Preston North End’s Under-18s bowed out of the FA Youth Cup in heartbreaking fashion, losing in a penalty shoot-out against Luton Town at Deepdale on Wednesday night.
Extra-time failed to produce a winner, the fifth-round tie finishing 1-1 after 120 minutes.
Luton had taken an early lead through Jack Snelus, one they held unti lthe 89th minute when Joshua Earl headed North End level.
The hosts missed a golden chance to win it in the 119th minute when Dylan Davidson was tugged back in the box and won a penalty.
Davidson dusted himself down to take the spot kick but the substitute hit it against the top of the bar.
In the shoot out, Adam Joseph Robinson, Lamin Jagne and Davidson scored but Freddie Tracey’s effort against the post proved costly as Luton tucked away all five of their penalties.
The vistors had made the best possible start, taking the lead in the fifth minute.
Snelus got possession in the middle and fed a pass out to the left to George Murray.
When Murray drove the ball into the box, Snelus timed his run to meet it and finish emphatically from 10 yards.
The visitors almost doubled the lead after a scramble in which the Preston goal lived a charmed life.
It needed two blocks from keeper Matt Hudson and a clearance off the line from Sean Whelan.
Hudson later to dived to his right to push away a low shot from Atkinson as the pressure was maintained.
The first sight of goal for the hosts came in the 27th minute as Clive Smith’s searching cross from the right found Earl at the back post.
He got up to send a header goalwards but it was gathered by Town keeper Liam Gooch.
On the hour mark, Robinson burst forward from the left-back position to reach the edge of the Luton box but got crowded out as he tried to get a shot away.
PNE were inches away from an equaliser in the 66th minute, Davidson curling in a left-foot cross from the right-wing, one which Tracey got a touch to, only to see hit hit the foot of the far post.
The same two were involved in another near-miss in the 81st minute, another inviting cross from Davidson finding Tracey but at full stretch, he could not make a proper connection.
It was Davidson with the assist for PNE’s late equaliser, the winger checking on to his left foot and putting over a cross which found Earl beyond the far post.
Earl met it with a fine-timed header which went back across the keeper.
Both teams understandably tired during extra-time but North End had one last chance with barely sixty seconds of the 120 minutes left.
Davidson was pulled back by Cameron McJanet as he tricked his way into the box, referee Ryan Johnson pointing to the spot.
Unfortunately, Davidson was slightly too high with his kick, that somewhat harsh on him as he had made a big difference after coming on to replace James Boyd in the second half.
He had the courage to take one in the shoot out, which he scored, but Luton triumphed with James Justin, Snelus, Tyreeg Bakinson , Kavan Cotter and Atkinson successfully converting.
PNE: Hudson, Smith, Burgoyne, Whelan, Adam Joseph Robinson, Lunney, Boyd (Davidson 60), Adam James Robinson (Jagne 22), Earl (Howard 112), Meulensteen, Tracey. Subs (not used): Crankshaw, Roberts.
Luton: Gooch, Bean, McGhan-George (Jones 71), Fameow, Justin, McJanet, Snelus, Bakinson, Atkinson, Murray (Cotter 82). Hinds (Verney 91). Subs (not used): Brown, Davey.
Referee: Ryan Johnson (Bolton)