Preston North End U18s have progressed to the third round of the FA Youth Cup after knocking out Walsall 5-4 on penalties at Deepdale.
The game finished 1-1 in normal time and neither team could be separated during extra time, and it was the North End keeper Jordan Watson who turned out to be the hero in the shoot out with his two successive saves proving crucial.
After both sides traded perfect spot kicks, PNE substitute Sam Osobe missed his penalty leaving Callum Williams with the chance to win the tie, but Watson made the vital save before saving from Aaron Williams in sudden death to hand the home side victory.
Under the Deepdale floodlights, it was the home side who made the brighter start and they immediately got their reward, taking the lead after 8 minutes.
The Walsall defence failed to clear an in-swinging corner and Lilywhites defender Ben Davies’ effort deflected off Jamie Tank and past keeper Liam Maher into the back of the net.
Sensing the chance to double their lead, PNE pressed forward in the hunt for a second goal and Ryan Croasdale almost provided it.
Receiving a neat pass from midfielder Luke Clark, Croasdale dribbled past Malvind Benning and let fly with a left footed shot which was only narrowly wide.
Walsall had a golden chance to equalise with their first attempt on target when Reece Flanagan whipped in a cross for Danny Cresswell, but the Sadlers player could only head his effort straight at Jordan Watson.
The away side must have gained heart from their chance as they finally found an equaliser on the half hour mark.
Receiving the ball 25 yards from goal, Mitchell Botfield showed tremendous technique to spin away from his marker before unleashing a powerful right footed drive into the bottom corner leaving Watson no chance in the Preston goal.
In the second half Walsall continued where they left off at the end of the first half by creating several chances to take the lead.
Sadlers fullback Malvind Benning’s wickedly bending cross from the left was inches away from deceiving Watson as it flew across the face of the goal, but fortunately for the Preston goal keeper, it safely dropped over the bar.
Another chance for Walsall followed, as a mistake from Lilywhites defender Adam Thurston was nearly punished.
Thurston attempted to clear a long pump up field from the Walsall defence, but he horribly miscued his kick allowing Danny Griffiths to race through on goal. To his credit, Thurston managed to recover and pressured the Walsall striker into firing straight over the bar.
PNE boss Jamie Hoyland decided to freshen up the attack by bringing on Sam Osobe for Doyle Middleton and it almost paid off immediately as the substitute spurned a glorious chance.
Luke Clark’s perfectly weighted long ball over the top was controlled by Osobe who ran one on one with the keeper, but he perhaps took one touch too many as goal keeper Maher narrowed the angle and managed to smother Osobe’s effort at the near post.
Preston North End soon had another great chance as Will Hayhurst was played in on the left by a sensational reverse pass by Matt Dudley, but he smashed his shot against the near post when he perhaps should have shot across goal.
The two sides continued to battle hard but the game finished 1-1 and both teams had to face extra time and the possibility of penalties.
Walsall started the first period of extra time brightly and they almost scored after a neat passing move.
Ben George’s overlapping run was noticed by Flanagan who duly found his team mate, and from a narrow angle George forced Watson to parry the ball into the centre of the box. Substitute Jake Heath was first onto the rebound, and with the whole goal to aim for, the midfielder could only blaze his shot over the cross bar.
In the second period of extra time, PNE found the reserves to muster one more chance to win the tie at the death.
Will Hayhurst’s curling corner to the back post found an unmarked Ben Davies, but the centre back could only head agonisingly wide and into the side netting despite having time to control the ball.
PNE continued to pressure the tiring Walsall back line in the closing stages, but were unable to find a break through as the tie went to penalties.
Watson’s heroics proved to be the difference between the two evenly matched teams and Preston North End were rewarded with a home tie in the next round against Premier League side Stoke City.