Preston North End Women lost for the first time this season, ending a seven-match unbeaten start to the campaign, with a 3-2 defeat to Haslingden Ladies and Girls.
Following four games unbeaten in pre-season, and seven points from a possible nine being taken from the first three league games, North End fell just short against Haslingden; last season’s runners-up in the North West Women’s Regional League Division One North.
Madison Hadley equalised after North End went behind in the first half, but the visitors pulled away in the second, with Freya Hunt’s late effort ultimately just a consolation.
In the first few minutes, Haslingden dominated possession, leaving PNE with plenty of defending to do.
It wasn’t long after that Haslingden had a shot from 40 yards out which left goalkeeper Justine Elliott unable to save, seeing the visitors go one ahead.
North End had good chances at the other end with Katie Woodhead having a shot which deflected into Liv Askam's path, but her shot was saved by the ‘keeper.
Elliott ensured her team stayed in the game with some spectacular saves to keep it at 1-0.
Woodhead continued causing problems, with two chances, which was then followed up by a shot from Hadley, who was unlucky not to get a goal thanks to good defending from Haslingden.
PNE continued to come back into the game, applying the pressure and looking strong with the ball with quick passing to take them up the pitch.
Great passing from the Lilywhites saw the ball played through to Hadley, but she was unable to get the goal to get level.
Sam Ball made a difference for the side when she came on, holding the ball up importantly to pass to Hadley, who effortlessly placed the ball in the back of the net for the equaliser.
The game was all to play for heading into half-time at 1-1.
It wasn’t long into the second half when Haslingden went back ahead from a long range free-kick.
A free-kick from Ball looked to try and get the home side back level, coming close to the target, and she was unlucky not to score.
Haslingden extended their lead further soon after with a chip over the top of the ‘keeper.
PNE didn't give up and continued applying pressure, which led to further chances, but struggled to take them as Askam had a powerful shot, which a Haslingden defender took the full force of, in her face, with play stopped temporarily.
With only ten minutes left of the game, PNE started to get more of the ball as their pressing became relentless.
In the last minute of the game, the hosts did get a goal back from a corner as Hunt found the net from close range, but there was to be no late equaliser after that with North End dealt a first defeat of the campaign.
Co-manager David Rawcliffe said: “We were a bit slow to start. We weren’t on it for the first 15 to 20 minutes, they bossed it and probably deservedly went a goal ahead. That forced us into an early formation change where we went 3-5-2 and we felt that suited us better.
“For the last 20 to 25 minutes of the first half, I thought we were the much better team and we managed to get ourselves back into the game.
“We got the goal that we needed to take us into half-time. I just felt that we had a bit of momentum but we needed to come out strong. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t there second half.
“We started reasonably well for the first five to ten minutes of the second half, but it was just one of those games where there were little passes not going right.
“It just didn’t click for us today. Their experience told in the end. We just left it too late to get back.
“We know they’re a difficult team to play against, they finished second in the league last season. We knew it was going to be a tough game and that we needed to be at our best, unfortunately, we just fell short of that
“Full credit to them, they came here and did a great job, they have a good, experienced side and we just didn’t have enough today.”
PNE Women will now not return to league action until October, with action of some sort in three different cup competitions in the next three weeks.
This weekend will see Atherton Labernum Rovers Ladies visit in the FA Cup first qualifying round, and the following Sunday, PNE are not in action thanks to a bye in the Lancashire FA Women’s Challenge Cup.
There is then a trip to Wythenshawe Amateurs Juniors in the Argyle Sports Kit North West Regional Cup on Sunday 25th September. Click here for all the first team fixtures.
Meanwhile, the development team will continue in league action, having begun their campaign in the Lancashire FA Women’s County League Championship with an 8-0 away against Ladybridge Ladies on Sunday.
Millie Rushforth and Grace Doughty grabbed a hattrick and brace, respectively, while Rose Stuttard, Ellie Ditchfield and Abbie Jones all scored one each. Click here for all the development team fixtures.
PNE line-up: Elliott, Hamilton, Jaques, C. Woodhead, Collins, Greeenwod, Hunt, K. Woodhead, Swift, Askam, Hadley. Subs: Cookson, Lonsdale, Radcliffe, Ball, Mercer.