Youth team captain Lewis Fensome felt a poor end to the first-half was the key factor in the young Lilywhites’ 3-0 defeat against Wigan Athletic.
Two goals inside the final 20 minutes of the first-half put Wigan in control of the contest, with a second-half own goal spelling the end of North End’s Youth Alliance Cup campaign at the northern semi-final stage.
PNE had spells of dominance at various points in the match, but Fensome said the loss of concentration during the latter part of the opening 45 minutes meant the team would always be playing catch up.
“We were definitely the stronger team for the first 15 minutes, and that’s the case in most games, but we switched off for about 20 minutes then and had a really rough period,” the U18s skipper told PNE.com.
“We made mistakes in that time and didn’t keep hold of the ball well enough. That 20 minutes cost us the goals and once you’re two goals behind, you’re always chasing the game to try to get another goal.”
“The gaps between all of us a unit were too big, we didn’t press as a team and that ended up leaving us short at the back. We didn’t retain the ball well enough which meant when we did get forward, we didn’t retain it or create something that utilised the men that we had in attack.”
“We got back on top after that and you wonder what’s happened in that 20 minutes, but you can’t switch off – it’s a 90-minute game and we played for 70 – that’s not good enough.”
“We said at half-time that the next goal was crucial and then again, a mistake at the back cost us another goal, but it’s frustrating when we had the majority of possession at 2-0 down and then they go down the other end and score.”
Despite the disappointment of being eliminated from the Youth Alliance Cup, the 17-year-old defender is confident North End can continue work on their mistakes and continue developing.
“We have all the possession and have them pinned in their half for parts of the game, and then maybe as defenders we need to switch on which is something we will work on.
“We’re still young and it’s something we can work on in training just by continuing to play together, but these things can happen. We just have to go back to basics and work on our transitions without the ball.
“We’ve played together for a while now, it’s often been the same back four this season. We’ve had to chop and change with a few injuries but just working together, we get to practice playing next to different people each week and playing with the people you’re going to play alongside each week.
“We’re strong, we know what each other is going to do and it’s just unfortunate today that we’ve made those mistakes which we know we can cut out of our game.”