The youth team lost 1-0 to Fleetwood Town at UCLan Sports Arena on Saturday.
Shayden Morris’ first-half strike proved to be the winner for the visitors, although North End might have salvaged a point late on but for a penalty miss.
After a scrappy opening period, it was the Lilywhites that looked to be taking control of the contest. Lewis Simmons had the first effort at goal, shooting over from range after ten minutes, shortly before Adam O’Reilly saw his fizzing low free-kick neatly stopped by ‘keeper Billy Crellin.
Fleetwood first threatened after a quarter of an hour, Morris bursting through the middle and into the box, where PNE stopper Callum Lenton dived to his right to save his low effort.
The hosts continued to create the clearer openings, though, as Kamol Campbell was played into the inside left area of the box by O’Reilly and fired just wide of the far bottom corner.
And shortly after, Myles Mason won a free-kick on the edge of the box for O’Reilly to try his luck once more. The Irishman forced Crellin to palm his effort over the bar for a corner but Campbell’s subsequent delivery led to another chance, as Jack Armer was picked out in space but headed over.
But in the next attack, it was the visitors that took the lead. It was in the 27th minute that Morris intercepted an under hit backpass towards Lenton and then rounded the North End ‘keeper to score.
Fewer chances followed between that moment and the end of the first-half, although the home side continued to see more of the ball and put plenty of decent balls into the box, but shooting chances proved limited.
The visitors might have extended their lead on the stroke of half-time but for some great defending from Precieux Ngongo, who blocked Sam O’Halloran’s shot on the turn inside the six-yard box, before Greg McCarragher sent a vicious strike wide.
Following the interval, the Cod Army went close again as Jay Matete tested Lenton with a low strike from outside the box, but the PNE ‘keeper made a fine save to turn it behind for a corner.
Immediately up the other end, Armer picked out Simmons in space just right of the six-yard area but his header failed to trouble Crellin.
Anthony Williams put a speculative effort just over at the other end while Armer headed over from another Walker delivery just after the hour.
Lewis Earl then showed some neat footwork in midfield but struck over from distance.
Joe Rodwell-Grant’s introduction from the bench 15 minutes from time added some spark to North End’s attack, the U16 forward seeing his low shot from the edge of box saved within two minutes of his arrival.
And just over five minutes later, Rodwell-Grant earned the Lilywhites an 84th minute penalty, after he was brought down by a Fleetwood defender having latched onto O’Reilly’s first-time pass.
O’Reilly stepped up to take the penalty but was denied by Crellin, who read his effort towards the bottom left corner before the PNE man sent the rebound wide from a narrow angle.
The Lilywhites put the pressure on to force an equaliser but couldn’t forge a clear-cut opening as Fleetwood held on for their 1-0 win.
Youth team manager Nick Harrison felt his team had done enough to win the game, but needed to make the most of their scoring opportunities.
“I thought we performed well overall, but it’s just another one of those games which we dominated without being clinical,” he told PNE.com.
“I thought we could have done more to create chances, but the chances that we created were enough to be able to score goals.
“It was made difficult because of the way the opposition defended, which was very deep. We needed to try to create a little bit more but I still thought we had enough chances to win the game.”
Harrison also suggested his team were unfortunate at the back and that the result could have been different but for a couple of key moments in the match.
“I thought we defended well as a team generally. We stopped them getting in behind us and we picked up the loose balls.
“What has cost is an individual error and a slip for their goal. I thought the team dominated in defence and attack, we just struggled to put the ball in the back of the net. It’s not a great goal to concede but if we had taken our chances then we would have got a positive result.
“We’re looking for the players to dominate games and score goals and have that bit of quality when it really matters to put the ball in the back of the net – I think that was the only thing which was missing today.”
Harrison has urged his players to respond in their next game, with Tranmere Rovers the visitors at UCLan Sports Arena on Tuesday afternoon.
“We’ve had a young team out there and a much different team to the one which started the season. The players must learn from their mistakes and we have another game on Tuesday where we can rectify things.
“We’ve told the players that Tuesday’s game is an opportunity to put things right which didn’t go right in this game, so that’s what we will be looking for.
“We’ve had a good chat in the changing room after the game, especially with the younger players, and there’s no better way to bounce back than in your next game.”
PNE line-up: Lenton; Earl, Ngongo, Day, Armer (Rodwell-Grant, 75); Pollard (Nolan, 62), O’Reilly; Simmons, Dolan, (Coulton), Campbell; Mason (Walker, 46). Subs not used: Cottam.