The Reds Ladies squad, by the law of averages, must be due a change of luck after going down to their sixth successive league loss.
Despite what was arguably their best performance of the season, with victory so tantalising close, PNE grabbed the points with two very late goals.
Reds conceded the first goal, equalised and then went in front, found themselves all square at 2-2, regained the lead, conceded another equaliser three minutes from time before the hosts scored a scrambled winner thirty seconds from the end.
Manager Paul Mackenzie summed up the disappointment saying, “They showed great character today and were desperately unlucky to finish the game with no reward for their efforts.”
Emi Rudd almost gave the Cumbrians a first half lead but her shot narrowly missed the target.
North End did go in front, three minutes before the interval, with Madison Hadley rounding ‘keeper, Laura Miller, before finishing confidently.
But Reds restored parity two minutes later with a well worked goal from Morgan McGrady after good work from Hannah Fawkes and Hannah Ridgewell in the build-up.
Ten minutes after the restart, Reds took the lead thanks to a sublime strike from Keeley Holliday who found the net from twenty-five yards leaving Preston goalkeeper, Justine Elliott, helpless.
Mackenzie’s side held the lead for nearly twenty minutes before Preston levelled again thanks to Hadley’s second.
Three of Reds longest serving players then linked well to carve out a third goal, and the lead once more. Linzi Donaldson and Chloe Henderson started the move and found Hannah Geen (inset) whose clinical finish made it 3-2 to Reds in the eighty-fifth minute.
Preston, to their credit, weren’t finished and they levelled matters with Hadley completing her hat-trick with the sixth goal of the afternoon.
The agony was compounded when Preston completed a fine comeback with Beth Wilson scoring the decider in the game’s final attack.
Laura Miller was awarded the player of the match accolade for Reds after a commanding performance between the posts.
And the final words came from defeated manager, Mackenzie: “I couldn’t have asked any more of them today and I’m immensely proud, despite the result.”
Reds have four home games remaining with the first of those v. Carlisle United this Sunday.
Team: Laura Miller, Sophie Birkett, Naomi Foster, Alice Kemp, Hannah Fawkes, Chloe Henderson, Hannah Ridgewell, Sophie Douglas, Liv Bennett, Emi Rudd, Morgan McGrady. Substitutes – Natalie Hooper, Hannah Geen, Keely Holliday, Linzi Donaldson (all used).