efforts from outside the box over the bar before Simmons cleared superbly ahead of Lucas Green-Birch in first-half stoppage-time to preserve North End’s lead at the break.
There was a noticeable improvement from the home side after the interval, with Lenton forced into early action when he gathered a through ball in the box aimed for an in-space Kyle Johnson.
But the visitors were left generally untroubled in terms of conceding chances, youth team debutant Joe Nolan placing a shot from the edge of the box just over within ten minutes of the restart.
On the hour, Walker shot into Blight’s grasp at a tight angle from Simmons’ delivery.
Walker turned provider moments later with a beautiful flick into Dolan’s path on the edge of the box, who saw his low curling effort parried towards Kamol Campbell, whose low cross was just ahead of Potts.
The Lilywhites got a deserved third in the 75th minute – albeit thanks to some good fortune.
Potts held it up well down the right flank as he looked to hang a cross up to the back post from the byline, but his delivery instead floated into the top left corner.
There was no doubt about the striker’s intentions in the 84th minute as he made it 1-4. Pollard played a fine through ball into the box from deep to find Potts, who only needed one touch to slide the ball under Blight with the outside of his right foot.
Lenton was forced into a rare stop as he held Steele’s long-range strike but there was still time for the hosts to net again.
In the first minute of added time, Benns took down a corner and half volleyed in at the near post, that the final meaningful act of a fine morning’s work for the Lilywhites.
Following a quick start, youth team manager Nick Harrison praised his players for maintaining their performance level throughout the game.
“We’re absolutely delighted with the performance on and off the ball,” he told PNE.com. “We’ve had these kinds of performances throughout the season but haven’t always put the ball in the back of the net. We got a little bit of luck in front of goal today but we were clinical as well.
“We got the early 2-0 lead, which was a great start, and I thought we went on from there in a positive way. We passed the ball well, the movement was very good and we created a number of chances. We could have gone in at half-time with three or four goals rather than two as well.
“The quality of the ball into the box was better today and more importantly the finish. We created a number of chances we could have scored from as well, so we will keep working on all parts of the game, whether it’s putting balls in the box from out wide or attacking centrally.
“We had a young team so players are going to switch off at times which they did, certainly for the first goal. But I thought how we played for 98 per cent of the game was fantastic and we’re really pleased with the players.”
Harrison was also pleased to hand opportunities to some younger players, as Joe Nolan, Lincoln McFayden, Lewis Earl and Joe Rodwell-Grant all made their youth team debuts.
“We don’t want to single anybody out because everyone contributed to the game and it was good that we got all the substitutes on.
“We are confident that our players are good enough and we will give them that opportunity to make that step up. If they take that, they can be successful.
“We asked in the changing rooms before the game that the younger lads go out and enjoy the game and show some enthusiasm and for the older boys to help them.
“Each and every player played their part today in a good performance and really good result.”
PNE line-up: Lenton; Fensome (McFayden, 69), Ngongo, Day, Campbell; Nolan, Pollard; Simmons (Earl, 81), Dolan, Walker (Rodwell-Grant, 81); Mason (Potts, 62). Subs not used: Cottam.
Bodin makes Wales debut
Walsall U18 2 PNE U18 0
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Walsall scored in both halves to condemn a youthful Preston North End U18 side to a 2-0 defeat at Birmingham County FA HQ.
Dylan Parker opened the scoring after 16 minutes and Ethan Freemantle added a second for the hosts midway through the second-half, before the Lilywhites were reduced to ten men following Louis Potts’ late dismissal.
It would prove a challenging first-half for North End, who started with six first-year scholars and two U16s, but they were unfortunate early on as Jack Baxter twice sent Ethan Walker free down the left but the young attacker was called back for offside on both occasions.
Myles Mason was also frustrated by the linesman’s flag after Josh Pollard headed Jack Armer’s pass into space for the striker, who was heading into space in the area.
But after a couple of dangerous attacks, the hosts capitalised on their first clear-cut opportunity with just over a quarter of an hour played. Dan O’Sullivan threaded a fine pass into the box for Parker, who raced into the inside left position and slotted in at the near post with a first-time finish.
The Lilywhites almost equalised in the next minute when goalkeeper Brandon Ganley failed to deal with Armer’s free-kick into box, but Mason’s lobbed effort was hacked off the line.
