Experience in football is key – and Preston’s young stars will have learned plenty from their midweek penalty shootout victory against Hull City in the Carabao Cup.
Boss Alex Neil has been keen to use the competition as an opportunity to field many of the fringe players within his squad.
In the last round against Bradford City, the North End manager made 11 changes from the team which took to the pitch the previous Saturday against Wigan in the Championship.
And on Tuesday night at Deepdale, there was another night-off for most of the players who contributed significantly to the club’s victory over Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend.
Neil made 10 changes – the only player to be retained in the starting XI was captain Alan Browne, who played in an unfamilar role at right-back.
In came 20-year-old record signing Tom Bayliss – for his Deepdale debut – and he had 22-year-old Ryan Ledson for company in the centre of midfield. Down the left, Josh Ginnelly (22) – normally a winger –played at full-back with 21-year-old Aston Villa loan man Andre Green ahead of him.
With defender Jordan Storey (21) and 23-year-old midfielder Josh Harrop also in the line-up, the average age of the team was a little over 23. Only experienced central defender Paul Huntington, at 31, could lay claim to veteran status. The way the match panned out will have done Neil’s young charges the world of good as they experienced the thrill of taking a 2-0 lead before being pegged back by the Tigers with virtually the last kick of the game.
There was no time for the youngsters to feel sorry for themselves though as they were thrust immediately into the knife-edge situation of the penalty shootout.
The fact that North End managed to prevail was testament to their calmness under pressure.
Harrop, Ledson, Jayden Stockley, Billy Bodin and Alan Browne were all flawless from 12 yards and they were helped out by goalkeeper Connor Ripley, who did his job by saving from Hull’s Tom Eaves.
Neil gave his players a mixed review following the match, praising their first half display which was capped by goals from Paul Huntington and Harrop in the opening 25 minutes, but he was not quite as impressed with the second half showing.
The reason the hosts were not quite so dominant after the break may have had something to do with the Tigers being handed a lifeline just after the half-hour mark .
Josh Magennis sent Ripley the wrong way from the penalty spot after Browne was adjudged to have fouled Leo Da Silva Lopes inside the area.
Although the home side fashioned good chances to restore their two-goal cushion in the second half, they were unable to deliver the killer blow.
That handed the initiative to the visitors, who laid siege on the hosts’ goal and they got their rewards in the 95th minute when Jarrod Bowen equalised.
North End hadscored with their first notable effort on goal in the 20th minute.
A free kick from mid-way inside the Hull half was curled into the area by Browne.
Huntington rose highest to feather a header back across goal into the corner past Matt Ingram.
Six minutes later, it was 2-0 when an incisive pass by Ledson released Tom Barkhuizen down the inside right channel.
The pacy forward’s fierce drive was parried only as far as Josh Harrop, who was following up and he fired home eight yards - his third goal in as many games this season after returning from a serious knee injury.
Magennis replied for Hull in the 33rd minute from the spot after Browne had caught Lopes just inside the box on the left-hand side.
Four mminutes fter the break, Bayliss released Potts, but he fired over while Harrop shot across after a jinking run in the 77th minute.
By then, Hull were beginning to exert some pressure but they were repelled by Ripley with one double save denying Eaves and Nouha Dicko particularly standing out.
But with North End seemingly home and dry, Bowen popped up in the box to prod the visitors level.
However, it was North End who emerged triumphant in the shootout and they went into last night’s third round draw.