Preston North End U18s suffered a disappointing defeat as they were beaten 4-2 away at Bolton Wanderers in the Youth Alliance Cup.
Four second-half goals from the Trotters cancelled out two excellent strikes from Max Wilson and Ellis Horan.
There were three changes to the side that won 2-1 at Wigan Athletic in the Professional Development Cup the weekend before as Wilson, Ethan Eccleston and Kasper Pasiek replaced Kian Taylor, Jacob Slater and Finlay Wallbank respectively.
North End started the stronger on away soil and Noah Mawene tried a long-range effort early on which whistled wide of the post.
The captain was involved again on 13 minutes as he battled hard to win back the ball deep in the Bolton half and sent in a cross from the right which was cleared to Kaedyn Kamara on the edge of the area, but his shot was well over the bar.
A minute later, the Trotters had their first chance of the match after Cole McGhee miscued his clearance straight to a Bolton forward, but the strike was tame and easily caught by North End ‘keeper Tommy Davis.
PNE had another opportunity a few moments later as Mawene met Rio Pemberton’s corner at the front post and flicked a header onto the roof of the net.
The rest of the first half was dominated by well-constructed North End moves that seemed to break down at the final hurdle before they finally took the lead right on the brink of half-time.
Mawene, who had been front and centre of everything in the first period, won the ball deep in his own territory and went on a driving run into the Bolton half. He laid the ball off for Wilson who found the net with a spectacular curling effort to make it 1-0 going into the break.
The Lilywhites look to extend their advantage after the interval and on 52 minutes, Horan forced the opposition goalie into two impressive saves in quick succession.
Three minutes later however, the hosts found their equaliser as North End failed to deal with a deep free-kick which was met at the back post by a Bolton attacker and his shot was parried by Davis straight into the path of Noah Halford for an easy tap-in.
Ten minutes later, PNE restored their lead with a screamer from Horan. The holding midfielder received the ball from Wilson and unleashed a bullet past the ‘keeper from all of 30 yards out.
But within eight minutes, not only had North End lost their lead, they had also fallen behind for the first time in the match.
Wanderers equalised on 68 minutes through Joel Burgess when the Lilywhites were unable to deal with a deep cross to the far post and then five minutes after that, Harrison Fleury was allowed to turn, break into the penalty area and fire past Davis.
The hosts completed the scoring twelve minutes from the end as Sam Inwood was able to control a cross from the left, hold off his marker and thump his shot home.
Callum Havard and Theo Carroll replaced Kamara and Wilson as North End looked to salvage something from the match but to no avail.
Speaking to PNE.Com, U19 coach John Welsh reflected on what he described as ‘a tale of two halves.’
He said: “I thought we played well in the first half, the players did everything we asked of them and we came in at half-time 1-0 up.
“The second half wasn’t as good as the first, the team didn’t do things that we’d expect from them as players.
“It was a tale of two halves. In the first half, we were really good, second half, we weren’t so good and we come away with a poor result.”
Welsh was particularly disheartened by the lack of response to falling behind, especially from the more experienced second-year scholars.
“Once you go 3-2 or 4-2 down, you look to your players to roll their sleeves up and have a go,” he said.
“The disappointing thing was we didn’t really do that today. There will always be expectations of the more experienced players and we probably need our older players to realise that a bit more.
“After poor results like that, you need those sort of characters to step up and drive the rest of the team. We would have liked them to be a bit better today.”
PNE line-up: Davis, McGhee, Pemberton, Horan, Best, Pasiek, Eccleston, Mawene (C), Nelson, Wilson (Carroll 81’), Kamara (Havard 69’)
Subs not used: Hogarth, Critchley, Brindle