WANDERERS Under-18s return to league action at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday boosted by a 5-2 friendly victory over Preston North End at the weekend.

David Lee and Tony Kelly’s youngsters ended 2013 on a low note after penalty shoot-out heartbreak in the FA Youth Cup third round against Sheffield United at the Reebok Stadium.

But their performance to battle back from a goal down in that clash gave Lee cause for optimism going into 2014.

And that was enhanced when they outplayed North End on Saturday.

The young Whites were two goals to the good inside 25 minutes through Jamie Thomas and Will Abbotts. Tom Walker made it 3-0 before the hosts pulled a goal back before half-time.

However, a second-half brace from Elliot Newby, with another Preston goal sandwiched in the middle, completed the rout.

Lee hopes it will give his youngsters the impetus as they return to FA U18 Premier League action at Blackburn, though Walker will be unavailable as he goes away to a training camp with the England Under-18s squad.

Wanderers won just one and drew two of their first 15 league games before Christmas, the only triumph a 4-1 victory over Wolves at Lostock.

Lee said after the Preston game: “It was a fantastic response after the Christmas break and a great result for the team.

“We played very well. We dominated the game in both periods and it was incredibly pleasing.

“We created a lot of excellent scoring opportunities and arguably could have scored more, but the pleasing thing was how we converted the chances.

“We’ll be looking to take the confidence from this result into our first league game of the year.”