TEENAGE robbers targeted victims as they walked through Bolton town centre, attacking them and forcing them to withdraw money from cash machines.

At Bolton Crown Court Sohail Ali and Abdul Said were each sentenced to 30 months at a youth offenders' institution for committing two late night robberies

The court heard that Ali and Said, both aged 18, were part of a gang of four men who were in the town centre on the evening of April 11.

Juliet Berry, prosecuting, told how their first victim, pub worker 20-year-old Gabriel Lee, finished work just after midnight and was near the Santander bank on Deansgate when four men, described as being "very loud", started following him.

As Mr Lee walked down Bank Street they trailed him, asking him repeatedly for the time.

Miss Berry said they were intimidating but Mr Lee ignored them and continued trying to walk home.

But the men surrounded him and he eventually pulled out his mobile phone to tell them the time.

Despite giving into their request, the gang stayed with him as continued walking and he refused their demand to go down an alleyway towards disused land.

After asking what was in his pockets, one of the gang threatened, "I'll get the knife".

"Mr Lee was punched hard in the mouth and then the left side of the jaw," said Miss Berry.

Mr Lee's glasses were knocked off as he fell to the ground.

The robbers took his mobile phone and wallet and demanded his the pin number for his debit card.

While two of the gang stayed with their victim, the other two went to the bank and withdrew £290.

"He pleaded to be let go, but they refused," said Miss Berry, adding that his captors told him to "chill out".

When the robbers could not withdraw any more cash they demanded Mr Lee go to the cashpoint at the Co-op on Knowsley Street.

When the machine refused the cash request again they returned Mr Lee's wallet and phone to him and let him go.

During his 18 minute ordeal he suffered a cut lip and ripped jeans.

Not content with the cash they had stolen, less than four hours later the gang found a second victim.

Christopher Holt was walking along Bradshawgate to get a taxi from outside the Balmoral pub after spending the evening with friends at the Kahiki bar.

But he encountered the gang acting in a threatening manner.

Mr Holt tried to run away, but stumbled and fell and the gang went through his pockets, stealing his Apple watch, phone and wallet.

"They said they would stab him if he didn't go with them to the cash machine," said Miss Berry.

The men took £200 from his account and kept his watch before allowing Mr Holt, who suffered a bruised and grazed face, knee and elbow as well as ripped jeans, to get into a taxi.

After the robberies were reported to police, an officer identified Ali and Said from town centre CCTV footage.

Ali, of Pleasant Gardens, Bolton, and Said, of Langdon Close, Bolton, both initially denied committing the offences but subsequently pleaded guilty to two counts of robbery and two of fraud. Ali also admitted possessing a passport belonging to someone else which has been found in a search of his home.

Martin Pizzey, defending Said, who had been convicted of a battery offence just two months earlier, said the teenager "accepts he had lost certain direction in his life. He is determined to improve himself."

Vanessa Thomson, for Ali said: "This was something that was utterly out of character for this young man."

She added that Ali, who works for a plumber, had gone to the town centre to have a drink with his friend Said after having a bad day at work.

"He has suffered the wrath of his family who are deeply ashamed of his actions," she said.

Sentencing the pair, who appeared in court via a video link, to 30 months behind bars, the Honorary Recorder of Bolton, Judge Timothy Clayson told them: "There is a degree of immaturity in your behaviour."