WANDERERS’ Under-21s survived a late Aston Villa onslaught to hang on for a 3-2 victory at Leyland.
Zach Clough scored twice for Jamie Fullarton’s side, who repeatedly cut the visitors apart with their slick counter attacking in the first hour.
Cian Bolger opened the scoring with a towering first-half header but it was the clever interplay between Andy Kellett in midfield and front trio Clough, Conor Wilkinson and Tom Youngs that provided most of the entertainment.
Wanderers gave a debut at left-back to Romanian Stefan Popescu, who until recently was playing for French outfit Ajaccio.
The 20-year-old looked solid early on before running out of steam in the second half and being substituted.
And it was a similar case for the young Whites, who in the end had Arran Lee-Barrett to thank for keeping Villa from making an unlikely comeback.
The former Ipswich keeper, who recently signed a deal to stay at the Reebok until the end of the season, made two outstanding double saves either side of the break from Andras Steiber and then Calum Robinson.
Wanderers’ second of the day came as a result of some superb interplay between Wilkinson, who supplied the cross, Kellett with the dummy, and Clough with the crisp finish.
The game should have been over when Clough dinked a fine finish over keeper Bradley Watkins for the third.
But Villa persisted and after Lee-Barrett looked like holding them at bay, Graham Burke set up a grandstand finish with a curling effort 10 minutes from the end.
Robinson finally found the target with an identical effort as the game moved into injury time and was then denied by Lee-Barrett’s foot at the bitter end in what would have been a stunning comeback.
Wanderers (4-3-3): Lee-Barrett; Lester, Bolger, Holding, Popescu; Iliev, Woodland, Kellett; Youngs, Wilkinson, Clough.
Subs: Knight 75 (for Iliev), Matthews 80 (for Popescu), Walker 87 (for Wilkinson) Not used: Campbell, Kelly.
Villa (4-4-2): Watkins; Webb, Donacien, Lewis, Kinsella; Johnson, Burke, Steiber, Sellars; O’Brien, Robinson.
Subs: Toner 8 (for Lewis), Green 70 (for Sellars) Abdo 70 (for O’Brien) Not used: Grant, Strain.