Wigan Athletic 5-2 Preston North End

2018/19 Pro Youth Cup Final. Report by George Hodgson (UCLan)

Wigan Athletic beat Preston North End 5-2 at the County Ground to win the 2018/19 Lancashire FA Professional Youth Cup.

Charlie Jolley’s brace had Gregor Rioch’s team comfortably ahead, but a wondergoal from PNE captain Adam O’Reilly set up an exciting second half.

Jensen Weir then restored the Latics’ two-goal advantage, before Jack Baxter emphatically pulled another back for Preston.

But two goals in the closing stages from defender Victor Maffeo put the result way beyond doubt.

It was Wigan who started the brighter on a boiling hot afternoon at the County Ground.

They zipped the ball about well and went close through Joe Geldhart before PNE responded and Baxter saw a fierce strike well saved by Bobby Jones.

But, just short of the 25-minute mark, Wigan were gifted the chance to take the lead when Jack Armer brought down Jolley inside the box after a quickfire Latics counter attack.

Up stepped Wigan’s No.9 and he calmly slotted home the opener down the middle from 12-yards to open to scoring.

Five minutes later referee Jonathan Chadwick pointed to the spot again, this time adjudging Precieux Ngongo to have fouled Jolley again inside the box following a good first touch from the forward.

Confidence was coursing through the frontman’s veins and he stepped forward once again, this time placing his spot-kick into the bottom right corner, sending Corcoran the wrong way.

If you thought that’d dampen North End spirits, Adam O’Reilly had other ideas and the captain pulled the Lilywhites back into the game in extraordinary style.

The ball dropped kindly for him from 25-yards and with his right-foot he unleashed a thunderbolt of a volley that crashed in off the underside of the crossbar.

Less than a minute later though and Latics really ought to have restored their two-goal cushion.

Geldhart broke down the right and pulled the ball back for Mackenzie O’Neil, who could only drag his shot wide with the goal at his mercy.

And, with half time seconds away, Geldhart must’ve wondered how he didn’t score himself.

He rose well to meet Mitchell Culshaw’s cross, only for his first and then second header on the rebound to crash back off the woodwork.

However, that chance was soon forgotten after the restart, because Wigan came out flying and got their goal through Weir who perfectly guided a header into the far corner of the net following a clever free-kick routine.

North End refused to surrender though and if you thought O’Reilly’s goal was good, Baxter set about beating it in remarkable fashion.

PNE won a free kick 50-yards from goal but Baxter was alert.

He took it quickly after seeing Jones off his line and the No.4 scored with an audacious left-footed effort to reduce the deficit once more.

It was the young Lilywhites who were gaining the initiative, but you couldn’t keep Geldhart quiet for long.

With 75-minutes gone he raced clear and cut inside, but he could only curl his effort disappointingly over the bar.

As the game entered a tense conclusion though, it was Wigan’s right back Maffeo who delivered the crucial moment.

He drove forward, shaped inside and with his left foot, unleashed a vicious shot that nestled in the bottom corner.

As full time approached Maffeo wasn’t finished there, he added his second and Wigan’s fifth with a sweetly struck free kick that had too much power behind it for Corcoran to keep out.

That proved the last piece of action and it was Wigan who ran out Professional Youth Cup winners, in a goal-packed, entertaining final at the County Ground.