Out of the starting blocks so quickly, so impressively, yet Preston’s draw with Bolton ended up almost having the feel of a defeat about it.
Two-up inside 16 minutes, then pegged back by two goals in as many minutes – the first gift-wrapped by a goalkeeping howler.
To cap it all, the red mist descended on Ben Pearson which resulted in a card of the same colour, that annoyingly coming after the final whistle.
Having steered clear of any bother for 90 minutes, he used the time usually reserved for the after-match handshakes to stick one on his Wanderers counterpart Joe Williams.
Provocation there might have been – Williams got a caution for his part – but there was no excusing the headbutt from Pearson.
It will be ‘No Pearo, no party’ for the three games after the international break, a ban which will partly overlap with Ryan Ledson’s suspension.
So the picture emerges of what a frustrating afternoon this was for the PNE faithful in a 16,331 crowd.
After the loan window had closed with a gentle click on Friday – the physical striker type talked about throughout the summer months having proved elusive – there was a feeling of restlessness among some supporters.
Three points would have lifted that feeling for a while, as it was the sharing of points with the visitors from down the M61 was only to reignite the debate of where the squad looks to be lacking.
With some justification, it is a wobbly fan-base just at the moment.
One victory in the first six Championship games is not the start wanted nor indeed expected on the back of last season’s seventh-place finish.
This was the second home match running in which leads have been thrown away.
Twice PNE had led against Stoke a fortnight earlier and had to settle for a point, this time it was a 2-0 advantage which was surrendered.
While the campaign is very much in its early stages, the feeling is that the team have slipped back rather than gone forward in terms of building on 2017/18.
They certainly haven’t started as well as they did last term – nine points were taken from the first six games 12 months ago, this time they have five points to show for their efforts.
Of course there is plenty of time to make up the ground but to do so Preston need to stop giving away leads and need to keep players off the naughty step.
Pearson is the third player to see red already this term, Ledson having done so against Leeds last week and Paul Gallagher seeing his retrospectively after the Stoke match.
The first half-hour or so of this clash offered plenty of promise that things might be on the up.
Aside from the two goals which came from Callum Robinson and Alan Browne – in Browne’s case in some style – North End created other chances.
Two of them came with the score at 2-0 and a third goal would surely have finished Bolton off.
As it was, the Trotters were let off the hook and back they came to earn a draw.
Robinson’s goal, his first of the season, came after he had started up front.
He got the nod to lead the line with Lukas Nmecha sidelined by an injury.
The alternative was Louis Moult but Alex Neil favoured the pace of Robinson to try and move the Wanderers central defenders about. To be fair to Robinson, he did that to good effect in that opening spell and the central role is one he has played in before.
The fact it was between him and Moult to play up front – in the absence of Nmecha and Sean Maguire – highlights the gap in the squad.
Robinson’s support came in the shape of Browne as the No.10 together with Brandon Barker and Graham Burke in the wide positions.
There were four changes from the last league outing at Derby, nine from the cup win over Leeds.
Tom Clarke got the nod over Darnell Fisher in the right-back role, mainly for his extra height at set-pieces.
Gallagher was Pearson’s partner in the middle, until half-time anyway.
Neil is currently searching for his best combinations it seems, the PNE boss yet to be able to field an unchanged XI.
You could not fault North End’s start in this one. When did they last score two goals in the first quarter-of-an-hour or so of a game? Wembley?
In the 11th minute, a stray pass in midfield from Yanic Wildschut was intercepted by Barker.
He drove forward through the Bolton half before slipping a pass behind the back four to free Robinson.
Goalkeeper Ben Alnwick dashed out to the edge of the box, ROBINSON showing quick feet to side-step him and then guide a shot between two covering defenders.
The lead was extended five minutes later, Bolton’s backline clearing a cross out of the box.
Gallagher was first to it, chesting the ball forward to BROWNE on the edge of the ‘D’.
In one swift movement the midfielder chested the ball down, turned and volleyed across the keeper to find the far corner of the net.
Declan Rudd pulled off saves from Sammy Ameobi and David Wheater, before Burke shot wide at the other end and Barker saw an effort blocked.
It would have been game-over surely, had one of those hit the target. As it was, Preston were stung by two Bolton goals in two minutes.
There seemed no danger when AMEOBI swung his left foot at a shot from 22 yards.
Rudd misjudged the flight horribly, appearing to dive past the ball and let it travel through his legs.
Bolton’s second he could do little about, the ball falling to Pawel OLKOWSKI two yards inside the box.
The right-back powered a first-time shot into the net off the underside of the bar.
There was a chance apiece in the second half for a winner, Browne blocking Jason Lowe’s in the six-yard box.
Robinson forced a decent save out of Alnwick from a Moult cross, the real drama coming post-final whistle as Pearson saw red.