Walsall continued to enjoy most of the possession but did not hit the target again for the remainder of the half, PNE ‘keeper Callum Lenton’s most difficult task a low save from Mitchell Candlin’s cross.
Jack Baxter had a thunderous effort for North End towards the end of the half as he dug himself out of a tight area and unleashed at goal from distance, but Ganley managed to hold on, while Parker and Stefan Mason dragged shots wide at the other end in time added on.
O’Sullivan provided the main threat for the hosts in the moments after the interval as he curled one free-kick over and another straight at Lenton, who also made a low save from another of the midfielder’s efforts, while Lewis Simmons hooked over from the edge of the box at the other end.
North End showed plenty of intent going forward in the second-half but were derailed by Walsall’s second goal after 67 minutes.
Ben Friel won the ball back in midfield and picked out Freemantle wide left, who cut inside and shot low into the left corner to score from just inside the box.
The visitors had more possession in the final stages of the game and might have pulled a goal back in the 81st minute when Ganley palmed Simmons’ right-wing cross straight to Pollard, whose strike on the bounce proved to be North End’s second effort of the game which was cleared off the line.
Second-half substitute Potts was shown a straight red card with three minutes of normal time remaining for a late challenge on a Walsall defender, the hosts seeing out the game for a 2-0 win.
Youth team manager Nick Harrison felt his team would have fared better had they adapted their style to counter playing on a difficult pitch against an experienced side at U18 level.
“It wasn’t a pretty game and the pitch wasn’t in a great condition to go and play football,” Harrison told PNE.com. “The pitch didn’t allow us to pass the ball, but the players put themselves under pressure by trying to over play.
“We didn’t cope for the first 15 minutes or so but I thought that was down to the slope of the pitch, they were playing downhill and we didn’t cope with that. The first goal comes from us trying to over play when we needed to get into their half and pass the ball a bit longer.
“We do want to get the ball down and play, but the players need to learn that, at the next level, there are games when you can’t play all the time and pass the ball short and sometimes you have to ask questions of the opposition in different ways.”
Harrison did not question the application of his players but said they needed to learn about dealing with the physical aspects of the game.
“It was disappointing in terms of the performance and the result but a good game for the players to learn from, especially the younger ones.
“For as much as we’re disappointed, I thought our players gave it a good go. We responded well after the first goal and had a couple of chances inside the box and I thought we were maybe unlucky not to get a penalty in the first-half.
“I don’t think we were too well beaten but when in the key moments, we tended to pass the ball short instead of long or just didn’t get our positioning in relation to the ball right when we lost it.
“I felt we played very much like an academy team and made those poor decisions whereas with Walsall, who had quite a few second-years in their starting line-up compared to our three, you could tell that they had played U18 football and knew how to play the game in the right way
“Their players were more physical, but our players have to cope with that and play against that if they want to train and play at first team level. They’ve got to do more in that sense, whether that’s in the gym or getting used to play against that type of player.”
PNE line-up: Lenton; Ngongo (Earl, 72), Day, Armer, Campbell; Pollard, Baxter; Simmons, Dolan (Nolan, 72), Walker (Jolly, 60); Mason (Potts, 60). Subs not used: Cottam.
PNE U18 1 Morecambe U18 1
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The youth team were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw against Morecambe on Saturday.
Precieux Ngongo put the Lilywhites ahead inside ten minutes but Tyler Brownsword equalised for the visitors with the midpoint of the first-half approaching.
It was a frantic start with North End having more of the ball but Morecambe showing more of a threat in the final third as Joe Nelligan twice broke down the right and crossed, Kyle Hawley first tamely heading straight at Callum Lenton before Henry Dorward nodded just wide.
The hosts took the lead with their first clear opportunity in the tenth minute. Ethan Walker fizzed in a corner from the left and his delivery took a touch on its way to the back post, where Ngongo controlled and poked it home.
PNE continued to dominate possession but their opponents looked dangerous in the air, particularly from set pieces, Hawley heading over unmarked providing a warning sign.
Indeed, just moments after that opportunity, the Shrimps drew level in the 21st minute. Hawley connected with another corner and although his effort was this time blocked, the loose ball fell kindly for Brownsword, who converted with a powerful first-time finish.
