The PNE Academy was held to a 0-0 draw at home to Tranmere on Saturday completing a run of three consecutive stalemates, including the 2-2 AET result against Crewe in the FA Youth Cup.
Preston were full of energy from the kick-off and were making life difficult for Tranmere and their insistence to play out short from the back.
Eddie Dsane had the first chance of the match bursting free down the right wing to get on the end of Sam Livesey’s through ball, he cut in towards goal but once rounding Tranmere keeper Patrick Rutter, the angle was too tight and he could only find the side netting.
Shortly after, Jonathan Lunney skipped his way past two defenders to reach the left by-line and cut back, his cross found James Boyd who couldn’t control his header, sending a good chance over the bar.
The game entered a very disjointed phase mid-way through the first half with both sides really struggling to get a grasp of the football, including plenty of astray passes.
Harry Hagon however was looking extremely solid alongside captain Bradley Roscoe who was playing at centre-back with Joshua Sampson on loan at Tamworth, the duo fended off the threat posed by Tranmere’s
forwards Sam Llesanmi and Tolani Omotala.
The first time Llesanmi did get the better of Hagon however, presented Tranmere with a fantastic opportunity to go in front.
Rovers’ forward wriggled free of Hagon down the left side of the penalty box and darted inside on his right foot, but with only Ross Dalton to beat he snatched his shot, dragging it wide of the left-hand post.
Despite the lack of quality from both sides, PNE had a glorious opportunity to go into half-time with the lead when Dsane broke through down the right and cut back to Lunney, but he miscued his shot and Boyd’s follow up was blocked, leaving the score 0-0 at the interval.
After a cagey start to the second period, the Academy endured their best spell of the match carving out a flurry of chances.
Firstly, Clive Smith got round his man to reach the by-line and square a ball to Dsane, but the striker couldn’t set his feet quick enough to pull the trigger and the danger was averted by Tranmere.
Soon after came Preston’s best chance of the match when Sean Whelan delivered a perfect cross from the left flank to the arriving Livesey, but he failed to make the right contact glancing the ball well wide of the target.
Dsane then went on a typical mazy run down the left and shifted the ball onto his right, but his curling effort from the edge of the box found its way into Rutters’ arms.
Nick Harrison then replaced Livesey with Luke Pritchard and he was involved in the action immediately.
The substitute linked up with Dsane but his final product wasn’t what was required, blazing a long range strike well over the crossbar.
Preston had endured a period of play were ultimately they should’ve come out with at least a goal to show for it and Tranmere were determined to make them pay as Rovers started to move through the gears.
Llesanmi was first to test Dalton as he swivelled past Roscoe on the left edge of the box and rifled in a shot but Dalton was on hand at his near post.
Tranmere continued their pursuit of a goal with Llesanmi going close again.
His strength saw him gain half a yard but his powerful shot across to Dalton’s left was magnificently tipped round the post by the Preston shot-stopper.
Dalton completed a trio of saves with a fantastic reflex stop from Tom Williams’ powerful header from a Tranmere corner.
Pritchard had a golden opportunity to snatch all three points when Boyd teed him up inside the box only for the winger to send his volley sailing over the frame of the goal.
Both sides tried desperately for a late winner but it was all very much huff and puff and the game petered out into the 0-0 draw it was deserved of.
Nick Harrison spoke after the match about how he was disappointed with his side’s performance.
He said: “It was poor in terms of standards, I thought we didn’t pass the ball very well at all.
“The pitch was heavy but I don’t think we can blame that, we’re used to playing on heavy pitches, it was just a poor performance in terms of how we passed and controlled the ball.
“The players have to be better if they want to develop and progress and that’s what it’s all about.
“It’s about them trying to get themselves a professional contract and to try and be at a level to play first team football.
“I think what was on show today wasn’t good enough to do that.”
Harrison did compliment his side’s bright start but ultimately wasn’t satisfied with the teams build up play and final product, adding: “I thought we started quite brightly, we maybe had a couple chances that we should’ve put away in the first ten minutes, but after that our quality was poor.
“Our passing was off, our first touch was off, and our decision making in terms of when to pass it short and when to pass it long [was off].”
Harrison did take a positive out of the game in his defence and was happy with his goalkeeper Ross Dalton.
He said: “We’ve got to take that as a positive that we have got a point and we have kept a cleansheet, I thought Ross Dalton made two excellent saves.”
PNE Starting XI: Dalton, Smith, Whelan, Wicks, Roscoe, Hagon, Livesey, Joseph Robinson, Dsane, Boyd, Lunney
Subs: Pritchard, Hudson, Jagne, Hancox, Roberts
Tranmere Starting XI: Rutter, Hulley, Hunter, Cringle, Williams, Smith, Jago, Llesanmi, Omotala, Moynes
Subs: Askew, Wharton, Lucy, Akpan, Croughan