Goals from Mikey O’Neill, Joe Rodwell-Grant and Adam O’Reilly gave the Lilywhites a comfortable victory in their latest Central League fixture.
They were two up at the break against Bolton Wanderers at Euxton, O’Neill firing home from the returning Matthew Olosunde’s right-wing cross, before Rodwell-Grant scored a poacher’s goal, on the edge of the six-yard box after skipper Paul Huntington had fired Jamie Thomas’ corner goalwards.
And they capped off a positive display with five minutes to go when some good play saw Irish midfielder O’Reilly collect the ball just inside the box, with his shot deflecting off a defender and up and over the Trotters’ trialist goalkeeper Mateusz Hewelt.
Olosunde was making his first competitive appearance in a lilywhite shirt, having not played any football since the pre-season trip to St Johnstone and after feeling his way into the game, he had a positive impact and played an hour, as had been scheduled beforehand.
It was quite a young side that North End had out, but they were in the ascendency from the off. Liam Edwards had to make a block from Jacob Holland-Wilkinson’s effort, after Lewis Coulton’s cross from the left on nine minutes.
Holland-Wilkinson was again involved five minutes later; good play from the forward to find O’Reilly down the right, but his reverse ball was just behind the PNE players in the crowded penalty area.
Joe Blanchard headed down a Lewis Leigh cross that led to Rodwell-Grant having an effort smothered by Hewelt, before a good lay-off from O’Neill gave Thomas a chance to shoot, the stopper tipping over. From the resulting Thomas corner, Huntington headed inches wide of the right-hand post.
But it was 1-0 just before the half hour mark after Olosunde showed a clean pair of heels to the Bolton left back, got to level with the six-yard line before delivering a hard low cross, that O’Neill fired into the net at the back post.
And it was 2-0 within two minutes as Thomas swung over a corner from the right to the edge of the box, where Huntington put the ball back into the area for Rodwell-Grant to fire into the roof of the net from the edge of the six-yard box.
With a few minutes to go before half-time, there was almost a carbon copy of the second goal, however this time Hewelt managed to get his chest in the way of Rodwell-Grant’s effort.
The second half was much of the same; O’Reilly nicked the ball off the Bolton midfield on 52 minutes before sending Rodwell-Grant down a left-hand channel. He cut in and shot goalwards, but the visiting custodian saved with his legs.
The only real chance of the game created by Wanderers came a minute later as Mitchell Henry had a shot saved by Mathew Hudson and then Matthew Tweedley put the follow-up just wide.
Just before the hour mark a curling effort from O’Neill, from 20 yards out, came off the head of Bolton captain Liam Edwards, which took it narrowly past the right-hand upright, with Hewelt beaten.
But the third finally arrived with just five minutes left; O’Reilly working himself space on the edge of the area to open up his body for a shot, that Edwards got a boot on, but only enough to take the ball up and over Hewelt and into the goal.
Two good chances in the final minute came the way of Rodwell-Grant to add to his and the team’s total, created by two substitutes – Harry Nevin and Levi Lewis – but the first came back off the bar and the second brought another good save from the visiting No.1 and the game finished 3-0.
PNE line-up: Hudson, Olosunde (Nevin, 58), Coulton, Leigh (Lewis, 82), Huntington (c), Blanchard (Mfuni, 86), Holland-Wilkinson (Cross-Adair, 73), O’Reilly, Rodwell-Grant, Thomas, O’Neill. Sub not used: Pradic.
Bolton Wanderers line-up: Hewelt, Burgess, Conway, Sharples, Toure, Edwards (c) (Halford, 45), Olawumi, Tweedley, McEvoy (Jones, 45), Pettifer, Henry. Subs not used: Alexander, Kamara, Frimpong.
Referee: Mr B Lamb