Preston North End U18s fell to a harsh 4-0 defeat against Bury on Saturday thanks to some clinical finishing from the home side.
The Lilywhites survived a difficult start and enjoyed a great spell midway through the first half, but couldn’t open the scoring before Bury netted four second half goals.
Bury threatened early on, first lashing a shot into the side netting before Callum Roberts was forced into making a fantastic one-on-one save, and PNE had to be patient in the early stages as the home side saw plenty of the ball.
PNE gradually came into the game, though, with Alex Wood’s powerful run providing a warning sign for Bury before Dylan Davidson and Melle Meulensteen went close with efforts from outside the area at the mid-point of the first half.
Wood then went close himself, as some wonderful build-up play from Meulensteen and Oscar O’Neil found him in space behind the defence, but his shot went agonisingly wide.
Few chances came before the break thereafter though, with Davidson’s blocked effort moments before the break the closest PNE came to scoring amidst the intriguing battle that ensued in the latter stages of the first half.
Some intelligent defending from Lewis Fensome and Akwasi Kwateng helped to keep the scores level before the break, but early signs suggested it would be PNE who took control in the second half.
The visitors kept possession well in the moments after the break and it looked as though they would be immediately rewarded for that, as Meulensteen found space inside the area only to see his shot deflected away. Bury broke from the resulting corner though, and might have scored if their forward had shot instead of crossing.
But the goal did come shortly after in the 53rd minute. Bury’s right winger took a touch inside from that flank before tucking a left-footed effort inside the near post to put the hosts ahead.
The away side brought on striker Miles Mason in an effort to find an equaliser, but despite their best efforts, PNE couldn’t prize open the resilient opposition defence as Bury doubled their lead ten minutes later. Striker Rob Harker headed in from a left-wing cross with 63 minutes played.
Meulensteen went close with a curled free-kick but again, Bury got another ten minutes after their previous strike. It was Harker again who netted, as he scored from a curling first-time effort on the edge of the area after an efficient counter attack.
PNE didn’t give up in their pursuit of scoring and were unfortunate not to pull one back moments after. Another Meulensteen effort was tipped around the corner and the visitors would have found the net had someone got the vital touch from a corner moments later.
Bury could then have had another on the counter when a shot was placed just wide, but the fourth goal did come with nine minutes remaining. A solo run from Jesse Arizie down the left-flank and into the area ended with a low finish into the PNE goal, making it 4-0.
A couple of clever flicks from Meulensteen in the final minutes might have led to scoring chances but it simply wasn’t to be for the Lilywhites on a frustrating afternoon at Carrington.
However, manager Nick Harrison still took some positives from the game, saying: “The first half was an even game. We probably had the better chances and probably should have scored from one chance just before their first goal, but we couldn’t take them. It’s frustrating because if we scored, the game might have changed.
“We created some great chances and should have scored. We’ve just got to keep working hard and collectively and individually and it will come, but it needs to come quickly. We can’t afford to play in games and not score goals and concede in the way that we did.
“The first half performance was very good but we collapsed all over the pitch after that with our defensive duties, and the goals we conceded were too easy.
“We mentally switched off and lost a bit of concentration. They were causing us some problems but we have to deal with those by staying with runners, winning tackles and second balls and defending better one against one. We didn’t do those things enough and that’s why we lost the game.
“They scored four goals because they had more desire to put the ball in the back of the net than we did to keep it out.
“I thought Josh Earl was very good today, he defended and passed the ball well and got forward very well, too. So although we’re disappointed we lost we’ve got to look at it from a development point of view that Josh did really well today.”