PNE kids ready for Deepdale tie

PNE youth team right-back Clive Smith has signed a professional contractPNE youth team right-back Clive Smith has signed a professional contract
PNE youth team right-back Clive Smith has signed a professional contract
Preston North End's young guns will take centre stage at Deepdale tonight (7pm) when they aim for a place in the last eight of the FA Youth Cup.

The Lilywhites’ Under-18s side host Luton Town in the fifth round of the competition.

Awaiting the winners in the quarter-finals are Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.

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For many of the PNE youth team, this will be a first chance to play at Deepdale.

They were away in the previous two rounds, winning 2-1 after extra time at Carlisle in December and then beating Exeter City by the same scoreline last month.

Under-18s coach Andy Fensome told the Evening Post: “It will be a big night for the lads, the FA Youth Cup is a prestigious national competition and we are at the fifth-round stage.

“This is the first time we have played at Deepdale this season so this is a new experience for them.

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“In the third round against Carlisle we didn’t put in a great performances but in the cup it is all about winning the game and getting through.

“Down at Exeter we were excellent and the lads handled everything about very well.

“They had an overnight stop in a hotel and it was nice for the boys to go away together and experience what professional footballers do.

“The Exeter game was one we probably deserved to win a lot more comfortably than we actually did.

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“We now play against a very good Luton side, this will be a tough game.

“Andy Livingstone and myself went to watch them in the last round at Oldham, while we have watched DVDs of their games.

“Luton won their league and have reached the area final of their league cup.

“They score a lot of goals and look solid at the back so we know what to expect.

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“We have put a plan together and hopefully that will work on the night.

“Whoever wins goes on to play Blackburn in the next round and there is not much more incentive than that.

“If it is us, that is a local derby against a club who are an academy category higher than us.”

Two of PNE’s side, right-back Clive Smith and goalkeeper Matt Hudson, have signed professional contracts in recent weeks.

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Both have been in the senior squad this season, Hudson making his debut at Leeds in December when Jordan Pickford was sent-off.

Wales Under-19s international Smith was on the bench for the games against Bournemouth and Cardiff.

Fensome, in PNE’s Third Division title-winning side in 1995/96, said: “Clive and Matt are available for selection.

“They have done very well this season and it is great for the other lads to see two of their mates, who they live in digs with, make such progress.

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“That is a good incentive for them to do the same thing and try and earn a pro deal.”

This is a big few days for the youth team, with them having another important clash this weekend.

They play Shrewsbury on Saturday morning at Springfields in the final of the Youth Alliance League Cup.

Said Fensome: “These are two big games for the lads to go and perform in and show that they are good players.

“At times in the league they have not performed quite how they wanted to, so it has been good to do well in the cups.”