Despite a late fightback, Preston North End’s U19s fell to a 4-3 defeat against Accrington Stanley in the Youth Alliance League.
Goals from Rio Pemberton, Dana Amaral and Ellis Horan weren’t enough for PNE to take anything from the game.
North End started on top, as Lewis Leigh tried his luck from distance, but his effort was blazed over the bar.
Jacob Slater was involved in a lot of the Lilywhites’ play; he found himself on the right and hit an effort towards the bottom right-hand corner, which came off the inside of the post.
A couple of big chances fell the way of the hosts, but they couldn’t convert from close range.
They did soon take the lead, though, as Jasper Newton got down the left and finished well past Tommy Davis into the bottom corner.
A big chance came the way of North End after Finlay Cross-Adair was taken out by the ‘keeper and, after advantage was played, Slater’s follow-up effort hit the side netting.
Stanley came close to doubling their lead, hitting the post themselves, before they did find a second a few minutes later with Lewis Trickett’s pinpoint strike making its way into the bottom left-hand corner.
North End were able to pull one back right before half-time, as Noah Mawene slid the ball to Pemberton, and he fired through the ‘keeper’s legs.
The Lilywhites started the second half on top, with Leigh again trying his luck from distance, but his effort came back off the post.
North End did draw level 58 minutes in, as Aaron Bennett got down the right and cut the ball back brilliantly to Amaral who fired past the goalkeeper.
The goals were coming thick and fast at this point, and it was the hosts who got the next, restoring their lead with a well-executed chip by Calvin Harper over Davis.
PNE’s goalkeeper was then punished for a foul on a Stanley attacker inside the box, and Harper got his second of the day, scoring from the resulting penalty.
After Slater came close for PNE, substitute Horan gave North End a late lifeline by firing past the ‘keeper from the edge of the box, but they couldn’t quite find an equaliser as the game ended 4-3.
Coach Andy Fensome felt there were a few question marks over the team’s performance.
“I thought we had a really poor first half,” said Fensome.
“We defended very poorly; there was a lack of communication. I questioned some of the desire in the first half and some of the mentality.
“It did get better in the second half. We managed to get level and were playing well, but once again poor defending cost us.”
The team have made a rather inconsistent start to the season, but Fensome stressed that you will get that at this level.
“They’re young lads,” added Fensome.
“They will learn from this, they will learn from the game, they will learn how to manage games and play the game within the game.
“It’s our job to teach them that and hopefully we can continue to make them better.”
PNE U19 will be looking to bounce back next weekend as they take on Wigan Athletic in the Professional Development Cup.
Fensome added: “We will go back and analyse the game.
“We will work with the players; mentality is something really important in the game and that’s something we will be talking to them about.
“Nothing much though will really change. We will train hard like we always do and hope that we will be able to pick up a more positive result next time out.”