Preston North End ended their league campaign with defeat to Macclesfield Town despite taking a two nil lead with 30 minutes left to play.
PNE took the lead early in the second half courtesy of goals from Sam Livesey and Jordan Scott, only to be pegged back with a double from Jake Prescott and an own goal from George Gray in the dying minutes of the game.
The defeat means North End conclude the North West Youth Alliance League in a respectable mid-table position, despite losing the likes of Josh Brownhill to the first team and players such as Jack Ryan, and Nick Anderton to Stalybridge Celtic and Chorley on loan respectively.
Inside the first ten minutes, speculative attempts from Joe Whittington and Bradley Roscoe went wide of the mark, but Milan Thompson’s effort went a lot closer to breaking the deadlock early on.
The Macclesfield front man fired a low driven effort that sprung goalkeeper Tom Quinn into action.
The shot stopper managing to get down to his right before deflecting the shot away.
Another long distance punt from Roscoe caught Connor O’Keefe off his line, but the goalkeeper recovered well to safely collect.
The half hour mark sparked a host of chances for both sides beginning with the Silkmen’s Prescott; who weaved his way past several North Enders before releasing a venomous effort that cannoned off Quinn and out of play.
A Tyler Forbes free kick from the right fell straight to Livesey, but the 17-year-old couldn’t get the ball out of his feet in time, as his shot found the arms of Macclesfield’s ‘keeper.
Whittington then had time to run into space before swinging his left foot, but the ball could only trickle past the post.
The winger then found himself in a spot of bother after his tackle from behind saw the youngster go in the referee’s book, Dan Cowan seeing his shot deflected for a corner from the resulting free kick.
A succession of corners followed which eventually saw Thompson leap higher than the rest, but his header flashed across goal before going out for a goal kick.
And that concluded the end of the action in the first-half, with both sides going in at half-time with every opportunity of finishing their league campaign off with three points.
Shortly after the restart, a through ball from Prescott found Thompson, but his shot went well wide of the target and it was North End that took the lead on 56 minutes.
Tom Bunclark swung in a free-kick after Whittington was deemed to be fouled on the edge of the box.
The ball was cleared only as far as Scott, who struck a ferocious volley that was swept off the line back to the number four; who at the second attempt lofted the ball into the near post for Livesey to latch onto and nod home.
And the second came just six minutes later, with Scott himself this time getting his name on the score-sheet.
A vicious grass cutter from the midfielder took a wicked deflection off Haynes, catching O’Keefe out, and sneaking into the net.
PNE’s two goal cushion lasted a matter of minutes, when Roscoe was adjudged to have fouled Thompson in the box, prompting referee Mr Philbin to point to the spot, Prescott making no mistake with the penalty, firing into Quinn’s top right hand corner to spearhead the comeback.
A mix-up between Josh Sampson and goalkeeper Quinn allowed Macclesfield their equaliser, Sampson’s clearance rebounding off Quinn and into the path of Prescott who had an empty goal to aim at from five yards out.
And the home side’s comeback was complete with 90 minutes on the clock.
Clever link-up play from Jack Hunter and Prescott paved the way for Prescott to whip the ball across goal and the delivery forced Gray to fire into his own net to ensure Macclesfield took the lead for the first time in the game with just seconds remaining.
In a desperate attempt to get back into the game, Scott dinked a ball into the box in the hope that Lyle Magolis could get onto the end of it.
The ball was agonisingly too strong for the substitute however, who could only poke his attempt onto the head of the opposing goalkeeper and away from danger.
Speaking after the game, Academy coach Nick Harrison admitted that it was silly mistakes that separated the two sides.
Harrison said “The first half was quite even, as they had some good opportunities and we had some good opportunities, but at half-time we really fancied our chances to take the second half to them.
“We started the second half well, got the two nil lead, but it was just little mistakes that cost us.
“The penalty was a soft decision and then we were a bit unfortunate with the back pass and the own goal, so yes we’re disappointed, because we deserved something out of the game.”
Despite concluding the campaign with a loss, Harrison was more than content with the progress his side has made this season.
“It’s been a fantastic season” he continued.
“Yes we haven’t got the results with the U18s from time to time, but as long as we’re producing players, that’s the main thing.
“Josh Brownhill has made the step-up to the first team, and a couple more have been given pro contracts so yes it’s been a great season.
"But we’ve got to really build on it next year and produce more players that are able to fit into the first team and do as well as we can with the league we’re playing in.”