By Harry Ewbank: Josh Pollard’s venomous strike was only enough to gain a point for Preston North End Under-18s as they were pegged back by Carlisle United Under-18s through Charlie Birch’s second-half equaliser.
The Lilywhites entered the game in third position in the EFL Youth Alliance North West division, but the 14-point gap between the two teams was not evident as neither side managed to create many clear-cut chances in a tight affair.
There was an early attempt on target for Tyrhys Dolan, who hit a tame shot at Carlisle keeper Regan Ward, while at the other end James Cottam was equal to Taylor Charters after some neat interplay with Josh Galloway.
Darren Edmondson’s Cumbrians came closer to breaking the deadlock when they struck the woodwork midway through the half and then Keighran Kerr tested Cottam in the North End net with a strike from inside the area.
However, the hosts nudged in front 10 minutes before the break when a defensive clearance from a Jerome Jolly corner fell to Pollard, who took a touch to settle himself before unleashing a ferocious effort from range that flew into the top left corner.
Cottam comfortably handled two dipping shots from distance on the stroke of half-time, but was beaten five minutes after the restart by first-year apprentice Birch.
A positive run down the left flank by substitute Lewis Bell created the opportunity to deliver a low cross into the box, which took a slight deflection before being diverted home into the far right corner by Birch.
Preston threatened to regain their advantage when Ethan Walker’s delivery was headed towards goal by visiting defender Liam Brockbank, although Ward was alert to the danger and tipped the ball onto the bar.
Two late free-kicks from Galloway were easily dealt with by Cottam, while Ward parried away a shot from Jolly, who also narrowly missed the top corner with a left-footed curler in the latter stages, meaning the two teams shared the spoils after the final whistle.
“I thought for most of the game we were a really good match for Preston,” Edmondson told LFE. “Especially in the first half, we got into really good attacking situations but weren’t able to capitalise.”
Meanwhile, PNE Academy coach Andy Fensome said: “In the last few weeks we have scored some really good goals and that strike from Josh Pollard shows exactly what they are capable of doing.
“But as a team we didn’t really create enough, and we didn’t play in the final third as much as we wanted to.”