Points were shared in the first fixture of the Youth Alliance Cup as PNE U19 drew 0-0 with Hartlepool United.
North End had the better of the game but struggled to break down a very organised Hartlepool defence.
Finlay Cross-Adair received a red card with just ten minutes left which nullified North End’s chances of scoring a winner.
It was an even start to the affair, the only chance falling the way of Nelson on the left-hand side whose effort was comfortably tipped over the bar by the ‘keeper.
Jacob Slater was the bright spark for the Lilywhites venturing forward from the left wing back position, he was able to put over a good ball into the box, which found Rio Pemberton at the back post, but his volley was fired wide of the post.
The visitors’ defence were blocking shot after shot to keep the score level and frustrating the North End attack.
Noah Mawene then tried his luck from the edge of the area, but he dragged his effort wide.
North End started the second half the brighter of the two sides without causing Jake Wilkinson in the Hartlepool goal any problems.
The Lilywhites made their first change on the 60th minute seeing Slater make way for first-year scholar Izac Khan.
North End were controlling possession but that final ball was just missing.
The best opportunity of the game fell the way of Pemberton. Some good feet from Kitt Nelson allowed him to get free and play in Felipe Rodriguez-Gentile, he squared the ball to the back post where Pemberton was lurking, but his effort hit the outside of the post.
With just ten minutes left Cross-Adair received a red card for an off-the-ball incident with a Hartlepool defender.
Even with ten men North End were still the team applying pressure, multiple dangerous balls were being swung into the box, but no one was able to get on the end of them.
Assistant coach Andy Fensome gave his thoughts after the game and felt North End lacked the clinical edge needed to win the game.
“We’re all a little bit deflated that we haven’t won the game. We had enough chances, but we didn’t score and as the game went on it suited them to sit back and defend.
“If we were to have scored a goal in the first 20 minutes then the game would have been different but overall, we just lacked that bit of quality in the final third.”
Two first-year scholars Cole McGhee and Ellis Horan started the game and it was a tough but rewarding test for some of PNE’s younger players.
“It was a total U18s game today,” Fensome continued. “We don’t always have the first-year pros play and it was a good experience for the ones that did feature.
“There will be more games like this as the season goes on which will provide more opportunity to those younger players.”
The focus is already on the next game for Fensome and the squad with the visit of Carlisle United next up for the young Lilywhites.
“We’re going to train as hard as we can during the week like we normally do.
“We will stick to our curriculum, keep encouraging the players, analyse the game and see where we can add that bit more quality.”