Two goals in six second half minutes condemned Preston North End’s youth team to a 4-2 home defeat against Wigan Athletic in their opening league match of the season.
Brad Roberts gave the visitors a sixth minute lead, but North End responded admirably with Darren Brannigan and Tyrhys Dolan turning the scoreline around by the midpoint of the first half.
The Lilywhites looked worthy of a half time lead as the break approached, but Joe Gelhardt earned his side a spot kick three minutes before the interval, Victor Maffeo successfully converting from it.
In a second half where the hosts had more attempts on goal than in the first, North End were punished for their failure to keep up their ruthless streak, Adam Long scoring from a set piece just after the hour and Divin Baningime doubling the visitors’ advantage with 20 minutes remaining.
A competitive affair throughout, both sides looked sharp early on but it was the visitors that made the quicker start in terms of chances, making it 1-0 with six minutes on the clock.
Forward Charlie Jolley had his header palmed away by Jimmy Corcoran in the North End goal, but Brad Roberts followed in well, neatly tucking it back inside the bottom left corner with his right foot.
Wigan almost had a second goal two minutes later as Gelhardt took aim from the edge of the box, his shot hitting the outside of the bottom right hand post.
With a quarter of an hour played, though, North End drew level. It was a superbly worked goal, Ethan Walker’s fine reverse pass sending Jerome Jolly into space down the left flank, the latter crossing low for Brannigan to slot it home with a cool first time finish.
The young Lilywhites had a number of corners but could not muster annother effort on goal until the 23rd minute – that the strike which gave them the lead. It came from some more fine link-up play down the left, Jack Baxter this time playing the pass down the flank for Jack Armer, skipping past his man to cross for Dolan, who finished past ‘keeper Bobby Jones from close range.
Gelhardt curled over from distance on the half hour after his free-kick was blocked and he was involved once more just over ten minutes later, controlling a pass into the area where he was brought down by Charlie Lyons as the referee pointed to the spot.
Full back Victor Maffeo stepped up and converted the penalty and Wigan found the net again before the half-time whistle blew, but Emeka Obi’s header was disallowed for offside.
The Lilywhites had more opportunites after the break but the first fell for Wigan’s Jolley, who found the near side netting from the left side of the box.
Lyons was doing really well to get on the end of a number of corners, the first of those a header wide from Walker’s delivery early in the second half.
Either side of the hour saw Dolan go close, his effort unfortunately blocked at the back post after Adam O’Reilly and Walker had combined well to get the cross to him, before Baxter’s exuberant overhead kick flashed wide.
With 63 minutes played, the visitors restored their lead. Long took down a free-kick in the box and prodded it past Corcoran for the game’s fifth goal.
The scoring was complete on 69 minutes when Corcoran failed to gather a cross in from the left and Baningime capitalised by poking home inside the six yard box.
The Lilywhites finished the game really well and had a host of chances, Lyons heavily involved again with three more headers in the final 20 minutes, the last of which hitting the crossbar in the final moments.
O’Reilly curled a free-kick marginally over late on as well as PNE tasted defeat in their first league match of the season.
Academy manager Nick Harrison remained upbeat about his side’s performance but stressed that there is work to be done for the players.
“It was a fast-flowing game, both teams played to win and I thought we played our part in that,” he told PNE.com. “We passed the ball very well at times and created a number of chances that we could’ve done better with.
“When we passed it quickly and passed it well, I thought we looked better than Wigan. We’ve told the boys after the game that that’s our strength and we’ve got to pass it quickly and move on and off the ball to open teams up.
“I thought in the first half we took our chances well and in the second half, as much as we created some really good chances, we just weren’t clinical really. If Tyrhys [Dolan] puts the ball away at 2-2 the game might be different. The pleasing thing is that we’ve created those chances – what the players need to work on now is being a lot more clinical and ruthless in front of goal.
“Overall, we’re pleased with the performance for the majority of the game and what the players need to take from that is that if they pass the ball well and move quickly, we will create chances. The players can be pleased with their performance, we just need to be less naïve in order to win games.
“We also need to learn that we cant make these individual errors that have resulted in at least three of their goals; we gave away a sloppy penalty and the second half goals are two individual errors.”
PNE line-up: Corcoran; Simmons, Ngongo, Lyons, Armer; O’Reilly, Baxter; Walker, Dolan (McManus, 70), Jolly (Potts, 78); Brannigan. Subs not used: Williams, Lenton, Pollard.