Jack Baxter felt fatigue played its part as the youth team saw the game taken away from them by two late goals in the Lancashire FA Professional Youth Cup final.
The 18-year-old scored a wonderous 60-yard effort to bring the deficit back down to one and scoreline to 3-2 early in the second half, but opponents Wigan Athletic went out of sight when Victor Maffeo scored a brace inside the final quarter of an hour for his side to win 5-2.
Chorley-born Baxter felt North End had built up some decent momentum after half-time, only for their endeavours to equalise to eventually catch up with them, with two spot kicks given against them in the first half having left them chasing the game.
“There was a couple of questionable decisions for the penalties especially and that didn’t help,” the midfielder told the club website.
“The second one especially was quite questionable, but the lads recovered well, we got the goal and then went into half-time with the chance of coming back in the second half.
“We got geed up at half-time, their goal [after half-time] didn’t help us but I think we got stronger after that and came back into it after that and for the next five or ten minutes it looked like we had a real chance of pushing on and potentially winning.
“I think we just ran out of steam towards the end, a few injuries didn’t help and a few kicks to the lads. There was one horrible tackle and a counter attack which we potentially could’ve scored from, and a red card wouldn’t have been unjustified, but the referee gave yellow and you have to accept what the referee says.”
On an individual note there was a pleasing statistic for Baxter in reaching double figures for goals this season and doing so in tremendous fashion with his strike from inside his own half.
It came after PNE were awarded a free-kick just outside the centre circle and the midfielder’s improvisation caught the opposition goalkeeper off guard, as Baxter explained the thinking behind his tenth goal of the campaign.
“I’ve tried the long shot once or twice before for Preston but it’s not come off quite like that!” he continued.
“It was just a free-kick, I saw the ‘keeper off his line and I thought I might as well go for it. The worse thing that could happen was they would get a goal kick from it, but it ended up in the back of the net and it’s probably the best goal I’ve scored all season to be fair!
“I feel this year I’ve definitely brought other things to my game in terms of goals, it’s not just been penalties, I’ve scored half and half now – five from penalties and five from open play – and it’s good to get goals like that and show people what I can do.”
Attentions now turn to the final game of the season with Blackpool visitors to UCLan Sports Arena in a 1pm kick-off on Wednesday afternoon with Baxter intent on responding the right way.
“The lads are going to do everything to win on Wednesday, especially against Blackpool, and end the season on a high and hopefully finish as high as possible in the league.”