Preston North End U19s were reduced to ten men and ended up conceding a late equaliser in a frustrating 1-1 draw away to Shrewsbury Town.
Finlay Cross-Adair’s third-minute strike had given North End the lead before Kian Taylor’s 59th-minute dismissal gave the home side the impetus to find a leveller four minutes from time.
The draw brings an end to the Lilywhites’ three-match winning run, but they will still take positives from their performance prior to the red card.
There were just two changes made to the side that beat Blackpool 4-0 in the derby the week before, with Ellis Horan and Josh Seary coming in for Lewis Leigh and Rio Pemberton.
They made the dream start to proceedings when after just three minutes, Cross-Adair was picked out by Kian Best from the left side of the pitch and he found the net with a low drive into the bottom corner.
Mikey O’Neill almost doubled their lead just moments later when the ball reached him in the area, but his close-range effort was saved.
On 11 minutes, a well-worked free-kick routine gave Cross-Adair a golden opportunity to score his second, but he couldn’t keep his shot down.
After a lively opening, the game settled down somewhat and neither side was able to find much of a rhythm.
Shrewsbury’s first chance of the match came on 31 minutes in the form of a long-range effort which was easily gathered by James Pradic.
The final chance of the first half came three minutes before the break when O’Neill sent in a cross from the right which reached Jacob Slater at the back post, but he volleyed his effort over the bar.
The hosts had the first chance after the interval when a fierce effort from the left winger brought a great save out of Pradic.
From the first whistle, PNE were in control but that all changed just before the hour mark when Taylor was given a straight red card for an alleged headbutt.
North End were forced to alter their defensive set-up after going down to ten men and made their first change on 64 minutes when Kaedyn Kamara replaced Noah Mawene.
Still trying to weather the storm of Shrewsbury pressure, Cole McGhee was brought into the defence in place of Cross-Adair in the 74th minute.
The Lilywhites were able to restrict the hosts to mere long shots and made two further changes five minutes from time when Rio Pemberton and Ethan Eccleston came on for O’Neill and Kitt Nelson.
Just a minute afterwards, North End were finally caught out by a long-range effort which was spilled by an unfortunate Pradic, and the rebound was duly dispatched by the Shrewsbury forward.
PNE piled on the pressure in the final few minutes to try and find a winner, but it was in vain, and they had to settle for just a point.
Speaking to PNE.Com after the match, coach Andy Fensome said he felt disappointment for the players.
He said: “In the first half, I thought they were excellent. We got an early goal through Fin, a great turn and shot.
“We totally dominated the game, the way we actually played in possession of the ball was really good.
“I said at half-time that you’ve got to take your chances and you’ve got to be more ruthless.”
Fensome believed the response to the red card from the players was good and it was a momentary lapse of concentration that cost them two points.
“They reacted to the red card well enough,” he said.
“I thought the players were excellent, they blocked things and defended well. We just switched off, didn’t put a block in for the shot and then unfortunately it’s been spilled.
“It was disappointing to concede because it should’ve been out of sight by half-time.”
He insists he and his players are now focused on the next match, a Youth Cup tie against Rotherham United on Friday.
“Playing at Deepdale under the lights in the Youth Cup match is a big occasion,” said Fensome.
“I’m expecting a similar sort of game, a bit of rough and tumble and some big lads but we’ve got to deal with that, and we’ve got to be better.”
PNE line-up: Pradic, Wallbank, Slater, Horan, Taylor (c), Best, Seary, Mawene (Kamara 64’), Cross-Adair (McGhee 74’), Nelson (Eccleston 85’), O’Neill (Pemberton 85’)
Subs not used: Stowell