Match report: PNE 0 Bolton 0

Preston North End stopped the rot of four defeats but had to settle for a draw against Bolton Wanderers at Deepdale.
Alex NeilAlex Neil
Alex Neil

It was their seventh game without a victory and the third in a row in which they had failed to score.

North End's best spell of the contest was in the opening 20 minutes when they created a couple of decent chances, with Andy Boyle and Tom Barkhuizen going close with headers.

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But in the main they lacked creativity in the final third, the Bolton centre-backs getting much the better of the PNE forward line.

It was the visitors who finished the game the stronger of the sides, forcing some late corners to cause a few anxious moments among the home faithful.

Alex Neil had made four changes to the North End side, Stephy Mavididi, Callum Robinson, Calum Woods and Paul Gallagher coming into the starting XI.

Mavididi led the line in place of the suspended Jordan Hugill, while Robinson operated down the left.

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There was a central midfield role for Gallagher, with Woods slotting in at right-back.

The big news was on the bench with the return of Tom Clarke among the substitutes after more than seven months out with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Kick-off was delayed by five minutes when the floodlight between the Alan Kelly Town End and Invincibles Pavilion dimmed.

A 15-minute hold-up was initially indicated but full power was restored quickly.

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Just one minute and 19 seconds had been played when Bolton midfielder Karl Henry clattered Ben Pearson with a late challenge, earning him a yellow card from referee Simon Hooper.

North End were lively in the opening half hour, playing on the front foot, the pace of Barkhuizen on the right-wing causing plenty of problems.

In the sixth minute, Gallagher rolled a short corner to Robinson and took the return pass, cutting along the byline into the box - his low shot blocked by the out-stretched foot of keeper Ben Alnwick at the near post.

The resulting corner dropped beyond the back post and was returned into the middle by Paul Huntington, the skipper's cross dropping over Barkhuizen before being cleared.

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Two Preston chances came in quick succession, both from Gallagher set-pieces.

His 15th minute corner from the left found Boyle at the near post, his flicked header across goal falling inches wide of the far post.

Barkhuizen then got on the end of a Gallagher free-kick from the right channel but glanced a header wide when he should have found the target.

A cross from Robinson bounced through the corridor of uncertainty in the Bolton box and was fumbled by Alnwick but no white shirt was there to capitalise.

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The visitors' first chance of the night came the way of Josh Vela in the 31st minute, his shot from inside the box after a clearance had been cleared to him, touched over the bar by Chris Maxwell.

A burst of pace from Mavididi carried him to the edge of the Bolton box but his shot lacked power and went through to the keeper who gathered comfortably.

Five minutes after the re-start, Robinson's 20-yard shot curled straight into Alnwick's gloves.

Maxwell was called into action at the other end in the 65th minute, diving to his left to get both gloves to a stinging shot from Adam Armstrong who had cut into the box from the left channel.

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Robinson's night ended in the 68th minute when he was replaced by Daryl Horgan, frustrating being the best way to sum-up the performance of Robinson.

A first-time shot from Henry flew just over the Preston bar after the home defence only partly cleared their lines after a corner.

It was Bolton on the front foot in the closing stages, North End having to defend their box well as the visitors put the pressure on.

PNE: Maxwell, Woods, Huntington, Boyle, O'Connor, Pearson, Gallagher (Johnson 75), Barkhuizen, Browne (Harrop 82), Robinson (Horgan 68), Mavididi. Subs (not used): Clarke, Pringle, Welsh, Rudd.

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Bolton: Alnwick, Little, Beevers, Wheater, Robinson, Pratley, Henry, Ameobi, Vela (Morais 87), Armstrong (Buckley 72), Madine. Subs (not used): Noone, Derik, Burke, Hall, Howard.

Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire)

Attendance: 15,213 (3,447 away)