Report: Preston North End 0-0 Bolton
Wanderers and Preston played out a frustrating 0-0 draw on Saturday evening at Deepdale in the first competitive meeting between the sides for 14 years.
In a first period of few chances, Shola Ameobi came closest for Wanderers with a six-yard box header while the home side enjoyed opportunities of their own, with Daniel Johnson a crucial figure for them.
The second period saw more chances go begging with Gary Madine seeing his snap-shot through a crowded area saved by Jordan Pickford late on, but neither side were able to break the deadlock as the game ended all square.
There was a return to the starting XI for Jay Spearing on his return from injury, while Shola Ameobi was handed his first start in a Bolton shirt after coming on as a substitute in Wanderers’ last outing against Leeds United.
It was a bright start from both sides under the floodlights, with Ameobi seeing a header from a Spearing corner saved by Jordan Pickford inside the opening minute of the clash.
The atmosphere inside Deepdale was certainly in full swing too, with both sets of fans making themselves heard early on.
Although goalmouth action was few and far between, Wanderers and Preston were both making inroads but each defence was standing firm in what was an even start to proceedings.
Preston were the side venturing into more dangerous territory as the clock hit the quarter of an hour mark though, with Joe Garner seeing a scuffed effort from the edge of the box trickle wide of the goalmouth.
It was a very cagey affair, and Wanderers came within inches of breaking the deadlock in the 25th minute after connecting with a Spearing free-kick into the box, but the frontman’s effort narrowly cleared the crossbar.
Up the other end of the field meanwhile, Daniel Johnson saw his header from halfway inside the box scrambled away from danger at the death.
Calum Woods received a booking for a last ditch foul on Max Clayton soon after, but Jose Manuel Casado couldn’t get the resulting free-kick just outside the area down with Pickford untroubled.
The clash was definitely getting tasty as David Wheater blocked a Johnson effort twice in quick succession, with Darren Pratley brandished Bolton’s first booking for a late challenge on the half hour mark.
The noise levels inside Deepdale were rising and so was the temperature of the game as Preston found themselves in the ascendancy with Bolton forced to defend deeply as the half wore on.
Wanderers were standing firm however, with Wheater again taking a battering for the Bolton cause when blocking Greg Cunningham’s thunderous effort from distance.
With two minutes of additional time indicated, the home side continued to throw men forward but were unable to broach the Bolton rear guard as the first period ended goalless.
With no changes at the break, the second half got underway with Wanderers on the attack with Casado’s swinging cross into the mix being plucked away from danger by Pickford inside the opening three minutes.
Bolton continued to press, with Spearing seeing another set-piece from just outside the area narrowly clear the crossbar in the 50th minute.
The clash was still balanced on a knife edge, with both teams giving their all in a bid to open the scoring as tackles flew in left, right and centre.
Johnson was proving himself a tyrant for the Bolton defence, with the Preston man trying his luck from just inside the area shortly after the hour mark, only to see Derik steer the ball away from goal.
Adam Reach meanwhile found himself in a glorious position at the far post, but he was unable to control the ball and saw it bounce off his chest and out for a corner.
The game was there for the taking though, and Wanderersd signalled their intent with the introduction of Gary Madine in place of Ameobi with 16 minutes to go.
Johnson again attempted to beat Ben Amos with a well taken snap-shot moments later, but the goalkeeper was on his guard and saw that his effort was smothered.
A second half substitute, Jordan Hugill squandered a chance for Preston after breaking free of the Bolton defence, but he unleashed a harmless shot from distance after failing to see Johnson in support of him.
Frustration was evident for sides and as the game entered its final ten minutes, there was no let-up in effort on either part.
Francesco Pisano was thrown into the mix in place of Derik late on, while Madine saw his shot through a crowded penalty area saved by Pickford with six minutes remaining.
It was end to end stuff as the clock ran down to full time, and as four minutes of added time were indicated, there was no resting on laurels for either team.
Preston were the team enjoying most possession and Wanderers did find themselves on the back foot, but the game ultimately ended goalless at the final whistle.