Preston North End U19s were narrowly beaten in the quarter-finals of the Lancashire FA Professional Youth Cup, losing out to Burnley in a penalty shootout.
Nick Harrison’s side will feel they had much the better of the play against the Category One Academy in the goalless 90 minutes, but a lack of a 'cutting edge', as admitted by Harrison, meant the game went to spot kicks and the visitors came out on top.
PNE made their intent known right from the start as Vaughn Green almost created an opening for Rio Pemberton inside two minutes, but a defender just nicked in ahead of North End’s diminutive attacker.
Burnley’s first opportunity of the game came 19 minutes in, as George Walters was found in the area by Kian Le Fondre and he produced a fantastic stop from young goalkeeper Tommy Davis, who dived low to his left to keep out the effort.
Jacob Slater was causing plenty of problems down the left-hand side, firstly seeing one of his crosses sent wide by Green, before another low fizzing ball into the area somehow evaded all the bodies inside a busy danger area.
North End’s best chance of the half came 32 minutes in as captain Lewis Leigh slotted the ball through for Green, who was denied one-on-one by Charlie Casper. His save almost fell kindly for Leigh, but he was beaten to it by a defender and the referee waved away claims for a penalty for the challenge.
Leigh was soon involved in a 50/50 tackle which Burnley’s Le Fondre came off worse in, having to leave the field on a stretcher after a lengthy stoppage.
The Clarets could well have been ahead at the break, with Kade Ratchford making room for himself on the edge of the area, but he slotted his shot wide of goal.
Both sides had early chances in the second period, firstly with Walters heading over for the visitors before Pemberton sent an effort just wide from 20 yards for the Lilywhites.
Pemberton was involved again on 60 minutes, playing a lovely one-two with Kian Taylor, before then finding Green in the area, but his powerful shot couldn't find the target.
Green remained heavily active up top, as he saw a couple more shots in the next ten minutes come to no avail, before PNE had a huge shout for a penalty turned down with 20 minutes left. Slater was running through into the area, just about to strike goalwards, when he went down under the challenge of a defender, but the referee saw nothing wrong.
North End kept pushing for the winner, however it didn’t come before the whistle was blown, meaning the tie would be decided by a penalty shootout.
The home side missed their opening two penalties through Slater and Green, while the visitors slotted away their first three, and when it came to Burnley’s last spot-kick taker – Will Hugill – he had the chance to give his side a 4-3 victory on penalties, which he did by slotting past Davis.
Speaking after the game, manager Nick Harrison told PNE.Com: “It’s a horrible way to lose a game but I’m focusing more on the 90 minutes. I said to the players at the end that I’m really proud of them and they should be proud of themselves.
“I thought we dominated the game to be honest. The shape was really good, we played on the front foot, won second balls and created lots of chances. The performance today was outstanding.
“At times maybe the quality in the final third wasn’t quite there, but the build-up play to get there was brilliant all day.
“From the goalkeeper, to the striker, to the subs, everyone was brilliant today. That’s four clean sheets in a row now which is really pleasing. We just didn’t have that cutting edge today to put the ball in the back of the net.”
PNE line-up: Davis; Wallbank, Mfuni, Blanchard; Taylor, Best, Leigh (C), Khan, Slater; Pemberton (Havard, 85), Green. Subs not used: Barry, Pasiek, Eccleston.
Referee: Mr K Hurn