Burnley Ladies were eliminated from the Lancashire Cup when they suffered an emphatic 8-3 reverse against National League side Preston North End.
Against a team operating two leagues higher in the pyramid, it was always going to be a formidable challenge for the lady Clarets, but they could not have made a better start.
With only two minutes on the clock, a deft turn in the penalty area by young winger Natalie Bell drew a foul, and Becky Hayton dispatched the spot kick.
Sadly, Burnley’s lead lasted only three minutes, the Preston right winger outpacing her marker to shoot low into the net from a narrow angle.
There followed a sustained period of Preston pressure, and only tenacious tackling from Jo Holt and Emily Wilkinson, together with some brave goalkeeping from Jodie Mountain, kept them at bay.
Preston’s dominance led to their second goal in the 25th minute.
Having fallen behind, Burnley rallied, with Bell and Justin Wallace combining effectively down the left flank.
But on the cusp of half time, Preston scored a third goal, a solo effort from their outstanding centre forward.
At 3-1 down Burnley were still in the game, but concentration lapses in defence were ruthlessly punished, Preston adding four more goals before an hour had been played.
At 7-1 down, and the match effectively over, many teams would have capitulated and conceded a lot more.
But the lady Clarets showed character and gained the ascendancy for a 20-minute period, during which they scored two fine goals.
Hayton latched on to a long ball through the heart of the Preston defence and coolly lobbed the keeper.
Moments later, superb creative midfield play by Wilkinson set Hayton loose again but this time the striker’s powerful shot was blocked by the Preston stopper, only for the rebound to fall to Wallace, who expertly curled a shot into the top corner from 20 yards.
In the last few minutes of the game, Burnley almost made further inroads into the deficit, both Bell and Wallace going close.
During stoppage time, Preston were awarded a penalty to make the final score 8-3.
Although ultimately well beaten, Burnley were able to match their illustrious opponents for periods in the game and can take positives from the experience.
Meanwhile, the Development Squad recorded their eighth straight win of the season against a depleted Chorley Ladies’ reserve team.
In an excellent all-round performance, goals by Charlotte Coates, Sophie Greenwood, Bryony Bancroft, Hannah Skinner, Hannah Till and Grace Byrne sealed the points.
A fantastic Under 14s derby between Burnley and Blackburn CSC ended with honours even, as the Clarets fought back to extend their unbeaten run against Blackburn to four matches.
Blackburn caught the Clarets cold in the first minute, heading in the opener from a corner, but Burnley slowly got to grips with the game, and, after starting the second half brighter, finally grabbed a deserved equaliser 15 minutes from time, as Gabby Barker’s brilliant inswinging cross from the left found Jess Greenwood, who volleyed in.
Burnley continued to press but just couldn’t find a winner.
A great hard-working performance, with plenty of determination and skill on show, earned the Under 13s their third win in a row, as beat Town Green 4-1, with goals from Amy Foley, Tayla, Chloe Blackburn and Cara.
All of the Clarets sides in action at the Prairie on Saturday were unbeaten.
The Under 10s beat Academy, and both Under 9 teams scored good home wins.
The Under 9s Clarets maintained their 100% record, with another good all round team performance against Euxton Villa, while the ever-improving Under 9 Blues played some of their best football of the season to beat Crosby Stuart.