Bolton 1-3 Preston: North End boost play-off hopes
Last Updated: 03/03/18 6:26pm
Substitute Sean Maguire celebrated his return to action with Preston's second and third goals in a 3-1 Sky Bet Championship comeback win at Bolton.
The 23-year-old Republic of Ireland forward, sidelined since November 1 by hamstring trouble, had only been on the field for 12 minutes after replacing Billy Bodin when he fired home in the 77th minute. And he sealed the result in stoppage time with a simple tap-in to give Preston a first win in five games.
The visitors had trailed to defender Mark Beevers' first goal of the season after 12 minutes. But Alex Neil's visitors created the better and more frequent chances, and it came as no surprise when Tom Barkhuizen equalised early in the second half.
North End could have been in front before Beevers broke the deadlock. Alan Browne's defence-splitting ball played in Bodin only for the Preston striker to be crowded out.
Bodin was then on the end of Paul Gallagher's cross a few minutes later but this time goalkeeper Ben Alnwick produced a save low down on the goal-line.
And it was against the run of play when Wanderers hit the front. Preston were aggrieved by referee Peter Bankes' award of a corner, and Felipe Morais' delivery caused panic in the visitors' six-yard box. Dorian Dervite's initial effort was blocked but the ball broke to Beevers, who fired in left-footed from 10 yards.
Beevers then saw a close-range header cleared off the line by Greg Cunningham as Bolton scented a second goal.
Instead, Preston's neat inter-play caused continual problems and Barkhuizen was frustrated by Alnwick's fine fingertip save after being put in by Browne.
Scorer Beevers and provider Morais were booked before the end of the first half as North End's players felt the weight of a number of thudding home challenges. Cunningham also had his name taken for a foul on the lively Morais, whose deliveries always looked dangerous.
If Preston felt hard done to by the interval scoreline, they rectified the situation within seven minutes of the restart. A quick counter-attack saw Callum Robinson thread a ball through for Barkhuizen to equalise with a superb angled right-footed shot into the corner of Alnwick's net.
Then Robinson burst into the penalty area and, from a tight angle, blasted over the crossbar.
Bolton made a double substitution, bringing on Adam Le Fondre and Jan Kirchhoff - the latter for his debut - and the German's first touch brought a vital save from Declan Rudd.
But it was Maguire's introduction for Bodin that made the difference and kept alive Preston's play-off hopes, firstly converting a left-wing cross by the near post and then side-footing into an empty net.
Phil Parkinson: "We did a lot of good things in the first half but in the second half they were better than us. They looked more threatening than us on the break and we got punished. The goal they got back lifted their team especially kicking towards their 3,500 fans.
"We didn't respond as well as we would have liked. There wasn't a lack of effort, we just couldn't get a foothold in the game."
Alex Neil: "I don't think he would have dreamed of a better game back. He came on with the game really tight and us needing to force the issue to get the win and he gets two goals.
"He has only played 45 minutes of football in three or four months. So, to come on and deliver that tells you everything you need to know about him."