Preston Hockey Club men’s 1sts’ slow start to the season has left them struggling without a point at the foot of National Conference Division North, after a 4-2 home defeat to newly promoted Leeds.
The home side welcomed back both Dan Renshaw and Owen Fletcher from injuries they picked up last season.
There were early chances for Preston forwards Ross Lockwood and Dave Greenough.
Preston may have felt they had made the breakthrough as they won a penalty corner in the 15th minute but their routine, ending in a shot by Owen Fletcher which was parried wide by the visiting goalkeeper.
The deadlock was broken in the 26th minute as Leeds’ Sam Apoola was found in space inside the Preston circle and applied a simple finish.
The home team knew they needed to respond and did so through fine midfield work from Sam Sinclair.
Preston continued to push but the Yorkshire side’s defence held and whilst searching for the equaliser, the home defence became stretched and Jack Davey doubled the away team’s advantage
The fightback was instantaneous, Preston finally showing the quality they have occasionally promised in their previous fixtures. Nick Jeffs fired home after a slick build-up.
In the second half, Jack England’s silky skills saw Preston win a penalty corner.
With all their drag-flick specialists on the bench, the men in white resorted to a well-rehearsed routine, working a chance for captain Rob Taylor, who fired narrowly wide.
Leeds edged into a 3-1 lead as an untimely slip from a Preston defender gifted Harry Lankfer an unmissable opportunity after 57 minutes.
The men in white took to the skies, Gibraltarian defender Kayron Stagno delivering several aerial passes to his forward line.
He eventually found Tom Kerry, whose pass through to forward Keenan Quill so nearly connected.
Hope was to be found through defender Liam Ganoose as he slapped powerfully home to make it 3-2 with seven minutes left.
But Preston conceded again in the dying minutes and now travel to Sheffield this weekend in a must-win, foot-of-the-table clash.