Preston 0-0 Bolton Six Things: defences on top

Mavididi, starting his 5th EFL game, tussles with Henry, who is in his 18th season – skysports.com

With Preston edging the first half of this Lancashire derby and Bolton edging the second, the eventual 0-0 draw was a fair reflection on the balance of play. Here’s six things from the game.

Gallagher’s set pieces

Preston played on the front foot in the first 30 minutes, when they created various opportunities from Paul Gallagher’s deliveries alone. The Scot used his fifth minute corner to play a one-two with Callum Robinson and get beyond Mark Little, before forcing a close-range stop from Ben Alnwick. Shortly afterwards, the 33-year-old’s cross was nearly turned home by Paul Huntington at the back-post but the angle proved too tight, before Andy Boyle and Tom Barkhuizen also headed off-target.

Barkhuizen and Mavididi

Barkhuizen looked a threat in the first half with his movement and creativity, causing problems down the right for Antonee Robinson, who suffered from a lack of support from Adam Armstrong. Barkhuizen linked up well with speedy striker Stephy Mavididi, who often occupied the right channel and had the beating of left-sided centre-back Mark Beevers. Mavididi came close twice himself, heading Kevin O’Conner’s 30th minute cross wide before a powerful run saw him force a save from Alnwick.

One-dimensional Trotters

The service for target man Gary Madine was often played from goalkeeper Alnwick, or centre-back David Wheater, which made things easy for Preston centre-backs, Boyle and Huntington. Even when Madine won the initial balls, as he did three times in the first 60 seconds, he was crowded out with midfielders such as Ben Pearson showing great defensive diligence. Sammy Ameobi was Bolton’s liveliest first half performer: the right winger’s run set up a left footed effort from Josh Vela that flew narrowly over.

Another Preston defender injured

The Lilywhites lost their control of proceedings in the second half, as Gallagher saw less time on the ball and the attacking quartet began to tire. They were hindered by the minor injury to left-back O’Connor, who stayed on the pitch owing to the absence of a natural replacement, with Greg Cunningham, Josh Earl, Ben Davies and Tommy Spurr all unavailable. From then on, they had the feel of a side that were hanging on. Daryl Horgan, Daniel Johnson and Josh Harrop all entered the fray, but neither saw enough of the ball in the final third to make their mark, such was the midfield’s conservatism.

Bolton’s late rally

Visiting right-back Little tried to exacerbate Preston’s left-back problem with a couple of powerful runs that went unrewarded, as the tempo increased tenfold after the break. The Trotters were quicker to second balls, Robinson got further up the pitch, Darren Pratley imposed himself more in midfield while Beevers became comfortable with Mavididi. In their best effort of the game, Armstrong turned Calum Woods inside out before unleashing a right-footed effort, which was pushed away by Chris Maxwell.

In summary

Both teams played well in one half, but needed to be more clinical in the final third when they were on top. Preston might sense a missed opportunity to move into the top half before those around them kick-off tomorrow. The name of the game though is to stay around midtable until they get some defenders back fit – not to mention forwards Sean Maguire and Jordan Hugill. Bolton meanwhile, can take heart from their six-game unbeaten run. They are not out of the bottom three yet but more second half performances like the one at Deepdale and things will look a little brighter.