Preston North End U19s fell to their first defeat of the season with a 2-1 loss to Carlisle United at Springfields.
The visitors were 2-0 up inside 20 minutes with goals from Nic Bollado and Kai Nugent before an own goal nine minutes before half-time restored some hope for the Lilywhites.
However, they were unable to claw their way back into the match despite a 41st-minute red card for Carlisle defender Alex Potts.
North End fought it out with the Cumbrian outfit for the EFL Youth Alliance title last season, each winning a game a peice and as a result, they won’t be too alarmed by a defeat to evidently impressive opposition.
Nick Harrison made several changes to the starting line-up with Tommy Davis, Izac Khan, Dana Amaral, Harry Nevin, Kaedyn Kamara and Mikey O’Neill all being brought into the side in place of James Pradic, Jacob Slater, Ellis Horan, Cole McGhee, Finlay Cross-Adair and Felipe Rodriguez-Gentille.
PNE had the earliest chance when Rio Pemberton’s driven cross found O’Neill but his shot was off-target.
On 15 minutes, Carlisle took the lead as they caught the hosts out on the break and Bollado kept his cool, jinked past the final defender’s lunge and slotted a strike under Davis.
And just four minutes later it was 2-0, as a loose North End pass was cut out and Nugent coolly finished.
The Lilywhites were struggling to get into their groove but they were gifted a route back into the match in the 36th minute when Rio Pemberton’s free-kick was unintentionally bundled into his own net by Carlisle’s Bollado.
Five minutes later, things went from bad to worse for the Blues as they were reduced to ten men after Potts picked up a second yellow for a nasty tackle on Khan.
PNE must have felt the opponents were there for the taking heading into the second half but they continued to be frustrated in their attempts to create chances against Carlisle’s low block.
The visitors thought they had all but sealed the win on the hour mark when a deflected free-kick was saved by Davis and the rebound converted, but the goalscorer was offside and the score remained 2-1.
Kamara and Pemberton were brought off for Rodriguez-Gentile and Eccleston on 62 and 71 minutes respectively as North End looked to find an equaliser.
They were starting to cause Carlisle problems by this point and on 78 minutes, Rodriguez-Gentile took a shot from the edge of the area which flew over the bar and a moment later, Mawene almost caught the keeper out at the near post with a shot from a tight angle.
At the other end, Davis was forced into two decent saves in quick succession as Carlisle continued to look dangerous on the break.
On 86 minutes, McGhee replaced Mawene who just a minute before had picked out O’Neill with a cross, but the forward skied his effort high over the bar.
O’Neill was gifted another opportunity immediately afterwards, wriggling free in the area but once more his shot was off-target.
Mere seconds from the end, he had his best chance of the match when he was picked out with a cross-field ball and met it with a sweet volley that struck the base of the post.
It was clear it just wasn’t to be PNE’s day and moments later, the final whistle blew, consigning them to their first defeat of the season and only their second in the league in 2022.
Coach Andy Fensome said to PNE.Com that he was disappointed with the team’s performance.
“That wasn’t us today, we didn’t play as well as we could play. We didn’t pass the ball well, didn’t move it quick enough, didn’t take information onboard.
“There wasn’t the energy we require. They were down to ten men and so you’ve got to move the ball quickly and I think we played too safe and were just sloppy.”
Fensome was confident however that the players will learn from this defeat and will be ready to bounce back.
“We’ll go into next week and we’ll watch the game back,” he continued. “We’ll make clips, we’ll analyse and talk it through the players. We have to learn.”
Next up for the youngsters. is a clash with local rivals Blackpool in the Professional Development Cup.
The match will take place at Springfields on Saturday 3rd September with kick-off at 10.30am.
PNE line-up: Davis, Taylor, Khan, Amaral, Nevin (C), Wallbank, Pemberton (Eccleston 71’), Kamara (Rodriguez-Gentile 62’), O’Neill, Mawene (McGhee 86’), Nelson
Subs not used: Nicholson, Wilkinson