A late strike from Chris Sang saw Preston North End defeated against Wigan Athletic 1-0 at Robin Park, Wigan.
Academy boss Nick Harrison made six changes to the starting eleven that beat Carlisle United in midweek with Callum Roberts, Callum Tait, Tom Barry, James Boyd, Leon Creech and Josh Earl returning to the side for Mathew Hudson, Sean Whelan, Oliver Crankshaw, Dylan Davidson, Melle Meulensteen, and Jonathan Lunney.
The game started at a frantic pace with both teams creating chances - in the first minute, Wigan nearly took the lead after a back pass to Preston’s shot-stopper Roberts skidded along the playing surface, and the PNE keeper’s heavy touch was very nearly punished by the Wigan forwards.
In the early stages, PNE looked threatening on the counter attack, relying on individual runs from deep to get the team up the pitch. On 7 minutes, a powerful run from central midfielder Lamin Jagne put the Wigan defenders under pressure and they hacked him down outside the box.
The resulting free kick, whipped in at pace resulted in a goalmouth scramble but nobody was able to capitalise on the loose ball.
After the opening 10 minutes, PNE had a long and sustained spell of pressure but failed to create a clear cut chance.
On 19 minutes, Leon Creech had the first shot of the game - his weaving run from the left to the centre of the pitch created space for a shot, but he dragged his effort wide.
A minute later, PNE had a great opportunity to score, a good ball from Barry on the right, to the back post - left Earl to turn the ball into the net, only for him to miscue his shot with the ball going out for a throw-in.
On the half hour, PNE were forced into a substitution after Earl rose highest to head clear from a threatening cross and was then clattered into by a number of bodies.
Two chances in added time fell Wigan’s way - main striker Callum Lang smashed a volley over the bar after the ball feel kindly to him, but Wigan’s first effort on target came from their right-back - Arnie Baxendale, who surged down the right and his powerful cross nearly beat Roberts at the near-post.
The second half began like the first, Wigan starting the brightest - a reaction shot from Lang rippled the side netting.
On 55 minutes, Lunney was unable to convert blasting straight at the keeper from 10 yards. The Wigan keeper then launched a counter attack and within ten seconds of Lunney’s shot, Roberts stopped Lang from giving the home side the lead with an excellent save low-down.
The game became really open for a 20 minute period - on 60 minutes, Lingard, Wigan’s left back smashed an effort goal wards from 25 yards, it seemed destined for the top corner only for a superb fingertip save to keep the match level.
The introduction of Meulensteen on 63’ helped the game. He forced PNE to adopt a more intricate style of play around the box with a number of fast one-two’s.
It wasn’t enough though as Wigan took the lead, after a sustained spell of pressure, the Latics forced a corner - the ball ricocheted off several bodies and fell nicely to Sang who prodded the ball home to make it 1-0.
The goal settled the home side who played some of their best football after taking the lead. If it hadn’t been for some more great goalkeeping from Roberts then Wigan would’ve doubled their lead. The Wigan forwards getting in behind the defence and being forced wide and then forcing the keeper to come out and claim the ball with minutes left on the clock.
The result was unfair on the team - Wigan have now gone 11 games undefeated in all competitions and it took an element of luck for them to get past PNE.
Speaking after the game, Academy manager Nick Harrison admitted that performances needed to be consistent for 90 minutes to get results.
“For large parts of the game we were very good, especially the first half but when we are that good in one half we expect it in the other period and really we should’ve gone onto win the game.
“It’s a little bit frustrating in terms of we did very well first half especially with the conditions we had to deal with. We thought we defended very well and probably created the better chances in the first half.
“The players have got to perform for 90 minutes and not just 60-70 minutes and we’ve certainly got to be better defending a set-piece.
“That’s the expectation that we put onto the players. We’re a Championship club and players have got to be good enough to play in the Championship. That’s the standard we are looking at.”
PNE line-up: C Roberts, C Tait, AJ Robinson (BOOKED 49’) , L Jagne, B Roberts, J Burgoyne, T Barry , J Boyd, F Tracey, L Creech, J Earl
PNE subs: Kwateng, Cottam, Meulenstein, Lunney, Davidson