Preston North End U18s were harshly denied victory as Wigan clawed their way back from two goals down to earn a point at a wet and windy Christopher Park.
Sean Holmes and Tyler Forbes initially gave Preston a 2-0 lead and looked to have them in a commanding position but Wigan hit back through Liam Lambert and a last minute equaliser from Sam Cosgrove to ensure The Latics recorded their third draw in a row.
The game was just the Academy’s second game since the turn of the year after games between Burnley and Morecambe were postponed.
Goalmouth action was limited for much of the first half, as the windy conditions made it difficult for either side to get a real grip of the contest.
PNE goalkeeper Matthew Hudson was forced into action early on when Cosgrove played a neat through ball into Dwayne Foster but the striker fired straight at the Preston shot stopper.
Wigan defender Daniel Leigh strode forward to blaze over from an awkward angle, but after a shaky start PNE got themselves into the game.
Striker Jack Ryan paved his way past several Wigan defenders to set up a one-on-one against Latics’ ‘keeper Callum Mulby, but the number one got down quickly to stop the striker from scoring the first goal of the game.
Ryan went close again not long after.
A brilliant cross from Nick Anderton from the left hand side came to the 17-year-old, but once again he was denied by the quick reactions of Mulby who flicked his header over for the corner.
Just on the stroke of half-time, a Forbes free kick on the edge of the area was turned in by the head of Holmes to give the visitors a 1-0 lead going into the break.
Declan Poole, and Lambert both threatened Hudson’s goal early on in the second half, Poole with a speculative drive from outside the area, and Lambert with a free kick going wide.
But Preston more than matched that when a lofted ball from George Gray met by Ryan, but his header was again denied by the arms of Mulby.
Ryan, who was busy for much of the second half, had a goal ruled out after his tidy finish was chalked off for a previous infringement, but North End did double their advantage in the 65th minute.
Ryan and Forbes played a terrific one-two with each other before the PNE captain smashed home on the half volley to give his side a two nil lead.
That lead was halved almost instantly after the restart however.
Latics’ Lambert tapping in from close range to set up a nervy finish for the Lilywhites with just over 20 minutes left on the clock.
A Preston counter allowed Ryan in front of goal again, but an intervention from defender Adam Anson saw the forward’s shot deflect wide.
A Wigan free kick fell straight into the palms of Hudson, but apart from that, Preston contained their opponents for much of the game until full back Gray went off injured.
The defender had a solid game, until a heavy collision saw the 17-year-old limp off the field.
The loss spearheaded a revitalised Wigan who pushed for an equaliser with ten minutes remaining.
And they were awarded a corner with just a minute of normal time left on the clock.
The resulting set play reaching the towering Cosgrove who lost his man to head past Hudson.
The draw, a cruel blow to Nick Harrison’s side, but the PNE Academy boss was buoyed with his team’s performance after their first game in the league for almost a month.
“We’re disappointed that we didn’t win the game, but obviously we were pleased with how well we did,” said the manager.
“It would have been nice to have got the three points, but I can’t fault the lads because I thought each and every one of them was fantastic.
“Youth Football is about development.
“You can play really well and maybe not get the three points or a positive result, but we ask them every day in training that we want a good performance more than anything else and we certainly got that today.”
There was no sign of rustiness from PNE despite it being their first league game in four weeks, with the previous two games falling foul to the weather.
Nonetheless, the manager denied that the lack of game time had any impact on how his side went into the match.
“We train everyday with little training games, and some of the lads were involved in a reserve game on Tuesday, so we’ve gone into the game as we would with any other game.
“The weather is what it is; you just have to get on with it.
“The conditions were again terrible today, but it was the same for both teams.
“We had the wind and the rain, but I thought our lads coped really well with the conditions and we more than matched our opponents.”
PNE starting XI: Hudson, Gray, Anderton, Bunclark, Sampson, Roscoe, Smith, Holmes, Ryan, Whittington, Forbes
PNE subs: Scott, Dalton, Hagon, Magnolis, Livesey
Wigan starting XI: Mulby, Leigh, Lambert, Parzcki, Anson, Waldron, Flores, Poole, Cosgrove, Cvetkovic, Foster
Wigan subs: Corey, Mcnally, Foukamene, Hamilton, Robles