Ben Pearson was shown a red card after the final whistle as Preston North End and Bolton Wanderers drew 2-2 in a full-blooded clash at Deepdale.
Callum Robinson and Alan Browne put PNE in command but two goals in two minutes from Sammy Ameobi and Pawel Olkowski levelled things up.
We look at the main talking points below.
PNE can’t afford to waste starts like that
Just 16 minutes into proceedings at Deepdale it looked like North End were well on their way to a first league win since the opening day. Callum Robinson kept his cool 12 minutes in before Alan Browne turned a fired home a fine finish shortly after. It all unravelled though as Bolton scored two in two minutes, Declan Rudd failing to keep out Sammy Ameobi’s shot before Pawel Olkowski crashed one in off the underside of the crossbar. After the action of the first half a drab second followed before the drama after the final whistle - Ben Pearson shown a needless red card. North End have been crying out for a start like that but squandered it in some style in the end. Having been flat in the final third so far this season, when they get their noses in front, the Lilywhites really need to make it count.
Confidence is fragile
After Bolton’s quick-fire double PNE were hanging on at the end of the first half. As soon as things went against them it was clear this was a side who were in need of a result. It was the same off the pitch too, groans greeting stray passes as North End huffed and puffed after the break. Neil wasn’t shy in making substitutions with all three used by the hour mark. Louis Moult did okay linking the play but Tom Barkhuizen didn’t influence the game as he would have liked and Daniel Johnson was some way short of his fine performance against Leeds on Tuesday night. It was a tentative and at times safe second half from all involved. The international break looks to have come at a good time for PNE to regroup.
You can never predict Neil’s team selection
After such a good performance against Leeds in midweek plenty of the PNE squad would have been hoping they’d done enough to start on Saturday. Few would have predicted the line-up Neil went with though. A knock to Lukas Nmecha meant it was Robinson who led the line while Tom Clarke replaced Darnell Fisher at right back. Robinson’s selection ahead of Moult was a clear indication that Neil wanted to move Bolton around. As it was the front man’s goal came from an error, Brandon Barker pouncing before Robinson showed composure that PNE sometimes lack in the final third as he side-stepped Ben Alnwick before scoring. With no more attacking reinforcements in the final days of the window he is certainly an option through the middle. Still though North End look short of an option.
North End boss has a decision to make in goal
There was some debate about who would start in goal pre-match and that had only intensified at the final whistle. Facing questions after his performance against Derby, Rudd needed a big performance. But after seeing Ameobi’s swerving shot beat him for Bolton’s opener there will now be growing calls for Chris Maxwell to be given his chance in the league. The Bolton man’s effort was well-struck but appeared to go through Rudd. Neil now has two weeks to ponder who will start in goal after the international break when Reading visit Deepdale. Surely Maxwell now deserves a run between the sticks.
Pearson has to learn - and fast
At Thursday’s pre-match press conference Neil made it clear what he thought of Ben Pearson’s disciplinary record. Of his three bookings so far this season, two have come for dissent. “He needs to nail his mouth shut” was his manager’s blunt verdict. So to see him sent off for a headbutt after the final whistle was not what anyone involved at Deepdale needed. Pearson, in most people’s eyes, is the best player at the club. But he is suspended far too often. Some PNE fans will be worried about the midfielder enforcer being poached by a Premier League club but the reality is that a lot of teams won’t touch him with his disciplinary record. He will now most likely miss the next three games, North End also without his natural replacement Ryan Ledson for two of them.