Dave Seddon's PNE Gentry Day verdict
Had Preston fans collectively sat down together and written a script for Gentry Day, what they would have come up with probably would not have been too far away with how this game panned out.
Three goals in front of an away end filled with nigh on 4,000 supporters, two of them from the boots of super sub Sean Maguire as he returned from a four-month lay-off, was the stuff of scriptwriters.
It was in fact reality, so too Alex Neil putting on a bowler hat to celebrate at the final whistle – fulfilling a promise he had made in the build-up.
Gentry Day 2018 had its bumps in the road during the planning stages but it all came good in the end – very good if the truth be told.
Venue was the first issue and once Bolton got the nod, cost became a problem.
Prices of £35 and £30 in the respective upper and lower tiers put some supporters off making the trip.
But 3,974 parted with their cash and got value for money from Neil’s men.
Yes, they had to come from behind to claim victory as they had done at the same ground two years earlier.
Even when trailing in the first half, North End were the better side, and it was during the second half that they turned possession into goals.
Maguire was the headline act of the afternoon, coming off the bench to make such a big impact for a little man.
His goals might have come from only three yards and six yards out respectively but how vital they were.
A poacher’s instinct is what North End have been missing for long spells of the season, Maguire filling the gap when unleashed from the bench for 25 minutes.
The former Cork City man had last been seen limping out of action against Aston Villa on November 1.
He was diagnosed with a seriously damaged hamstring soon after, one which needed surgery to repair.
Maguire always had this derby in his sights, setting it as a realistic comeback given that the recovery time after surgery was four months.
But even the frontman himself could not have envisaged making such a worthwhile contribution.
His first goal was PNE’s second, Tom Barkhuizen having fired the equaliser.
The second of Maguire’s pair came in injury time and put the icing on the cake – it put Preston out of sight of their Horwich hosts.
Whether Maguire is now in line to start is something Neil must weigh up ahead of the visit of Bristol City on Tuesday.
It will be tempting to give him the nod but the extent of the injury Maguire is just back from will be in Neil’s mind.
Neil said: “It was a terrible injury – Greg Cunningham had the same one.
“What you have is a tendon at the top of the muscle and one at the bottom.
“Sean ripped right down the muscle and tore into the tendon. Both of the tendons had to be repaired and to come back as strong as Sean has, is very good.”
To label this a one-man show would be doing North End a disservice, even if Maguire’s impact was such a big one.
While they went in 1-0 down at the interval, there were plenty of puzzled looks as to why that had happened by reason of the way they had played and bossed possession.
The visitors were quicker than their hosts, their pace in the front four standing out.
Barkhuizen showed a clean pair of heels to Bolton’s back three to run clear and score the equaliser eight minutes into the second half.
From there North End kicked on to win the game, the arrival of Maguire just giving them that bit more edge in the box.
It is worth pointing out that Bolton had lost only one of their last 12 home games in the league.
Cardiff and Bristol City had both lost at the Macron, with Fulham held to a draw.
After starting with a 4-4-2 in the last two matches, Neil reverted to 4-2-3-1 this time, Paul Gallagher’s inclusion at the expense of Louis Moult the one change.
Billy Bodin was put clear early on but hesitation as he got the ball out of his feet saw defenders get back and his shot was saved by keeper Ben Alnwick.
Bolton took a 12th-minute lead, Filipe Morais’ corner met by Dorian Dervite who saw a header blocked in a crowded six-yard box.
The ball fell to his fellow centre-back Mark BEEVERS who stabbed it home.
Barkhuizen went close to an equaliser when he surged upfield, played a one-two with Alan Browne, before hitting a shot which Alnwick tipped over the bar.
Ably supported by Browne, Barkhuizen was leading PNE’s charge and looking their best player at this stage.
It was appropriate that he should score the equaliser with the second period in its infancy.
Callum Robinson collected a pass from Bodin just inside the Bolton half, his timing spot on as he waited a moment or two extra to slide a pass to the overlapping Barkhuizen.
The pass took out Dervite, BARKHUIZEN moving into the box, opening up his body and sliding a right-foot shot beyond Alnwick.
Neil went for the kill with the 65th-minute introduction of Maguire at the expense of Bodin.
Robinson moved out to the left to accommodate Maguire down the middle.
Not long after, Josh Harrop came off the bench in a bold move which saw Calum Woods come off and Browne go to the right-back slot.
Harrop’s pass in the 77th minute freed Robinson down the left, his low cross to the near post slid over the line by MAGUIRE.
Off came his shirt during the celebrations as he ran in front of the travelling fans.
The substitute was at it again two minutes into time added on, only this time his top stayed on.
Harrop and Barkhuizen swapped passes down the right-hand side of the box, Harrop’s cross deflecting into the path of MAGUIRE.
Unmarked, he took a touch before picking his spot with a low finish from six yards.
A thoroughly deserved win and a fantastic afternoon out for the fans – this was very much Bolton 1 The Gentry 3.