Preston North End U19s suffered a 3-2 defeat against Morecambe in their first game of 2023.
After the Shrimps had taken the lead, Callum Havard equalised with his first goal for the U19s on the half-hour mark.
Morecambe then scored twice more to go into a two-goal lead, before Rio Pemberton scored late to give the Lilywhites some hope, but they weren’t able to find an equaliser.
The Shrimps got off to the better start, but it was North End who had the first opportunity. Kitt Nelson drove into the area from the left and fired a shot on goal, although it was tame and easy for the ‘keeper to claim.
North End were then called into defensive action when Kian Best made a superb header to clear the ball off the line.
The Lilywhites could and perhaps should have taken the lead when Nelson raced through on goal and he tried to take the ball round the ‘keeper, who took the ball out of his feet.
Morecambe were the side to break the deadlock 28 minutes in when a pinpoint floated cross to the back post was headed past James Pradic in goal.
Just two minutes later, North End were level through Havard, who muscled his defender off with ease before carrying the ball into the box and curling a fantastic effort beyond the ‘keeper.
However, the hosts retook the lead ten minutes before the break thanks to a smart finish in the area finding the bottom right-hand corner.
The Lilywhites had a couple of half chances towards the beginning of the second half, the first of which saw Cole McGhee head over from a corner, while a Havard effort was saved by the ‘keeper.
Against the run of play, the hosts doubled their advantage as, again, a cross into the area was headed beyond Pradic into the corner of the net.
Charlie Goldsmith then came on in the 72nd minute for his first appearance of the season after being sidelined through a long-term injury.
Searching for a way back into the game, Nelson raced through the middle of the pitch and decided to go it alone, but he dragged his shot wide of goal.
Goldsmith had a fantastic opportunity to pull one back for North End as he also found himself charging through on goal, but the ‘keeper again came out on top.
North End did pull a goal back late on, as a great ball in from Eccleston – who made an impact off the bench – found Pemberton free at the back post to head home.
However, North End weren’t able to find an equaliser as the referee blew his full-time whistle.
Speaking after the game, coach Andy Fensome was left bemused by the team’s slow start.
“We came into today’s game expecting high energy and good quality, but we didn’t get those things,” said Fensome.
“The team trained well in preparation for today, so for the game to play out like it did was disappointing.”
“We will look back at the game to see all the things that went wrong to hopefully bounce back.”
There were some positives to take from the match, though, with Fensome extremely pleased to see Callum Havard get his first goal at this level, as well as Charlie Goldsmith returning from his long- term injury.
Fensome added: “Callum started his first game for us today and scored a real centre forward’s goal.
“He chased down the ball, muscled off his opponent and he had the confidence to shoot, and it was a great finish.
“Charlie coming back from a long-term injury was good to see.
“He got a good 15 minutes, he was full of life and had a smile on his face, and he probably could have equalised for us at the end of the game.
“We are extremely pleased for both of them.”
PNE U19 line-up: Pradic, Wallbank, Pemberton, Horan, Best, McGhee, Seary (Eccleston, 45), Wilson, Nelson, Kamara, Havard (Goldsmith, 72). Subs not used: Nicholson, Wilkinson, Gairns.