The Stanley under 18’s began their Youth Alliance campaign with a 2-0 home defeat to Preston North End.
A goal in each half for the visitors proved to be enough to give them all three points.
North End made the dream start with a goal from their first attack of the game. There were just two minutes on the watch when striker Eddie Dsane got onto a ball over the top and evaded the Stanley defence before firing beyond Chris Evans and into the back of the net.
The Reds looked to overcome the early shock and muster a response, with Nathan Webb lashing an effort just wide, but in wet conditions clear chances were few and far between.
North End tested Evans’ handlig with some probing balls into the box before the keeper did well to hold on to a long range drive from Bradley Wicks.
At the other end Ross Dalton made his first meaningful save from a Webb header before midfielder Roman Hickey limped off forcing the introduction of Callum Walsh and a reshuffle in the red ranks.
The last opening of the half was Webb’s but his 25 yarder flew over the top.
Half time brought another enforced Stanley change with Gunner replacing Smyth who’d suffered a facial injury.
Upon the restart North End were quick starters again with Evans forced into a save after Dsane latched onto a loose backpass but it was to be a temporary reprieve.
Just four minutes into the second period it was 2-0, with James Boyd producing a calm low finish to double the deficit.
Going two down prompted a Stanley resurgance with the persistant Webb denied by Dalton, Jack Hartley thwarted inside the box and Dieter Downey driving over the top.
A third injury blow saw Gunner forced off and his replacement, Max Hazeldine, was in the thick of the action.
No sooner had John Roberts cleared off the Stanley line Hazeldine rounded the keeper one the break but slipped at the crucial moment and the chance had gone.
Stanley: Evans, Wolfenden, Roberts, Smyth (Gunner 46) (Hazeldine 76), Downey, Hartley, Hickey (Walsh 34), Quansah, Webb, Steenson, Scarth