Preston North End Under-19s beat Bolton Wanderers to reach the Youth Alliance Cup national final

Preston North End’s Under-19s produced a fine second-half comeback to beat Bolton Wanderers and reach the Youth Alliance Cup national final.

By Dave Seddon
Saturday, 19th March 2022, 9:10 pm

Trailing 1-0 at half-time, PNE roared back at Springfields on Saturday morning to win 4-1 in the northern regional final clash.

Aaron Bennett (2), Vaughn Green and Finlay Cross-Adair scored for North End, Mitchell Henry having given Bolton the lead.

Victory came despite the home side losing three players to injury during the game, Teddy Mfuni, Noah Mawene and Lewis Leigh all having to be substituted.

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PNE now play away to southern regional final winners Luton Town in May in the national final.

The competition started in group stages, the Lilywhites progressing from the group after wins over Fleetwood Town and Bradford City, and a defeat to Accrington Stanley.

In the quarter-final last month, they won 3-1 at Huddersfield Town.

On Tuesday this week, they beat Burton Albion 2-1 with goals from Mfuni and Bennett to set up the meeting with Bolton.

Mikey O'Neill was in the PNE Under-19s side which beat Bolton Wanderers 4-1 in the Youth Alliance Cup regional final

The visitors took the lead after a fine run and finish from Henry, his shot beating goalkeeper James Pradic to find the bottom corner.

It needed a fine save from Pradic to prevent Bolton extending their lead, with him tipping Max Conway’s 25-yard shot over the bar.

Five minutes before half-time, defender Mfuni was fouled in the box and North End were awarded a penalty.

An injury sustained in the penalty incident ended Mfuni’s involvement, with Finlay Wallbank replacing him from the bench.

Mikey O’Neill took the spot kick but saw it well saved by Ellis Litherland.

North End lost Mawene’s services just before the interval, with midfielder Leigh carried off early in the second half.

They equalised after an hour, O’Neill winning the ball and sending Bennett through who found the back of the net.

Within a couple of minutes PNE nudged in front, substitute Green forcing the ball home from close range after a corner had led to a scramble in the goalmouth.

Chances came at both ends before the Lilywhites made it 3-1 in the 79th minute.

Bolton keeper Litherland miscued a clearance which Bennett intercepted and fired home a powerful shot off the inside of the post.

It’s been a good few weeks for second-year scholar Bennett after his return to action with the Under-19s and in the reserves following a long lay-off after knee surgery.

North End wrapped-up their victory eight minutes from time, Josh Seary’s cross from the right finding Cross-Adair, the Preston-born striker looping a header into the net.

The final against Luton is currently listed for Wednesday, May 4.

In the meantime, PNE still have seven league games to play in the Youth Alliance North West Conference.

They top the table on goal difference from Carlisle United, having won 15 of their 19 games.

It is Carlisle who are their opponents next Saturday at Springfields (11am) in a game which will be key to destiny of the league title.

PNE: Pradic, Mfuni (Wallbank 40), Slater, Leigh (Cross-Adair 53), Nevin, Best, Seary, Amaral, O'Neill, Mawene (Green 45), Bennett.