Preston North End’s U18’s went down fighting in their 3-2 loss to Manchester City.
A goal in either half from Tyler Forbes and Jack Ryan were not enough to prevent defeat in what was an otherwise excellent display.
After last week’s disappointing defeat to Bury, the U18’s bounced back admirably, leaving a strong City side frustrated for large periods of the game.
They twice dragged themselves back level before a superb curling effort minutes before the final whistle won the game for the Citizens.
It was City who imposed themselves first on proceedings.
Their high pressing game troubled North End early on, who found it difficult to produce their usual short passing football.
As the half lengthened however, City began to tire and Preston’s confidence grew.
It soon became apparent the Sky Blues were becoming agitated by Preston’s stubborn defending.
The rock solid presence of Steven James in goal was called upon early into the first half.
The stocky shot stopper, not once, but twice, produced brilliant point blank saves to prevent the opposition from taking an early lead.
City started to become impatient and Preston were unfortunate not to capitalise.
A well-executed counter attack saw Sam Livesey break clear down the right, and from a tight angle he forced a save from City’s goalkeeper, tipping the forward’s effort around his near post.
From this, Preston began to finally find their attacking impetus.
Two slick passing moves from back to front saw captain Josh Brownhill twice attempt audacious long-range efforts with both being hit straight at the keeper.
The Manchester Club introduced a host of new faces midway through the first-half and it instantly brought about the first goal of the game.
City’s centre half carried the ball unchallenged from his own half and found his teammate on the wing who cut inside and unleashed a curling effort that beat goalkeeper James, finding the top corner.
Preston’s response was swift however, and they were soon level.
Stand out performer Forbes’ free kick from near the left hand touchline swirled up and over everyone, including the City keeper, and unintentionally, found the top corner.
It was a deserved leveller for North End and just the luck they deserved.
But just before the break, Manchester City retook the lead.
The Citizens goalscorer grabbed his second, kidding everyone from a free kick and sticking the ball low into the right of the goal.
The young Lilywhites came out fighting in the second-half, seemingly unaffected by City’s goal on the stroke of half-time.
Forward Ryan’s powerful burst forward and consequent pull back found Brownhill, who could only shoot high over the bar.
The bright start to the half brought a hatful of half chances. Livesey was first in attempting to bring the scoreline back level, but he couldn’t connect how he would have liked to Forbes’ teasing delivery.
Centre halves Harry Hagan and Josh Sampson were next in trying to grab Preston’s second, as Brownhill’s corner sparked a massive game of pinball in the City area.
Hagan’s swipe goalwards was blocked, before Sampson’s unorthodox effort was hit straight at the opposition keeper.
The youngsters persistence paid off however when substitute Bradley Wickes pickpocketed a City midfielder and drove at the heart of their defence.
He coolly picked out Ryan, who took one touch before unleashing a fierce effort across the City keeper, who could only watch the ball fly into his bottom corner.
It looked like North End were going to grab a deserved draw, but minutes from the end, City’s young right winger hit the winner, with a goal worthy of winning any game.
Almost identical to his team’s first, he cut inside from the right and curled the ball around and over Preston’s second-half goalkeeper Ross Dalton into the top corner.
Academy boss Nick Harrison was buoyed by his side’s efforts however and believes the players are prepared for the start of the new season on the 10th August.
“We have had some really good games against some good opposition. We really wanted to test the boys physically and tactically.
"We come up against a really good Manchester City team today and done really well.”
Striker and scorer Ryan was equally pleased about the team’s performance: “We were unfortunate not to get a win but we came out second-half and did well.”
The U18’s travel to Sheffield Wednesday in their last pre-season friendly before the season’s opener at home to Oldham Athletic.