Preston North End U19s were beaten 2-1 away at Carlisle United despite dominating the majority of the match.
Felipe Rodriguez-Gentile fired the Lilywhites ahead after just six minutes before the hosts equalised against the run of play with just over a third of the match played.
North End had all the chances in the second half, but it was the Cumbrians who scored the winner in the 76th minute, culminating in a harsh defeat for Andy Fensome’s men.
They came into the game off the back of a hard-fought victory over Bolton Wanderers in the Professional Youth Cup semi-final the previous weekend.
There were four changes made to the side that triumphed on penalties, with James Pradic, Dana Amaral, Ethan Eccleston and Ellis Horan all coming into the side at the expense of Tommy Davis, Kaedyn Kamara, Cole McGhee and Max Wilson.
Up near the Anglo-Scottish border, PNE made the dream start when – in the sixth minute – Kitt Nelson burst into the area and tried a shot from a tight angle which was parried away by the goalkeeper, only as far as Rodriguez-Gentile who had an easy tap-in and made it 1-0.
Carlisle had their first opportunity of the morning on 14 minutes when a deep cross from the left reached the right winger via a Kacper Pasiek flick-on and his effort was fizzed wide.
Rodriguez-Gentile almost grabbed his second on 20 minutes when Seary’s chipped cross was taken down by Noah Mawene into the path of the forward but his shot was blocked.
Horan and Nelson linked up for a chance apiece just before the half-hour mark but neither could find the net, and they were made to pay when, moments later, the Cumbrians capitalised on a Pasiek mistake and levelled the scoring.
Five minutes before half-time, Seary almost restored his side’s lead when Eccleston’s hoisted cross reached him at the back post but he couldn’t get a clean enough connection on the ball, meaning there was nothing to separate the two sides going into the break.
North End began the second period with a renewed vigour but found it difficult to carve out clear-cut chances for the first 15 minutes after the interval.
Their opening chance of the half came on the hour mark when Mawene reached the byline down the right flank and pulled the ball back for Horan, who played in Seary but the wing-back’s effort was off-target.
Nelson had a good opportunity five minutes later when he jinked into the area but dragged his shot wide and, moments later, Pasiek drew a fine save out of the Carlisle ‘keeper.
In the 76th minute, the young Lilywhites were caught out on the break once again and, in spite of all their pressure, they found themselves trailing to their hosts for the first time.
They immediately set about restoring parity and Mawene forced the opposition goalie into another good stop after a last-ditch clearance from Finlay Wallbank at the other end had prevented the game from slipping out of PNE’s grasp.
A lively Mawene continued to try and make things happen, but things were simply not falling the way of North End and they ended up coming away from Cumbria with nothing.
Speaking to PNE.Com after the match, coach Andy Fensome was full of praise for his team’s performance and sympathised with them over another difficult result to take.
“We played some really good football,” said Fenners.
“I thought we created some really good chances, but we didn’t take the chances.
“We were dominating the game, but you’ve got to find a way to win. You’ve got to find a way of scoring and sometimes that’s not the easiest thing to do.”
Fenners reflected on the manner in which his side conceded the two goals but credits his players for still taking the game to their opponents.
He said: “We gave away the first goal, a sloppy goal by making a poor pass and being slightly open, and then in the second half we got hit on the counter when we’re pressing and looking to score goals.
“But we still created chances, and in the second half there was only really us playing football.”
Before the match, Fenners had set his team the specific target of keeping a clean sheet which he was disappointed they didn’t manage to earn, but he still believes his players will come back stronger from this experience.
“We gave them an objective and unfortunately today, we didn’t achieve it,” he said.
“We’re looking for performances, we’re looking for progression and we’re looking for development, but we’ve got to learn how to win games and be better.”
PNE line-up: Pradic, Wallbank, Seary, Amaral, Taylor, Pasiek, Eccleston, Horan (Carroll, 70), Nelson, Mawene (C), Rodriguez-Gentile. Subs not used: Davis, Khan, McGhee, Wilkinson