Friday night’s televised showdown with local rivals Preston North End saw Bolton Wanderers come away with a hard earned point which, unfortunately, wasn't enough to lift us out of the drop zone this time round.
3,800 eagerly anticipating Bolton fans made the short journey only for kick off to be delayed in typical Lancashire fashion following the failure of a floodlight. Once the game eventually began, the exceptional following created an incredible atmosphere for a game under the lights, initially representing ourselves well for the nation to see.
Wanderers, in the purple away strip, were unchanged from our previous game a fortnight ago against Norwich City. The only notable pieces of team news was that Gary Madine was eligible for selection despite last week’s run in with the Police. There was no sign of Adam Le Fondre whilst Reece Burke returned from injury, earning himself a place on there bench.
Preston started the game on the front foot but we’re equally cancelled out by a number of early opportunities for Bolton. Karl Henry took it upon himself to quickly set the tone for the evening with a crunching tackle which saw him go into the referee’s book within five minutes. Wanderers continued to press well which meant Preston were the more attacking side in the first half and came close to breaking the deadlock far too many times for my liking.
More positives came in the form of some excellent defensive tracking from Adam Armstrong to cover the pressurised Antonee Robinson whilst Ameobi was his usual tricky self and Karl Henry was inches away from making it 1-0 to Bolton with a long range effort.
Half Time came and the attention turned to the away end, in which the concourse underneath the stand was hot-boxed by numerous pyrotechnics set off on regular intervals which eventually lead to calls for an evacuation by stewards. This unfortunately resulted in some fans receiving medical attention for burns and smoke inhalation. As a family club and one which has recently backed the banning of pyrotechnics at football and, boring or not, this will only reflect negatively on us.
Back on the pitch, the second half kicked off and Bolton immediately took initiative to get forward and press on the Preston goal and their weak defence. Sammy Ameobi was something else on the night as his passing, control, skill and strength made us a much better side. Gary Madine had put in a good shift up top but struggled to get himself in a scoring position at any opportunity and was effectively man marked for the entirety. Josh Vela also impressed going forward but struggled to remain a constant threat as he too was dragged out of the game at every opportunity.
With neither side looking any more likely to grab a winner, substitutions were made for both sides, Will Buckley and Filipe Morias replaced Adam Armstrong and Josh Vela respectively. Buckley made an immediate impact down the left putting in a couple of dangerous crosses whilst Morais’ dangerous corners also caused problems for Preston.
Despite both teams’ late flurry of attempts on both goals, neither could do enough to beat the shot-stoppers. Ben Alnwick is one player who certainly deserves some recognition as he stood strong all game and improved the way we played by reducing the amount of long balls to Madine and turned them into creative passages of play by playing out from the back. Unfortunately, in the desperation of keeping a clean sheet, Mark Beevers picked up his fifth booking in a row which means we’ll be without him for Tuesday’s clash with Reading.
The final scoreline was 0-0 and it’s a result which both sides will accept as Preston end their losing streak whilst we maintain our unbeaten streak. As I said to begin with, a point a piece was the fair result come the final whistle.
On to Tuesday where a win would do wonders for us, lets hope for all three.