Five talking points from Preston North End's U18s defeat to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Youth Cup

Preston North End's FA Youth Cup run was halted on Tuesday night at the hands of local rivals Blackburn Rovers, twice taking the lead before falling to a 4-2 defeat - a man light.

Wednesday, 19th February 2020, 11:45 am
Lewis Coulton runs with the ball at Ewood Park, with goalscorer D'Margio Wright-Phillips trying to close him down. Credit: PNE.

Two first half goals and four second half goals, with Ben Dooley sent off in the second period too, provided lots of entertainment from the youngsters.

Here are some of the talking points from the 4-2 defeat.

1. The kids are alright

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The score is not a fair reflection of the performance North End's youngsters gave. The game was turned on its head by a sending off and three Rovers' goals followed.

Understandably, there was disappointment after the game that two of those goals came from set pieces, and that isn't really effected by their reduced numbers, but the increase in pressure was.

They started the game really well and deservedly took the lead, this isn't forgetting that PNE's is a category three academy, and Blackburn's is a category one.

Prior to the dismissal, Preston were good value for their lead, Blackburn having chances but some fine defending keeping them out..

On paper it may seem like a comfortable victory going off the scoreline but it was anything but, as Blackburn's celebrations at the final whistle showed.

2. Walker and Dolan find the net

As two of the most talked about players currently in the youth team, the pair delivered on the big stage.

Tyrhys Dolan captained the side and looked busy and assured all night, he shifted the ball well and very rarely wasted it.

He showed some brilliant skills and footwork to keep play alive or to open it up for a pass and showed he can be in the right place at the right time when he followed up Walker's effort from range.

Ethan Walker also marked the night with a goal, this one more designed by himself than the no.10's, picking up the ball down the right before working inside and bending it into the far corner.

He described it as a 'golf swing' but that's not what it looked like from the side as it found the corner. The 17-year-old, who was playing for the first time since suffering an ankle ligament injury at Stalybridge Celtic, also looked very lively all night and it was obvious that PNE wanted him on the ball to make things happen, a pressure he seemed to thrive under.

3. Seeing red

The key moment in the game was the red card for Ben Dooley, given for violent conduct.

PNE's right back on the night had a bit of a tangle with Georgie Gent, Rovers' left back, in the corner. Gent went through the back of him and kept hold of him on the floor in an attempt to aggravate.

Dooley got to his feet and you have to say he reacted, he gave him a tap on the head and seemed to swing his right arm in his direction, but more in a way to get him off than with an intent to make contact. Gent went down holding his face.

Whether he meant to make contact or not, or even if he make contact at all, this altercation cost him his place in the last 20 minutes of the game. The decision was harsh, and questionable, but it's an incident he will learn from.

It's easy to say, but you see players held onto a lot with the sole intention of getting a reaction, and it has to be ignored. Dooley had played well leading into that point too and he'll be disappointed his night ended in that way but it's an experience he can use in future scenarios.

4. Anything but boring

As if six goals and a red card don't say it enough, it isn't a dull time watching the Under-18s.

Not only in what happened on the pitch last night, I'm sure Nick Harrison and Andy Fensome didn't plan for the events that took place, but their style of play is right in line with the first team.

That's obvious, that if they are to step into the first team they need to know how to play in that sort of system, but it's another thing putting it into practice.

The high-pressing, fast possession style isn't an easy one to grasp but the forward line of Lewis Coulton, Tyrhys Dolan, Ethan Walker and Louis Potts or Jacob Holland-Wilkinson were very exciting.

They were all good on the ball, and particularly the three in behind the striker, were unpredictable. They really are a side that get you excited when they look to break and when they get in and around each other to link up.

5. A good backing

Although you couldn't see them from the press box, and there was no number officially given out for the away following, the young PNE side were well backed by North Ends fans.

There were 978 there in total in the Jack Walker Stand, with a vocal section of that being from PR1.

They backed their team, cheered their goals and successes and also gave a bit to the Rovers side in support of their aggrieved Lilywhites. It will mean a lot to the Under-18s to know they have that support and to hear PNE songs sung for them.