North End fell to a 2-0 defeat at home to Accrington Stanley resulting in them finishing second in the group stage of the Youth Alliance Cup.
Goals from Owen Devonport and Leslie Adekoya saw Accrington emerge victorious in this Youth Alliance Cup clash.
The tie marked the first time this season that North End had failed to find the back of the net.
Academy manager Nick Harrison made four changes from the team that won 7 -0 away at Fleetwood Town last weekend. Joe Blanchard, Levi Lewis, Kitt Nelson and Vaughan Green all came in for Josh Seary, Lewis Coulton, Dana Amaral and Rio Pemberton.
The visitors created the first big opportunity of the game. Adekoya was played through on goal, but North End ‘keeper Declyn Duggan was able to stick his leg out to prevent to ball from finding the bottom left-hand corner.
Next it was the Accrington ‘keeper to keep the score at 0-0. First, he was able to save a header from his own defender, and then he denied an effort from Blanchard on the edge of the box which he tipped over the bar.
The visitors took the lead midway through the first half. A free kick was whipped in from the left-hand side and Devonport was able to guide his near post header into the far corner to give Stanley the lead.
Accrington came close to doubling their lead right on half time, but Blanchard was able to block the effort and see it out for a corner.
North End started the second half the quicker of both the sides. Three minutes in the ball was cut across the box from the right-hand side and found Nelson on the penalty spot but his effort was parried wide.
The Lilywhites continued to pile on the pressure. Jacob Slater found Finlay Cross-Adair, but his effort trickled past the post.
Just a few minutes later North End thought they had scored through Teddy Mfuni however, Cross-Adair was adjudged to have been in an offside position while restricting the keeper’s view.
North End made their first change 66 minutes which saw Nelson replaced by Amaral.
After all of North End’s dominance Accrington then came close to a second. Goalscorer Devonport was able to cut in from the right and fire an effort that was just wide of the post.
Almost immediately after North End should have been level at the other end. Substitute Amaral found himself through on goal straight from a long Duggan kick however, Amaral’s touch pushed him wide and allowed the defender to get back and block his effort.
Still trailing and looking for an equaliser North End made a double substitution. Lewis and Green made way and on came Dan Mahaffy and Ethan Eccleston.
Twelve minutes from time the visitors doubled their lead. Duggan made a brilliant save to deny Adekoya from point blank range but there was nothing he could do to stop him putting in the rebound.
With just five minutes left Accrington made their first substitution seeing Vandis Akukwe leave the field with a knock and be replaced by Brandon Gough.
In the dying moments Mfuni broke forward from right back looking for a lifeline for North End, but while attempting a shot on goal he fouled the keeper and picked up the fourth yellow card of the game.
To make things worse for the hosts substitute Mahaffy had to leave the pitch with an injury resulting in North End finishing the match with ten men.
The referee blew the full-time whistle and Accrington Stanley walked away with all three points.
Manager Nick Harrison felt the team’s performance wasn’t ‘good enough for their levels’ when speaking to PNE.Com post-match.
“I didn’t think the performance was good enough for our levels, especially comparing us to last week when I thought we were outstanding, I just don’t think we reached those levels today.
“Credit to Accrington I thought they competed well and took their goals well, but I just thought we were missing a few things, our final ball, bit of quality in the box. We created 12 chances which we should do better from so to not score today is really disappointing.”
This result was North End’s third defeat of the season in what overall has been a positive campaign thus far.
Harrison discussed the inconsistencies you can get with young players but also what he and the coaches will do to help with that.
“They’re young players so you do get inconsistencies and what we’ve got to do is keep talking to them and helping them, ultimately those that can perform at a high level more consistently are going to make careers out the game.”
PNE U19 Line-Up: Duggan, Mfuni, Lewis (Mahaffy 76’), Leigh, Nevin (C), Blanchard, Slater, O’Neill, Cross-Adair, Nelson (Amaral 66’), Green (Eccleston 76’)
Unused Subs: Davis, Best