PNE were narrowly beaten by Burnley on Tuesday, as a goal just before the break condemned them to a 1-0 loss at Victory Park.
The game was the Academy’s second in four days, Nick Harrison having to freshen up his side by making five changes, due to a number of players featuring in a reserve fixture that day instead.
Clive Smith, James Quigley, Harry Hagon, Lyle Magolis, and Luke Pritchard came in to the starting 11 as replacements for George Gray, Nick Anderton, Josh Sampson, Tyler Forbes, and Tom Bunclark.
In addition, youngsters Oliver Crankshaw, Ellis Hancox, and James Boyd also made the bench, eager to impress before the season closes.
Bradley Roscoe skippered the side in the absence of Forbes.
Such were the influx of changes to North End’s starting line-up; they seemed to come out of the blocks slower than their opponents.
Waqus Azam played a square ball from the right into Ntumba Massanka, who asked the first question of the game of Ross Dalton.
The PNE goalkeeper answering with a terrific reaction save to his right to parry away the effort.
Soon after, Massanka was again close to finding the first goal.
The Burnley attacker cracking the bar from 25 yards out inside the first ten minutes.
Aiden O’Neill provided Alex Whitmore with a free header in the box, but he nodded straight at Dalton to allow the shot stopper to keep Burnley out, when anywhere else in the goal and the Clarets may well have found themselves in the lead.
Azam continued to provide Burnley with width down the right hand side.
The full back making a surging run before cutting the ball back to Christian Hill who turned his marker before firing a shot straight down the throat of Dalton.
And it was Hill who set up what proved to be the winner.
The youngster pulling the ball back before finding Massanka, who clipped it past Dalton and into the net to send his side one up just before the break.
Despite the slow start, a different North End side came out of the tunnel in the second half.
Joe Whittington starting the revival, bringing the ball down before unleashing a shot at goal, obliging Connor Mitchell to save to his right.
Sean Holmes took advantage of some casual Burnley defending, winning the ball 25 yards out before playing a through pass into Sam Livesey.
The ball was always creeping away from the PNE forward however, and the 17-year-old could only poke his shot just past the right hand post at full stretch.
Holmes himself went close, but he could only drill his 20 yard shot wide, before Pritchard left his marker for dust before blazing a shot over.
With an hour on the clock, Harrison brought on Bunclark for Magolis with the home side still finding themselves a goal down.
And it could have been worse, but Burnley were denied by some last ditch footwork on the line.
Brandon Wilson found himself free on goal, but he was denied by the feet of Dalton, before Quigley cleared off the line after Connor King caught North End’s ‘keeper out of position.
Livesey bravely contested a high ball with Mitchell to create an opportunity for Whittington to shoot at goal, but his shot sailed off target.
With time against them, the Lilywhites very nearly grabbed a deserved share of the points.
Hagon found himself with the ball at his feet from a corner before having his shot cleared off the line.
The resulting rebound coming back out to the North End centre back, but his header could only nudge the frame of the goal.
A looping effort from Bunclark just before the final whistle threatened Burnley’s defence, but the away side held on to record a victory on a wet and windy afternoon in Chorley.
Speaking after the game, Academy boss Nick Harrison conceded the match was a game of two halves, as Preston U18s more than made up for their slow first half in the second.
“We were probably lucky to go in just one nil down at half-time,” admitted Harrison.
“The wind helped them a little bit, but I thought we were well below our performance level, so we had a good discussion at half-time and we got the reaction we wanted.
“If we’d had drawn the game at the end or even gone on to win it, we would have deserved it with our second half performance.”
Boss Harrison was without several key players, with some of them playing in a reserve game the same day instead, and the boss seemed to relish blooding in a few of the younger Academy products.
Harrison said “It’s given younger lads, certainly the first years, an opportunity to get 90 minutes today which was great.
“With or without the reserve game, we probably would have changed a few anyway.
“We had a game Saturday and we’ve got another this Saturday, so the games are coming thick and fast.
A day after Academy product Josh Brownhill was awarded man of the match for his impressive display against Sheffield United at senior level, Harrison also commented on how the youth players can use Josh as a motivational tool.
He continued “They’ve got to use Josh’s success as motivation.
“If they do that, they give themselves a great opportunity.
“Josh getting man of the match, and Bailey Wright, another one from our set-up making his 100th appearance and getting the captain’s armband, is brilliant for us, and a real credit to our Academy.”
PNE Starting XI: Dalton, Smith, Quigley, Scott, Hagon, Roscoe, Magolis, Holmes, Livesey, Pritchard, Whittington
PNE subs Bunclark, Hudson, Crankshaw, Hancox, Boyd
Burnley Starting XI: Mitchell, Azam, Nugent, O’Neill, Richardson, Whitmore, Jackson, Massanka, Ly, Hill
Burnley subs King, Daly, Hobson, Nuttall