WERE it not for his cast being decimated by injury and self-isolation, Ian Evatt might well be tempted to call off the rest of pre-season and call that his dress rehearsal.

If Wanderers play with the same swagger as they showed for long spells against Preston, League One will be an exciting adventure in the months to come.

Gethin Jones scored the decisive goal but this was a game where Wanderers more than matched their Championship opponents - a side which had recently beaten Celtic, no less - and played some football which was well worth the entrance money, and the early evening sunburn.

Wanderers were without several first teamers, which makes the standard of their performance all the more admirable.

The likes of Matt Gilks, Lloyd Isgrove, Declan John, Kieran Lee and George Johnston joined Eoin Doyle and Dennis Politic on the absentee list but that did not stop the men in white giving a display that left the majority of a packed out Leyland singing a happy tune.

Quite unlike the weekend, Wanderers were straight into the pace of the game. 

Xavier Amaechi impressed early on with a few darting runs and brought a smart save out of Connor Ripley with a free-kick. 

But just as the Hamburg loanee had whet our appetite for what was to come, he went down off the ball clutching his face, apparently in anguish at the injury which forced him off. 

Limping, head bowed, around the touchline there was a warm show of support from the Bolton fans – and when he re-emerged in the second half with a protective boot and crutches, it was hard not to be concerned. 

Preston had also shown a few glimpses of class, notably in one beautiful move involving Sean Maguire and Brad Potts which sliced Bolton open down the left touchline and ended with Scott Sinclair claiming a penalty for a trip by MJ Williams. 

Sinclair would have a much better shout turned down by the referee later in the half after a clumsy looking challenge by Josh Sheehan but Bolton deserved a break, given the list of absentees which had stacked the cards against them. 

It would be Wanderers who finished the half in total control, however, playing some of their best football of pre-season. 

A spell of intense pressure began with a poor punch from Ripley, which presented a half-chance for Ricardo Santos, volleyed into the side netting with 10 minutes left to play before the break. 

Gethin Jones picked up the baton and produced a fine run and cross from the right which dropped inches over Amadou Bakayoko’s head in the six-yard box. 

Sheehan’s influence on the game also began to increase. The Wales international started to pop up in areas between the Preston midfield and back three, causing them all manner of problems. 

Wanderers should have taken the lead when Ripley could only parry his dipping shot, Antoni Sarcevic homed in on the rebound but could only lift a shot over the bar

Sheehan then combined superbly with Williams to blast a hole through the middle of the North End defence and as the ball was worked out wide, Jones had made up ground to hammer an angled shot inches wide. 

There was still time for one final big chance for Bolton before half time, this time Ripley making a save from Sheehan and then getting up quickly to block Sarcevic’s effort at point blank range, much to the disbelief of the Bolton fans who had congregated behind the same goal. 

Preston nearly hit with a sucker punch in stoppage time when Ethan Walker pulled a shot wide of Joel Dixon’s goal.  

Wanderers did not give Preston any let up after the break. Their tails were up and it took just six minutes to find the breakthrough.  

Evatt will be pleased with the way the equaliser materialised as Williams timed his press perfectly to leave the men in green backpedalling and Jones was there to hammer a shot into the bottom corner. 

Bolton could have quickly doubled their advantage as Sheehan saw a fierce effort deflected wide and sub keeper Matthew Hudson produced a fingertip save to deny Dapo Afolayan, who now had the Preston defenders worried every time he touched the ball. 

The game started to become tetchy after a poor challenge from Walker on Jones, with players from both sides joining in the fracas. The challenge may have more lasting effects for the Wanderers full-back, however, who left the field for Harry Brockbank soon after. 

Another scramble in the penalty box left Ricardo Santos on his backside claiming a penalty and skipper Sarcevic booked by a ref who was losing his grip on the game. 

A flurry of subs diffused the problem slightly and did dislodge Bolton's superiority for the last five minutes. 

Preston had a couple of scrambled chances to send their fans home happy but this was one of those nights where - no matter how long the referee opted to add on - they were not going to find a way through.

Just as Saturday had been disappointing, this result and performance was uplifting. How much either matter in the grand scheme is debatable in this weird and wonderful pre-season world.

Wanderers: Dixon, Jones (Brockbank 63), Almeida Santos (Aimson 68), Baptiste (Senior 75), Gordon, Williams, Sheehan (Thomason 66), Sarcevic (Tutte 68), Amaechi (Delfouneso 21), Afolayan (Darcy 66), Bakayoko (Conway 75). Subs not used: Hutchinson