The women’s team were undone by three first half goals as they lost out to league leaders Blackburn Community Sports Club in Division One North of the North West Women’s Regional League One.
PNE were kept at bay in the second half, meaning they suffered a second defeat in a row, despite their best efforts to get back into the contest.
The Lilywhites got off to a stronger start than the home side, playing aggressively, moving the ball around quickly, and putting in some great tackles to slow down their opposition, but they couldn’t take advantage with an early goal.
The home side’s first goal came from a ball played over the top of the Lilywhites’ backline down the left-hand side of the pitch, to land at their winger’s feet, who was composed enough to chip the ball over Stuttard from a narrow the angle and into the far right side of the goal.
Despite being a goal down, the Lilywhites continued to put in the work to try and find the equaliser. The battle for possession in midfield was a constant back and forth between the two sides, and a late challenge, in the 22nd minute, outside the Lilywhites’ box resulted in a close-range free -ick for the hosts.
Blackburn captain Becca McGrath stepped up to take the set piece for the home side. Her shot had enough power on it to get over the defence and past the goalkeeper to add another goal for her side making it 2-0.
Blackburn did a good job of limiting the Lilywhites’ chances of getting close to their goal. Right midfielder Charlotte Greenwood had one of the closest chances as Lucy Swift set the ball back to her on the right-hand side of the Blackburn box but her shot was wide of the left-hand post.
Beth Wilson would also get a good chance for her side as Liv Askam played a perfectly weighted ball over the top for her to run on to, but she was unfortunately deemed offside before she could get a shot off.
As the first half was drawing to a close the home side extended their lead again. Coming off a throw in near the left-side corner flag in the 44th minute, Blackburn were able to work the ball into the Lilywhites’ box quickly and efficiently to set up a close range shot which was placed into the bottom left corner.
With a lot of work to do in the second half, the Lilywhites came out all guns blazing to apply the pressure all over the field and battling for every single ball.
While the defensive side of the game improved in the second half, despite their best efforts, the Lilywhites just couldn’t get past Blackburn’s defensive line at the other end.
With few chances again throughout the second half, the closest the visitors came was from a through ball from the right-hand side that both Lucy Swift and Liv Askam chased.
Clean through on goal, it looked like the PNE had a chance to get one back until the offside flag was raised again. Time and opportunities ultimately ran out to see North End leave empty handed, even after a stronger performance in the second half.
Speaking post-match, first team coach Nigel Greenwood said: "After losing the unbeaten run last week we came up against a very strong Blackburn side who after remaining unbeaten all season in the league were looking for three points towards winning the title.
"We started off slowly not really getting to grips with a large bumpy pitch and not being able to impress our normal passing game on to the opponents.
"At least two of the three goals we conceded in the first half were avoidable which made it a very difficult task to try and get back in the game in the second half.
"Credit to the ladies though for their determination and effort in the second half to stop Blackburn scoring again and indeed making more chances for themselves. All in all it was a disappointing day for us but credit to a Blackburn team who are now looking favourites to win the league."
Next up for North End will be the visit of Workington Red Ladies on Sunday 10th April.