The youth team were held to a 2-2 draw by Tranmere Rovers on Tuesday afternoon.
It was a dominant performance from the young Lilywhites but visiting midfielder Carl Spellman scored a brace either side of the two North End goals – which came from Cameron Day and Ethan Walker immediately before and after half-time – to deny Nick Harrison’s team all three points.
North End made a bright start to proceedings and almost went ahead inside five minutes. Jack Armer did superbly to connect with Ethan Walker’s wide left free-kick but his effort hit the crossbar.
Just after the ten-minute mark, Tyrhys Dolan turned well outside the box but shot wide of the bottom right corner.
Dolan had another chance midway through the half when he sprinted on a Tranmere defender’s short header back towards his goalkeeper, but lashed marginally wide from the edge of the box.
The U16 attacker turned provider ten minutes later as he played Walker into space down the left side of the box but ‘keeper Patrick Wharton held onto his low placed effort.
Moments later and Day forced Wharton into his best save yet with a powerful header from Walker’s corner but the Tranmere stopper did brilliantly to dive low and palm it away.
It proved a doubly important save, as in almost the next attack, the visitors took a 36th minute lead.
Tranmere countered down the left side and after one attacker reached the byline and crossed to the near post, midfielder Spellman nodded home from close range to open the scoring.
Danny Walker-Rice thought he had doubled that advantage moments later as he converted Josh Solomon-Davies’ cross but saw his strike ruled out by the offside flag.
The Lilywhites got a deserved equaliser in the 44th minute. Walker further showcased his set-piece delivery qualities as Armer got the first touch on his cross before Day made a second connection to take it past Wharton.
And the hosts started the second-half just as they finished the first, going in front in the 47th minute.
It was Walker with a bit of individual brilliance after he looked to have delayed his shot too long on the edge of the box, but he duly took it past two Tranmere defenders on his way into the box and finished low past Wharton.
Walker looked like he had set up Pollard for a third just before the hour, but the latter’s header was straight at Wharton.
The chances were flowing for North End in the final 20 minutes as Wharton saved well from O’Reilly’s distance strike, before Pollard drew another save from the Tranmere stopper and Kamol Campbell had a low shot cleared off the line.
There was a moment of danger as Solomon-Davies picked out Walker-Rice’s run into the box but he placed well wide of the bottom right corner.
O’Reilly and Dolan then saw instinctive efforts from the edge of the box handled by Wharton before the visitors scored against the run of play once more.
North End’s defence found themselves three against as one as Tranmere attacked with James Salkeld pulling it back for Spellman, whose shot beat James Cottam thanks to an unfortunate deflection off Campbell.
Cottam produced a brilliant stop minutes later as Solomon-Davies went through one-on-one but the PNE ‘keeper threw himself in front of the ball to keep it level.
Lewis Simmons’ long-range strike, which flashed marginally over, would be the nearest North End got to scoring a winner in the closing stages with the Lilywhites forced to settle for a draw.
Harrison, the youth team boss, sympathised with his players following a performance he felt was deserving of victory.
“We’re frustrated for the players more than anything because they deserved to win the game today,” Harrison told PNE.com. “I thought it was an outstanding performance, the football we played was excellent and the players made good decisions in possession.
“The team created 19 chances and had 12 shots on target, so I think you would expect to win the game with that amount.
“We deserved to be in the lead and should have gone further into the lead. I’m really disappointed for the players because their equaliser was a bit of a scruffy goal, which is tough to take, but I felt everyone performed and put a shift in today.”
Harrison said it is important the players learn to convert their performances into results.
“The result does matter eventually because the boys are trying to be professional players, where everything is about the result. They’ve got to learn to win games but at this moment in time, we couldn’t have asked for any more from them because of the way they’ve performed
“If we had put more of our chances away, then we would have won the game because we nullified the opposition in terms of the opportunities they had and they were a bit fortunate with their second goal.
“Going forward, they have to learn to win games 1-0, 2-1 or like today, where we had the opportunities to score more in the second-half to maybe win by three or four.
“It’s a process, we will do some working on the training pitch and some with the video analysis and we will keep striving to improve the players but we’re pleased with their effort and application today.”
PNE line-up: Cottam; Ngongo, Day, Armer, Campbell; Nolan, O’Reilly; Simmons, Pollard, Walker (Rodwell-Grant, 84); Dolan (Coulton, 84). Subs not used: Earl, Lenton, Williams.