North End upped a gear in the final stages of the half with a number of clear chances falling their way. Josh Pollard forged one for himself just after the half hour when he intercepted a defender’s clearance in the box, but the Morecambe man managed to deflect his resulting shot wide.
Jack Baxter very nearly sent Tyrhys Dolan one-on-one against goalkeeper Ollie Jumeau with a cutting pass through the middle, but the visiting stopper just won the race to the ball.
Ethan Walker went one better moments later as he slipped Dolan into space in the box following a superb run inside from the right, but the latter shot just wide of the bottom left corner.
Adam O’Reilly also crossed for Pollard deep into stoppage time with a perfect right-wing delivery, but his header narrowly cleared the crossbar.
The Lilywhites started the second half as they began the first, Jerome Jolly first being denied by the leg of Jumeau in the box before the winger also shot straight at goal.
Morecambe might have taken the lead a couple of times before the hour but Lenton remained strong in goal, saving Leif Davis’ piledriver from outside the area and getting everything behind Kai Herbert’s effort from closer range, before Hawley shot high and wide of the right-hand post.
A quiet period of the game passed before the home side again finished the half strongly. Jolly was unfortunate not to score a winner six minutes from time when he leapt superbly to meet Jack Armer’s lofty left-wing cross, beating Jumeau in the aerial duel but glancing his header wide.
Walker showed great panache late on racing into the box, but perhaps overplayed it slightly with his two subsequent shots on goal both blocked as the two sides left with a point each.
Youth team manager Nick Harrison felt the Lilywhites were the better side overall, but wanted to see his team show that for more prolonged periods during the game.
“It was a bit of a scrappy game and it took us some time to get going,” he told PNE.com.
“When we got going and we passed the ball properly and the movement was good, I thought we looked very good, we opened up Morecambe well and created a few chances. What’s frustrating is that we didn’t do right from the start of the game.
“We were the more dominant side overall but we would expect that. Morecambe were a threat from set plays, we spoke to the players about that beforehand but we gave too many corners and free-kicks away and didn’t deal with the ball into the box which led to their goal. Apart from that, we looked comfortable at the back really.
“Where we let ourselves down was by not taking the golden chances that we had, with three one-on-ones and a free header, almost an open goal, that we should score from. Although it’s pleasing that we dominated parts of the game, we’re disappointed to have drawn and not won it.”
With three U16 players involved again, Harrison is optimistic that their inclusion – along with a number of first-year scholars – will put the team in a good position going into next season but first of all in the next game, a Lancashire FA Youth Cup semi-final against Oldham Athletic on Tuesday.
“That’s exactly why we do that, it goes to back what this is all about – their development. The latter parts of the season allow us to develop the younger players coming through and hope that they work with the existing players that we have so that they benefit going into the new season.
“I think that’s working well and the young lads coming up are performing well, and hopefully they can do that again on Tuesday, which is going to be a really tough game.”
“The players are going to have to recover because it’s going to be the same group that are involved on Tuesday. It will be tough on the legs but they’re young lads and I’m sure they will be raring to go.
“I think the players will be looking forward to a semi-final of the cup with the hope of getting through to the final.”
PNE line-up: Lenton; Simmons (Earl, 46), Ngongo, Armer, Campbell (Day, 46); O’Reilly, Baxter; Walker, Pollard (Nolan, 67), Jolly; Dolan. Subs not used: Cottam, Mason.
Preston North End U18 vs Morecambe U18 on 21 Apr 18
North West Youth Alliance
Preston North End
Youth Team March Into Lancashire FA Professional Youth Cup Final
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The youth team completed a stunning comeback to beat Oldham Athletic 6-2 and reach the final of the Lancashire FA Professional Youth Cup.
Max Norman’s first-half double set up a mountain of a task for North End’s youngsters as they trailed 2-0, but they more than rose to the challenge as Tyrhys Dolan and Ethan Walker scored a brace apiece, while Adam O’Reilly and Jack Baxter also struck in an emphatic victory.
There looked to be nothing in the game early on before Oldham took a tenth minute lead. Norman profited from a defensive lapse of concentration, controlling in the box and neatly poking into the bottom right corner.
