A young Preston North End fell to an unfortunate home defeat against Morecambe in their final game of the season.
Michael Howard came close to opening the scoring in just the second minute as he cut inside from the left wing but fired his shot into the side netting.
That would be the only real opening of note for some time though, as Morecambe threatened on the counter attack but were frequently denied by the PNE defence.
Melle Meulensteen and Akwasi Kwateng saw shots from outside the area drift just wide before the break, but the Lilywhites’ best chance of the half fell to Dylan Davidson only minutes before the half ended.
After a surging run down the right Davidson dribbled inside and unleashed a powerful shot towards the bottom left corner, but the Morecambe ‘keeper somehow managed to turn his effort just around the post.
The second half began in the same competitive vein as the first, as Kwateng first combined well with Meulensteen and crossed narrowly over before Lewis Fensome was forced into making a vital interception to prevent a Morecambe goal at the other end.
Morecambe then had a great opportunity as a ball was hit over the top of PNE’s defence and James Cottam ran off his line, but the resulting lob hit the side netting.
The two sides continued to play out an even encounter until PNE started to put the pressure on in the final 15 minutes of the match. Meulensteen found Kwateng again, but his poked shot was saved from close range, before Leon Creech went close with a fantastic driven effort from some distance outside the area.
Fensome was involved again at the other end as his header was cleared off the line and and Leon Creech then also had a cross cleared from across the face of goal only minutes later.
However, the away team were also giving PNE some trouble as Cottam was forced into a couple of good stops, firstly from a volley outside the area and another which was palmed away after a side footed shot much closer to goal.
Davidson had another shot from the right wing saved in the 89th minute and it seemed like it simply wouldn’t be North End’s day, and that proved to be the case in third minute of injury time.
The ball fell to Morecambe’s Joe Nelligan who curled it into the far right corner to win the game for the away side and inflict defeat on North End in their final match of the season.
Despite the close nature of the game, manager Nick Harrison was left disappointed by his team’s display: “I thought it was a very obvious young performance from a young team. With the second years not being involved it was a great game to involve a lot of the younger players, but I thought the performance was very schoolboy-like at times.
“I thought we had some chances to go and score, but they did as well. I don’t think you can ever be unlucky not to win, you should get what you deserve from the performance, and I think we did get what we deserved. Although we had chances we didn’t work hard enough off the ball to stop them playing ,we didn’t keep the ball well enough and we just didn’t have that clinical nature and quality in front of goal to get the ball in the back of the net.”
On the inclusion and performance of a large number of younger players, Harrison added: “We had some good performances from certain individuals and we had lads playing today that were only U15, so that was good but it shouldn’t be an excuse for us losing. We’ve got some good players at the Club but we expect them to take their chance if it comes and step up to the under 18s’ level.”
However, the manager said he was happy with how the season had gone overall: “We feel it’s been a good season, some of the boys have progressed and got professional contracts which is what this is ultimately about. They now have to work hard and continue to develop, learn and hopefully get in the first team. That will be a big challenge for them, but overall I’m delighted with how the season has gone. The challenge now for the players coming in next season is that they have got to go and step up to another level, perform on a consistent basis and at a high standard to give them every chance of being a professional footballer.”