Joe Garner kept his status as Burslem’s most hated man but his penalty could not clinch victory for Preston North End as 10-man Port Vale staged a late fight back to draw 2-2 draw at Vale Park.
Daniel Johnson pounced on a half cleared corner and his deflected first-time effort rippled the back of the net in the 12th minute.
The Valiants could not muster a shot on or off target in the first half but North End created 11 goal scoring opportunities.
But the beautiful game is also a cruel one and Vale punished North End for not taking their chances and won a penalty against the run of play seven minutes into the second half.
Vale’s half-time substitute Tom Pope clattered to the ground after challenging in the air with PNE captain Tom Clarke and referee Richard Clark pointed to the spot. Michael O’Connor stepped up and stylishly smashed the ball past Sam Johnstone.
But captain Clarke immediately dusted himself down and was back in the action up the other end. Clarke’s shot was tipped away by Richard Duffy on the line. The ball rebounded back to Clarke who fired again but the referee had already blown for the first offence and pointed to the spot.
Duffy was given his marching orders and Vale villain Joe Garner stepped up to coolly chip Vale keeper Chris Neal.
Garner famously avoided a red card at Vale Park last term when referee Andy Madley mistakenly sent Neil Kilkenny for an early bath rather than perpetrator Garner. The striker went on to score twice in North End’s 2-0 victory and despite being roundly booed on his return to Vale Park he shrugged off the home fans anger to give North End the lead in the 58th minute.
But 10-man Vale fought back. John Welsh tripped Michael O’Connor on the edge of the box and the referee was given no option but to point to the spot. The midfielder got to his feet and sent the ball crashing into the back of the net.
The result means second-placed North End will be nervously looking over their shoulder when League One promotion rivals Swindon Town and MK Dons play tomorrow.
North End started brightly. Jermaine Beckford’s close range effort was blocked by a Vale defender and Clarke headed way over from the subsequent set-piece in the fourth minute.
Garner’s fierce shot from distance was touched on to the post by Vale keeper Neal in the seventh minute.
Johnson opened the scoring in the 12th minute as he pounced on Gallagher’s cleared corner. The midfielder’s shot took a deflection and flew past Neal.
Robinson’s curling shot from just outside the box was pushed away by Neal in the 19th minute.
PNE dominated the first half but did not have another clear cut chance until Garner headed over the bar from Gallagher’s corner in the 40th minute.
Dodds was booked for a foul on Garner in the 43rd minute and Johnson fired straight at Neal just before the break.
Port Vale did not have a shot on or off target in the whole of the first half.
The second 45 started much like the first as Robinson’s was inches away from doubling North End’s lead as his teasing shot just flew over the bar in the 48th minute.
But Vale equalised from the spot in the 52nd minute. Clarke was judged to have pushed Vale’s half-time substitute Pope in the box and referee Richard Clark pointed to the spot. O’Connor picked up the ball and fired past Johnstone.
But moments after giving away a penalty Clarke won one for North End as his shot was blocked on the line by Duffy. The central defender was sent off and Vale midfielder Michael Brown was also booked but Garner coolly stepped up to and put North End back in front from the spot.
But 10-man Vale fought back. Welsh tripped O’Connor on the right side of the box and the referee pointed straight to the spot. O’Connor made no mistake and fired past Johnstone to level the score.
Johnson fired over the bar in added time but North End could not find a winner.
PNE: Johnstone, Clarke, Huntington, Wright, Laird, Johnson, Welsh (Ebanks-Blake, 87) Gallagher, Beckford (Davies, 87), Garner, Robinson (Humphrey, 70). Subs not used: Stuckmann, Kilkenny, Woods, Little.
Port Vale: Neal, Dickinson, Duffy, Dodds (Yates, 60) Williamson (Coulibaly, 76), O’Connor, Collins, Brown, Marshall, Veseli, Campion (Pope, 46). Subs not used: Johnson, Birchall, Daniel, O’Sullivan.
Referee: Richard Clark (Northumberland)
Attendance: 7,210 (2,485)