A Sean Holmes goal on the stroke of half time was not enough for Preston North End U18s as they lost 2-1 to rivals Blackpool.
A win would have seen the young Lilywhites leapfrog their Lancashire neighbours in the Youth Alliance League, but instead they were left to rue a disappointing display at a rain soaked Springfields.
Two goals in four first half minutes sealed the victory for the Tangerines as they went five points clear of North End in the table.
Nick Harrison made two changes to the side which beat Mansfield 6-1 in the FA Youth Cup. Ross Dalton was replaced by Bradley Martin in goal and Lyle Magolis came in for Sam Livesey.
Despite the final result, it was Preston who started on the front foot and had the first meaningful effort on goal.
Joe Whittington collected the ball on the left wing, jinked past a Blackpool defender, cut onto his right foot and unleashed a ferocious shot towards the opposite corner of the net, which Pool ‘keeper Connor Hunt did well to save.
It was the away side that benefitted from the resulting corner however, as they broke on the counter attack and scored their first goal of the afternoon.
A cross from the right found Connor Ready on the edge of the box and the Blackpool forward made no mistake in firing his shot on the turn beyond Martin and into the net.
Just four minutes later the visitors had doubled their lead. An exquisite reverse through ball by George Lomax found Dion Charles and the winger outran Preston right back George Gray before finishing underneath the onrushing Martin.
North End responded well to Blackpool’s second as Tyler Forbes attempted to play Jack Ryan through on goal.
It looked as if the towering forward had beaten the offside trap until a late flag from the linesman thwarted his run.
Three minutes later, Blackpool went close to a third. Henry Cameron found some space on the wing and delivered a dangerous ball across the face of the Preston goal.
Ready stretched but failed to make contact and North End were soon able to clear the danger.
As the match headed towards half time, it looked as if the Lilywhites would head into the break two goals down, but for a smart substitution by Nick Harrison.
The Preston coach replaced Ryan up front with Sam Livesey, who sparked the Lilywhites into life.
With just seconds remaining in the first half, the 16-year-old collected the ball on the right wing and crossed into box.
It bounced out to Holmes who set his feet and fired towards goal. Somehow his effort squirmed past Connor Hunt and nestled in the bottom left hand corner, giving the Lilywhites a lifeline.
However in the minutes following the break, it was Blackpool who started strongest.
Cameron was put through one-on-one, straight from a goal kick, and looked set to put the game beyond Preston’s reach.
A brilliant recovery tackle by Josh Sampson prevented the Pool No. 7 getting a shot away and Ready then skied the follow-up.
In the 51st minute North End came close to an unlikely equaliser. Livesey received the ball on the right, cut inside and attempted to finish with a sublime lob.
It was a heart-in-the-mouth moment for the Blackpool coaching staff on the sidelines until the ball hit the roof of the net.
The away side dominated the remaining half an hour and produced numerous chances which could have seen them double their advantage.
Ready, who had been a nuisance to the Preston defence all morning, came close in the 60th minute but miscued his shot.
Then, an excellent save by Martin kept North End in the game after Cameron had fired across the PNE shot stopper.
As the clocked ticked towards the 90th minute, the hosts were awarded a free kick around 25-yards out – their last chance to conjure a leveller.
Sampson took the set-piece for the Lilywhites and his deflected shot went out for a corner, which Blackpool dealt with.
The Tangerines then saw out the game and were able to celebrate a vital derby win.
Nick Harrison was disappointed at his side’s defeat and believes Blackpool’s quick-fire first half double killed the game off early.
He told PNE.Com: “The first 25 minutes killed it.
“They deserved the goal because I think they started better, we didn’t defend well, and we got punished for it.”
The academy coach is now looking for a strong performance from the U18s in their next match, another Lancashire derby – this time against Burnley.
“The next game is important, they’ve got to look to get a result in the next one,” he continued.
“It’s a big game against Burnley and hopefully if we get a result there that will take us into the game against York in the FA Youth Cup round two.”
Meanwhile midfielder Jordan Scott expressed his dismay after such a hard-fought derby loss.
“It’s disappointing for the lads to be honest, especially after the game from Friday, we were expecting to push on,” he said.
“But we just didn’t perform today at all.”
Preston U18s line-up: Martin, Gray, Anderton, Scott, Sampson, Roscoe, Magolis (Robinson), Holmes, Ryan (Livesey), Forbes, Whittington (Quigley). Unused substitutes: Wicks, Hagon
Blackpool U18s line-up: Hunt, Richardson, Clayton, Waddington, McGahey, Moulden, Cameron, Shaw, Lomax, Ready, Charles