North End was on the wrong end of two soft penalty decisions as Hull City came out on top at Deepdale in the U21 Premier League Cup.
After dominating possession throughout and edging the game, the Lilywhites were downed by spot kicks from Matthew Fletcher and Paul McElroy, although there was some dubiety over both decisions.
In what was an even start to the contest, two of the more senior players on show, Will Hayhurst and Chris Beardsley combined when Hayhurst delivered from the left, but Beardsley was well marshalled and was unable to wrap his left foot around the cross.
Beardsley was almost clean through on the 13 minute mark, but his shot on the bounce 20 yards out flew over Joe Cracknell’s crossbar.
North End were beginning to get their foot on the ball and spread play around the Deepdale pitch and good tenacity from Hayhurst earned the hosts a corner which Josh Brownhill delivered on to the head of Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, but the defender’s effort was cleared off the line by a Tigers defender.
In the 17th minute, Hull had their first effort on target, when Ben Clappison met Matthew Dixon’s corner, but his header was easily saved by Steven James diving low to his left.
Hull continued to burrow a way back into the game and Sam Topliss almost broke the deadlock, when his cross turned in to an unintended shot which clipped the top of James’ crossbar.
The best chance of the first half fell to Beardsley in the 33rd minute, when a delightful cross from Joe Whittington was met by the No.9, but although he got above his marker, his header crept inches wide of the right hand post.
Despite the best intentions of both teams, neither side was able to break the deadlock as referee Mr Aspinall signalled for an end to the half.
The home side were quickest out the traps at the start of the second period and it took a superb defensive header by Will Aimson to stop Bradley Roscoe nodding the Lilywhites in front from a Nick Anderton cross.
If Hull thought that the danger was over then PNE were to prove otherwise when Hayhurst gathered the loose ball before floating it to the back post, but Jack Ryan was unable to direct his header on target.
The game swung in the Tigers’ favour in the 53th minute however when they were awarded a penalty.
Fletcher burst through the heart of the Preston defence and James came sliding out to meet the midfield man, but between him and Cansdell-Sherriff, they were adjudged by the referee’s assistant to have fouled the Hull No.7.
Fletcher dusted himself off, before sending James the wrong way to give the away side the lead from the softest of penalties.
That was to be Fletcher’s last involvement in the contest and he was replaced by Sam O’Connor.
North End sparked back into life following the goal and only a stunning save by Cracknell kept out Josh Brownhill who done everything right with his shot from Beardsley’s clever knock down.
But at full stretch Cracknell clawed the ball around his right hand post at full stretch.
PNE continued to press and Ryan Croasdale was next to threaten the Hull goal with a glancing header from Alex Nicholson’s cross, but again it was to slide the wrong side of the post from a Preston perspective.
Croasdale and Brownhill were beginning to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and they linked up well with a lovely 1-2, before the latter fired at goal from distance, but his shot continued to rise just over the crossbar.
The Lilywhites were dealt a sucker punch by another soft penalty just moments later when James Armstrong was adjudged to have been shoved over in the box to the bemusement of the Preston players.
Up stepped McElroy and despite getting a strong hand to the ball, James was unable to stop his spot kick sneaking in at his left hand post.
The Lilywhites refused to quit however and Brownhill’s speculative effort from all of 30 plus yards needed Cracknell to parry it away from goal to ensure the cleansheet and the win for the visitors.
PNE line-up: James, Nicholson, Anderton, Croasdale, Roscoe, Cansdell-Sherriff, Whittington (Forbes, 68), Brownhill, Beardsley, Ryan, Hayhurst. Subs not used: Dalton, Gray, Holmes, Sampson.
Hull City line-up: Cracknell, Topliss, Clark, Dixon, Clappison, Aimson, Fletcher (O’Connor, 56), Wilson, Chambers (Barlow, 62), Armstrong (Fallowfield, 81), McElroy. : 216Attendance
: Mr R Aspinall
Subs not used: Watson, Dawson.