Noah Mawene and Joe Rodwell-Grant on target for Preston North End's Under-19s against Rochdale

Some of the Preston North End youngsters on the fringes of the first-team squad were able to get some match action under their belts at the weekend.

By Dave Seddon
Sunday, 5th September 2021, 8:00 am

The Lilywhites named a strong line-up for their Youth Alliance League clash with Rochdale at Springfields on Saturday morning.

They won the game 2-1, Noah Mawene and Joe Rodwell-Grant scoring.

Rodwell-Grant made his Championship debut last week as a late substitute against Swansea, while he’d also appeared in the closing stages of the Carabao Cup tie at Mansfield in August.

Joe Rodwell-Grant scored for Preston North End's Under-19s against Rochdale on Saturday

Lewis Leigh skippered the side, the midfielder having recently signed a professional three-year contract.

Having had a phased return from Covid, this was an ideal chance to get some match fitness.

First-year pros Lewis Coulton and Oliver Lombard featured in the starting XI.

Coulton had been away training with the Scotland Under-19s during the week but was needed to play with a couple of defenders carrying injuries.

Midfielder Mawene, who agreed a pro deal when he turns 17, gave North End a seventh-minute lead.

However, 10 minutes he had to be substituted after appearing to turn his ankle.

PNE doubled the lead in the 31st minute, Rodwell-Grant netting from the penalty spot after Levi Lewis had been fouled in the box.

Rochdale reduced the deficit with a goal from a corner three minutes before the interval.

There were chances for North End in the second-half but their two goals from the first period proved sufficient.

This season the Youth Alliance is an Under-19s division having previously been Under-18s.

That expansion of the age limit has allowed first-year pros to be used.

The link between PNE’s academy and the first-team set-up seems to have been strengthened this season.

The return of a reserve side in the Central League will give some of the younger players the chance to play senior football.

Previously, the gap between Under-18s football and the first-team had been a big one to try and bridge.

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