PNE responded well but initially looked frustrated, Jerome Jolly, Dolan and O’Reilly all lashing shots wide in quick succession, while Chinedu Uche forced James Cottam into a comfortable save from outside the box.
Kamol Campbell burst forward on the half hour and nudged it to Walker, whose low effort trickled just wide of the far corner.
The Lilywhites were dealt another blow after 34 minutes as Oldham were awarded a penalty, after Cottam brought down Declan Baldwin in the box, and Norman coolly converted into the bottom right corner.
However, the Lilywhites rallied and pulled one back in the 40th minute. O’Reilly’s fine pass picked out Dolan’s run into the area and his first-time effort beat goalkeeper Ewan McFarlane, kickstarting the fightback.
The hosts’ wait for an equaliser lasted only minutes but it might have come sooner, as Dolan chipped a ball over the defence for Walker, his shot on the bounce drawing a fine save from McFarlane.
In the 43rd minute, though, North End were level. Lewis Simmons regained possession in midfield to send Walker free down the right, failing to pick out a man with two crosses, but the second was palmed towards Dolan, who nodded home from close range.
The Lilywhites carried their momentum through to the second-half and took the lead in the 50th minute. Baxter was first to the ball deep in the visitors’ half, laying it off for Walker to set off on a mazy run which culminated with a superb finish into the top right corner from the edge of the area.
There was a noticeable response from the visitors and they nearly clawed it back just before the hour as Frankie Antoine, embarking on a similarly mesmerising run inside from the right, saw his shot deflected onto the crossbar.
North End picked up again soon enough, though, with O’Reilly increasing the lead in the 69th minute. Walker surged inside from the left and although he was this time halted, Jolly was in position to pass through for O’Reilly, who rounded McFarlane to score.
Lewis McKinney went through on goal for the visitors less than ten minutes later, but his shot was deflected into the side netting.
PNE countered from the resulting corner and were awarded a 77th minute penalty, Baxter showing great composure to slot into the bottom right corner.
Dolan was then hindered by an unfortunate bobble before Walker completed the scoring four minutes from time.
Dolan lifted a ball over the defence for Walker to chase, dallying on the ball before unleashing a super strike into the same top right corner, rounding off a brilliant afternoon’s work.
Youth team manager Nick Harrison was enthused by his side’s display.
“It was a really exciting game, both teams went at it right from the start,” he told PNE.com. “It took us a bit of time to get going but from the back end of the first-half onwards, I thought we were outstanding.
“The resilience and character that the players showed to get back into the game was brilliant. We challenged them to go and get the next goal at half-time because we felt that would be important and once we did that, the quality shone through and the players finished the game really well.
“Certainly, the mentality of the players to keep going and keep believing to play the game, pass the ball and have that movement, showed great character from the lads. We’ve seen that throughout the season but without always getting that kind of the result.
“I’m delighted that it’s happened for the players today because they can take confidence and belief from that for the last two games of the season. It will give them that extra belief in what we’re asking them to do and that what they’re doing is working.”
Harrison praised U16 players Tyrhys Dolan and Ethan Walker, who scored two goals apiece in the game to help North End to victory.
“They’re young players –schoolboys. Ethan sat his first GCSE exam this morning and then came to the game and Tyrhys also went to school this morning.
“They’re young lads and they’ve shown what they’re capable of and although they have missed chances in other games, the pleasing thing is they’ve always kept going and got into good positions.
“We really believe in all of the players. They’ve shown what they can do today, but they could’ve done that all season to the majority of the teams we’ve played against, and that’s maybe a challenge for the players for next year, but they should be looking forward to the final two games already.”
Harrison also provided some early thoughts on facing Wigan in the final.
“Wigan have been outstanding this season – they know how to win games, they’re very competitive and are challenging to win the league.
“It’s going to be a tough game but we have beaten them during the season so hopefully we can do that again.
“If the players can perform like they have today and show that clinical touch in the box, I think we can beat any team.”
PNE line-up: Cottam; Day, Fensome, Armer (Earl, 57), Campbell; O’Reilly, Baxter; Simmons, Dolan, Jolly; Walker. Subs not used: Lenton, Ngongo, Pollard, Rodwell-Grant.