Preston North End U18s suffered a 2-0 away defeat at the hands of Tranmere Rovers, as an impressive brace from Tolani Omotola was enough to seal the victory for the hosts.
This was met by frustration from the Preston bench, however, with suggestions that the free-kick was taken from an advanced position.
Having adopted a possession-based style, PNE made a bright start to the game with some delightful passing on show.
Tranmere’s wonder goal seemed to have a damning effect on the Lilywhites, however, and minutes later Omotala doubled his tally and Tranmere’s lead with a strike across the goal from the right side of the box.
North End had missed a chance to take the lead early on in the game, when Jonathan Lunney’s pin-point corner found Luke Pritchard lurking at the back post, but the forward failed to find the back of the net from close range.
Shortly after Pritchard came close again, but his curling free-kick from 25 yards flew inches wide of the target.
Dalton was also on hand to deny Jake Hulley, who surged forward from the back and unleashed a fierce strike, but the Preston shot-stopper palmed over the bar.
The young Lilywhites stayed patient with their passing style, but Tranmere were very compact and pressing well from the front to hurry the visitors.
Half-time arrived with PNE unfortunate to find themselves two goals behind and Academy manager Nick Harrison shook things up for the restart.
Lamin Jagne and Oliver Crankshaw were replaced by regular striker Eddie Dsane and trialist Anthony Smith as the Lilywhites reverted to a 4-4-2 in an attempt to get back into the game.
Tranmere nearly extended their lead at the start of the half when Omatola squared a cross, but nobody was there to convert for Tranmere, as the ball trickled across the six yard box.
PNE were then forced to change personnel when Pritchard limped off for Adam Robinson, forcing the shape to change once again to three in the middle.
PNE maintained their patient passing game, but they failed to produce anything that really tested the goalkeeper.
James Boyd used neat footwork to find some space and pulled the trigger on a powerful strike, but his effort swerved just over the upright.
Substitute Dsane had a positive impact on the game and looked like PNE’s biggest threat going forward.
He darted inside from the right wing and struck a left foot shot, but again failed to hit the target as it sailed over the bar.
Approaching the last 20 minutes PNE found the next gear and started to apply more pressure than any time previously in the game.
Lunney picked up the ball wide on the right channel and attempted to bend the ball into the far corner using a player as a hindrance to the keeper, but the strike was lacking.
Dsane and Boyd combined well with some neat flicks to gain the latter some space on the edge of the box and get a swivel shot away, however, it was a comfortable save for the Tranmere keeper.
Lunney had the best chance to give PNE a route back into the game when he brought down a Dalton kick from the heavens with a deft touch on the right wing.
He got inside the penalty area, however, the midfielder failed to pull the trigger quick enough and soon got crowded out in the penalty area and his shot was deflected wide.
The deflection was off the face of Hulley and the game saw a long stoppage allowing the full back to regain consciousness and recover properly.
Tranmere nearly rubbed salt into the PNE wounds in injury time, but Dalton stood tall saving with his leg when faced with a one-one-one, keeping the score at 2-0.
The game come to an end with Tranmere staying solid and keeping a clean sheet on their way to the three points.
PNE XI: Dalton, Smith, Bergoyne, Hagon, Whelan, Roscoe, Boyd, Jagne (Dsane, 46), Crankshaw (Smith, 46), Lunney, Pritchard (Robinson, 57). Subs not used: Wicks.