Goals from Callum Schorah and James Hooper gave Rochdale’s under 18 side an impressive 2-0 away win over Preston North End at Victory Park on Tuesday afternoon.
On a rough pitch and in windy conditions, Dale dug in and their quality showed in the second-half.
A scrappy first half saw Rochdale have the better of the game and the better of the chances, with a penalty missed and plenty of opportunities to boot.
The first chance of the game came after just five minutes, when the bullish Dominic Reid went down in the area and appealed for a penalty. However referee Dave Gillon waved for play to continue.
Against the run of play, Preston North End came closest to goal. The Lilywhites number 8, Bradley Nicks fired a dipping shot just wide of Rhys Lovett's goal from thirty yards out.
Rochdale were the first side to have the ball in the back of the net, however, it was disallowed for an obvious offside. A good flicked header from Harry Pratt had sent Hooper through on goal but sadly the striker had strayed his run by a yard.
It was Reid again with a good chance on the half hour mark. A good left wing corner was recycled by Yomi Samuels and the ball fell to Reid, who pivoted on the ball but could only fire over the stand.
The real turning point in the game came in the 34th minute when Dale were awarded a penalty. A strong left wing run from defender Callum Schorah ended in the left back spraying a delightful diagonal ball up field. The pass was received by Hooper who was about to pull the trigger, before being pulled down in the area and the spot-kick was given.
Reid stepped up to take the penalty and fired towards goal, but was denied by Preston keeper Ross Dalton, who saved strongly.
Half-Time: Preston North End Youth 0-0 Rochdale Youth
The second half started better, and as they did in the first period, Preston had the first chance to break the deadlock. North End striker James Boyd found himself in a promising position in Dale's area but fired well over Lovett's goal.
The deadlock was eventually broke just after the hour mark, though, as Schorah scored from a yard out.
Powerful wing play from Hooper, combining skill and determination found him in the box, and the forward fired a low cross across the face of the goal, with Schorah tapping in from close range.
Three minutes later, Dale nearly put the game beyond doubt, but Reid's close range shot grazed North Ends left hand post.
With ten minutes to go, the game really opened up with the home side needing that all important equaliser. Rick Ashcroft's side tried to capitalise on this and nearly did, as Hooper and substitute Jack Stewart, had two chances to score in a matter of minutes.
Firstly Stewart set up Hooper, who had his shot saved well from close range. Then Stewart fired his twenty yard shot just over the bar.
Rochdale's second goal did eventually come in stoppage time, securing three points.
A ball up field from ‘keeper Lovett landed at the feet of Schorah. The left back played the ball across to Hooper, who fired into the net to make it 2-0.
Full-Time: Preston North End Youth 0-2 Rochdale Youth