A young Preston North End U19s side nearly sparked a late comeback against Bolton Wanderers, but couldn’t quite take anything from the game as they lost 3-2.
Felipe Rodriguez-Gentile and Troy Tarry each grabbed a goal in the final stages but it wasn’t enough after the Trotters had stormed into a three-goal lead with two strikes in the first half and a third just after the break.
It was a particularly youthful side put out by Andy Fensome, with many of the selected players getting their first taste of football at the U19 level.
The Lilywhites created the first opportunity of the match on five minutes when Rodriguez-Gentile was played in down the left flank by Jonny Brindle and the forward squared it across for Theo Carroll, who saw his shot saved by Jack Dallimore in the Bolton goal.
Three minutes later, Tommy Davis was forced into a brilliant point-blank save before the rebound deflected behind off the outside of the post, and from the resulting corner Bolton managed to hit the other post in a frantic minute of football.
In the 14th minute, Rodriguez-Gentile again found joy down the left, this time racing onto Max Wilson’s pass and sliding it across for Ayden Garrigan, who spurned a golden opportunity to fire his team ahead.
They were made to rue that missed chance when the Trotters took the lead in fortuitous circumstances on the half-hour mark as the ball reached the Bolton midfielder 20 yards from goal and his shot found the net via a wicked deflection off Tom Wilkinson.
Six minutes later, they doubled their lead when they caught North End out on the break and the Bolton forward beat Davis at his near post.
The PNE goalkeeper managed to keep it at just 2-0 four minutes before half-time when he got his hands behind a fierce effort from just inside the area and the rebound was poked wide of the post.
Garrigan was handed his second chance of the match on 44 minutes when Izac Khan picked him out with a hanging cross from the left, but he couldn’t get the necessary power on his volley and it was an easy catch for Dallimore.
The young Lilywhites went into half-time two goals down and it was three in the 49th minute when Bolton’s Leo Graham found the net with a curling effort, just moments after rattling the crossbar.
Having grabbed their third, Wanderers were content to sit back and soak up the pressure from North End, which made clear-cut chances hard to come by for the young Lilywhites, although Khan did come close on 78 minutes with a stinging volley that fizzed just over the bar.
PNE did get on the scoresheet, though, in the 90th minute when substitute Charlie Goldsmith’s cross reached Rodriguez-Gentile and he drilled a shot through the legs of Dallimore in the Bolton goal.
Just two minutes later, it was 3-2 when substitute Tarry received the ball 25 yards from goal and found the back of the net with an exquisite strike.
Sadly, the young Lilywhites were unable to complete the most unlikely of comebacks, although coach Andy Fensome was still very pleased with their performance.
“I thought we played really well,” said Fenners, speaking to PNE.Com after the match.
“I thought we played some really good football and they never gave up all game. Even when we were 3-0 down, I still thought we were the team that were pushing forward and trying to create the chances.”
Fenners believed his team had the opportunities to get a result and it was their lack of ruthlessness in front of goal that ended up costing them.
He said: “We had two great chances to score before they got their first and that probably changed the game.
“We’ve got to get better at taking the clear-cut chances we had, particularly in the first half and getting on the end of things when we put the ball in the box. They were more clinical than us today.”
Despite this, Fenners was still very pleased of how well the particularly young side conducted themselves and went about their business.
“I think they acquitted themselves really well,” he said.
“We like to push players up and, with our usual boys playing in the reserves and needing rest, it was a great opportunity for the U16s to come and play and show what they’re capable of.
“They’re a good group of players and – looking ahead to bringing them through as scholars – this experience today will be really good for them.”