Preston North End were narrowly beaten 1-0 by Bolton Wanderers during Saturday's Youth Alliance Cup clash.
Finlay Lockett scored the only goal of the game 20 minutes from time as the visitors took home all three points at UCLan Sports Arena.
North End remained largely unchanged from the side that defeated Fleetwood Town 5-1 two weeks previously, except for Levi Lewis, who replaced Josh Seary in the PNE backline.
PNE started the brighter of the two sides and managed to work an opening inside the first five minutes of the game when Lewis delivered a teasing cross into the Lilywhites box that was met by Harry Huddart, forcing the Bolton No.1 Luke Hutchinson into an early save.
Defences were on top during the opening 25 minutes of the game, with neither side able to break the other down despite both teams enjoying decent spells of possession.
The Lilywhites’ main threat seemed to be coming down the right-hand side through Kyi Nicholson and Lewis Leigh as they combined well on several occasions, drawing fouls in dangerous areas and corners, but to no avail.
The Trotters started to enjoy some good intervals of play as the half-time break approached, having their first real chance of the game on 26 minutes, only to be denied by a last-ditch challenge by Irish defender Harry Nevin.
Bolton created another good chance four minutes later, this time Henry Mitchell teeing up Finlay Lockett for his second of the game only to be denied by an outstanding fingertip save by Oliver Lombard in the North End goal.
The last chance of the half fell to Lilywhites forward Noah Mawene, but his strike from outside the box sailed narrowly over the bar which ensured the teams went into the half-time break goalless.
The restart of the second half saw more fine goalkeeping from Oliver Lombard as he produced a series of great saves to deny a second Wanderers goal.
PNE grew into the second half through influential playmaker Ben Dooley, the midfielder having already shown signs of class so far this season, which was on display again, this time playing a lovely one-two with Harry Huddart, before winning a corner for the home side.
On 58 minutes Kyi Nicholson found himself unmarked in the visitors’ box before seeing his goalbound attempt blocked by an on-rushing defender to keep the scores level.
The best chance of the half fell to Vaughn Green on 61 minutes as he made a bursting run into the box before firing hard and low, forcing a good save from The Trotters goalkeeper.
This would be Green’s last involvement in the game as he was replaced on 65 minutes by Mikey O’Neill as North End looked for a winner.
Three minutes later, Lombard had to react sharply as he tipped a long-range effort over the bar, before safely punching clear the resulting corner.
It was to be the visitors who did break the deadlock on 72 minutes through Finlay Lockett. The Bolton forward found himself in some space inside the box before unleashing a strike past Lombard.
North End’s No.1 was called into action again moments later as he denied what looked like a certain goal to keep the scoreline at 1-0.
The Lilywhites made their final changes of the game 10 minutes from time, which saw a double switch involving Lewis Leigh and Noah Mawene replace Kian Taylor and Dana Amaral.
Aaron Bennett almost rescued a point late on for PNE, the Welsh midfielder let loose a long-range strike which produced a fine save yet again from the in-form Bolton ‘keeper.
North End still had some defending to do in the final seconds of the match, after a quick counter attack was halted by birthday boy Joe Blanchard, as he made a crucial goal-line block.
A solid display from the Lilywhites was not enough to secure three points in their opening Youth Alliance Cup game and North End manager Nick Harrison admitted to having mixed emotions after the contest.
Nick said: “I’m obviously disappointed with the result but there was large parts of the game that I was really pleased with the team’s performance.
“I thought we started off a bit slowly but once we got to grips with the game, we started to pass the ball well, we created chances and in certain spells we dominated the game.
“It’s disappointing to not take our chances, but also disappointing to concede the goal in the way that we did.”
Nick felt his side’s chance creation was largely similar to previous positive displays this season, the difference on this occasion being his side’s ability to take those opportunities.
“We have played a number of games this season already where we have scored a number of goals and created plenty of chances, we have done that again today, but unfortunately this time we couldn’t score.
“I think we need to continue to work on being more clinical like we have done already this season or else we will be punished like we have been against Bolton.”
PNE line-up: Lombard; Nicholson, Nevin, Blanchard, Lewis; Huddart, Dooley; Leigh (Amaral, 80), Mawene (Taylor, 80), Green (O’Neil, 65); Bennett. Subs not used: Mfuni, Duggan.