Louis Potts’ seventh goal of the season was not enough to prevent the youth team from falling to a 3-1 defeat against Morecambe at the ST&B Accountants Stadium.
The young Lilywhites had gone seven games unbeaten before this contest but were left trailing when Jack Greenwood fired in after six minutes.
Potts’ equaliser 15 minutes from time looked to have salvaged something for North End but, having seen two penalty appeals of their own dismissed earlier in the encounter, the visitors went behind again to Freddie Price’s effort before Kaleb Young sealed the win from the spot.
PNE made wholesale changes from their win at Wigan Athletic three days previously, only Lewis Simmons, Joe Nolan and Lewis Coulton holding onto their starting berths.
Among those coming into the line-up was Precieux Ngongo who, after an injury-plagued season, put in an encouraging hour-long display at the heart of defence, in what was his first youth team appearance for six months. Schoolboys Ben Dooley and Joe Blanchard were also handed starts.
Morecambe made the most of the first chance of the game by taking a sixth-minute lead. Young dispossessed a Lilywhites defender just outside the box and slotted Greenwood through, whose side foot effort was struck powerfully and first time to find the top corner.
It was an otherwise scrappy affair, Tyler Williams defending well against Abimbola Obasoto looking to cross from the left a few times, while Price’s threaded pass for Amilcar Codjovi was swept up by North End goalkeeper Callum Lenton.
The visitors grew into the game, with Simmons unfortunate not to get on the end of a square ball from Potts before Dooley shot straight at Shrimps ‘keeper Ollie Jumeau from 20 yards.
Jerome Jolly skied his shot from outside the box after some neat build-up out of the back from PNE before the away side saw the first of two penalty shouts on the day dismissed.
It was on 33 minutes when Lewis Earl’s cross-field pass was brought down by Jolly and latched on to by Simmons, but the referee deemed no action necessary when he was brought down in the box.
Jolly curled a free-kick marginally over and onto the roof of the net soon after with Morecambe going close either side of the break, Lenton making an exceptional save against Greenwood late in the first half, after the striker had met Obasoto’s pullback just yards from goal.
The ‘keeper was not needed when the Shrimps forged another opening ten minutes into the second half as, fortunately, Young headed over unopposed from Price’s free-kick.
North End and Simmons were again denied a penalty just before the hour with the second year scholar brilliantly turning away from his marker on the left and surging into the area, being brought down once more without the referee’s intervention.
Obasoto then tried his luck from range but dragged his shot well wide of Lenton’s right-hand corner.
Jolly curled for the bottom left corner with a deflection forcing it marginally wide, Earl’s effort blocked from the resulting corner, while Young misdirected another header wide before drawing Lenton into action with a low save at his near post.
The Lilywhites finally equalised on 75 minutes. Dooley worked the space down the left well and crossed low into a dangerous spot, Jumeau unable to deal with it and Potts pounced to score the simplest of goals.
The parity was short lived, however, Morecambe back in front nine minutes from time. Young’s delivery across the face was met by Price’s outstretched leg to divert beyond Lenton.
And seven minutes later, after Greenwood was brought down in the area to earn the hosts a spot kick, Morecambe put the game to bed with Young stepping up to score from 12 yards.
The defeat is the youth team’s first in more than two months, but Academy manager Nick Harrison remained upbeat when assessing his youthful side’s display.
“Overall it was a good performance,” Nick stressed when speaking to PNE.Com post-match. “We obviously had a young team, which is a great experience for those younger players coming in and I also thought some of the senior players did really well and their attitudes were good.
“Obviously, you could see the physical advantage that Morecambe had, but that’s the challenge we want the younger players to have. I think we actually played really well overall and certainly in the second half had a number of chances to go in front after we equalised.
“I think when you play younger players, there’s always that chance of them making mistakes, a bit of naivety which we saw and that’s really why we lost the game. As long as the young players can learn from that, that’s all the matters.”
Nick also sympathised with his players, suggesting the outcome or at least pattern of play may have been different had they been awarded a penalty, having seen two strong shouts for one dismissed.
“When you look at those penalty decisions, it’s unlucky for the players because we’d actually passed the ball well, made good opportunities and both should have been penalties.
“It’s not really a frustration for us so much as coaches but more so for the players, because they’ve worked hard to get into good areas and all you’re asking for is for the right decision to be made. We cant understand why the penalty was given to Morecambe and not the ones that we had.
“I thought we tried to play the right way, it just so happened that we ended up on the wrong side of the result.”
PNE line-up: Lenton; Williams, Earl (McFayden, 65), Ngongo (Nicholson, 63), Blanchard; Nolan, Simmons; Jolly, Dooley (Leigh, 82), Coulton (Dolan, 63); Potts. Subs not used: Lombard.