An unfortunate error was the deciding factor in a close game between Preston North End Women's and Penwortham Town Women's on Sunday.
The Lilywhites were looking to build on the previous weekend's 3-2 victory over Hindley Ladies FC; their first win of the season.
After facing Penwortham in pre-season, which resulted in a 1-1 draw, the Lilywhites knew they would be in for a tough battle.
The match got off to a strong start with North End finding their feet a lot quicker and the midfield contest led to an entertaining game.
Lucy Swift came close with one of the better chances of the first half, from a perfectly weighted ball from Olivia Askam, switching the play from the left-hand side to the right edge of the Penwortham box. Swift's shot was pushed over the bar by the Penwortham goalkeeper and left her hands stinging.
Penwortham continued to battle in the middle of the park and continuously tried to break down the Lilywhites' back four, albeit without much success.
The organisation of the defence really showed throughout the game with very little getting past to trouble North End’s goalkeeper Rose Stuttard in the first half.
Penwortham’s closest chance of the half came from a free-kick, but was way above the crossbar. The visitors had several set piece opportunities too, but couldn't capitalise.
The Lilywhites picked up where they left off in the second half, their possession pulling Penwortham out of place but the execution in the final third was still holding the team back.
A Penwortham chance saw a ball over the top from Penwortham’s midfield land awkwardly behind the Lilywhites' backline. As both teams tried to recover the ball from North End’s left-hand side, the pressure from the Penwortham winger forced North End to play back towards their own goal, and a combination of an over-hit and miscommunication at the back saw Penwortham take the lead.
PNE found themselves with some work to do for the remainder of the second half, but that didn’t seem to hinder them.
However, as time progressed on and the end of the match drew closer, the ability for the players to continue to give their all slowly took its toll.
Swift had a chance at the death, going close without being able to capitalise, as PNE were left to rue defeat.
First team coach David Rawcliffe said post-match: “It was a very close game in the middle of the park and really, on the whole, it was evenly matched
“With both teams dominating the ball in the midfield, each side had very few chances in the final third for most of the first half. We had the better of the chances but even then they weren’t clear-cut”.
“We went into half-time with the intentions of coming out the way we finished the first, which was on top and pushing for that opening goal. It just wasn’t on the cards for us and as the second half progressed, I think we were finding it harder and harder to create those chances.
“I can’t fault the commitment from the players as they gave it 110 per cent on the pitch. They moved the ball well, their intensity was great, the effort was there, and they were incredibly unlucky with the own goal because we kept them at bay the entire game; I don’t think Penwortham created a single chance for themselves.
“At the end of the day, we’re all obviously disappointed in terms of the final result, but I think myself, Nigel [Greenwood], and Andy [Lyons] are incredibly proud of the team performance”.
With no league game scheduled this weekend, the Lilywhites will now use their time off to refocus and prepare for the visit of Accrington Stanley on Sunday 10 October.