The youth team bowed out of the Youth Alliance cup at the northern semi-final stage with a 3-1 defeat to Rotherham United at Roundwood Sports Complex.
The hosts led via a penalty at the break and although Louis Potts looked to have set up an intriguing finish with his equaliser just before the hour mark, two strikes in the following ten minutes saw the Millers out of sight, setting up a northern final tie against Fleetwood Town.
It was Fleetwood who ended the young Lilywhites’ 12-match unbeaten run last weekend, with Nick Harrison making just one change from that game as Aaron Bennett come into the side at left midfield, replacing Tyler Williams and leading to a defensive reshuffle which saw Lincoln McFayden move inside to centre back and Lewis Coulton drop back to left back.
Bennett saw an effort hit the crossbar in that first half, while Jacob Holland-Wilkinson shot against the post and the hosts had a goal ruled out for offside at the other end.
It was Rotherham who led at the break, however, through an 18th-minute spot kick. Jimmy Corcoran conceded the penalty after the Lilywhites had lost possession in their own half down their left flank, the PNE goalkeeper colliding with the attacker looking to meet a ball across the face of goal at the back post.
And the penalty was dispatched into the bottom right corner to give Rotherham the edge at half-time.
North End pulled one back within a quarter of an hour of the restart as Potts found the net for the third time in his last two matches.
Tyrhys Dolan’s made inroads down the left with his quick footwork and as he broke into the box and laid it across the face, Brian McManus stuck out a leg to divert it to Potts at the back post, who got the final touch to prod over the line.
It seemed very much game on at that point, but Rotherham were back in front just three minutes later. A shot taken early from just outside the box, right of centre, forced Corcoran to parry and a Millers man pounced to convert the rebound home.
And just moments later in the 68th minute, the Millers had the game sewn up as another attack down their right saw a low strike across goal find the bottom corner.
The young Lilywhites return to action next weekend, hosting Shrewsbury Town in the North West Youth Alliance league, with an 11am kick-off at UCLan Sports Arena.
PNE line-up: Corcoran; Huddart (Williams, 85), Earl, McFayden, Coulton; Nolan, McManus; Holland-Wilkinson (Dooley, 66), Dolan, Bennett; Potts (Rodwell-Grant, 63). Subs not used: Nicholson, Lombard.