Last-gasp Bailey grabs a point

Preston North End players wore special shirts to mark the 90th birthday of club legend Sir Tom Finney before kick-off on Saturday
Preston North End players wore special shirts to mark the 90th birthday of club legend Sir Tom Finney before kick-off on Saturday
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Bailey Wright’s 90th minute header rescued a point for Preston North End in their clash with MK Dons at Deepdale.

On the day when PNE celebrated Sir Tom Finney’s 90th birthday, the visitors had threatened to spoil the party through a first-half opener from Darren Potter.

But Australian teenager Wright chose the perfect moment to score his first goal for North End, connecting with a Danny Mayor free-kick to nod home the equaliser.

Before the game and at half-time, North End and their supporters marked Sir Tom’s landmark birthday with style and dignity.

A long list of video birthday messages were relayed on Deepdale’s big screen, including ones from David Beckham, Sir Alex Ferguson, Harry Redknapp, Sir Bobby Charlton and Jimmy Armfield.

Opera singer Camilla Kerslake entertained fans with two wonderful songs, and then led a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’.

Sir Tom was not at the game, but members of his family were there to help the celebrations go with a swing.

At the interval, there was a parade of former players from down the years on the pitch, Sean Gregan getting the loudest cheer.

On the playing front, there were three changes made to the North End side by Graham Westley.

Mayor, Iain Hume and Chris Holroyd came into the starting XI, with Aaron Brown, Craig Morgan and Graham Cummins dropping out.

The back four saw Chris Robertson partnered by Wright in the centre, Paul Parry playing at left-back.

Mayor started on the left-wing, Paul Coutts on the right with Max Ehmer and Andy Procter down the middle.

A bright opening spell from North End saw them force a couple of corners, then Dons keeper David Martin did well to cut out a Coutts cross.

In the 12th minute, a first-time volley from Holroyd on the left side of the box forced a diving save out of Martin.

Holroyd got on the end of a Parry cross from the left, but off-balance could only send a header spinning across goal.

Their good early work was undone in the 27th minute as the visitors went in front slightly against the run of play through Potter.

Adam Chicksen’s through ball carved open the centre of North End’s defence, Potter running on to it and lifting a shot over Thorsten Stuckmann.

North End were almost level within eight minutes, Holroyd rising to meet a corner from Mayor but heading against the angle of bar and post.

Six minutes into the second half, good work by Mayor played in Coutts just inside the box, the midfielder’s shot hitting Dons centre-half Gary MacKenzie full in the face.

At the other end, James O’Shea’s shot from the edge of the box dipped inches over Stuckmann’s bar.

There was a loud shout from the crowd for a penalty when Mayor went down under O’Shea’s 56th minute challenge, but referee Chris Sarginson ruled the MK Dons midfielder had got the ball.

Soon after that, Coutts’ cross from the right travelled beyond the back post to Mayor who nodded it down into the middle.

But Holroyd was unable to connect with it properly as it fell to him with his back to goal, the ball cleared by the visitors defence.

North End’s first substitution of the afternoon saw Jamie Proctor replace Ehmer, that move seeeing Coutts move inside with Proctor operating down the right.

Coutts forced a good save out of Martin in the 71st minute, his low shot from 20 yards held at full stretch by the keeper diving to his right.

The Scotsman should have done better with a free-kick awarded PNE’s way after Hume was fouled a couple of yards outside the box.

But he lifted it over the bar and into the Bill Shankly Kop without troubling Martin.

Just as it looked like the game had got away from North End, they conjured up their late equaliser.

Holroyd won a free-kick down the inside-left channel after being fouled by Potter, and with time ticking on, Stuckmann was waved forward to add his presence in the box.

Mayor lifted the free-kick towards the far post where Wright ran in to place a header into the net.

The leveller prompted a loud chorus of ‘there’s only one Tom Finney’ from the home fans.

And who knows how important this point could be at the end of the season.

PNE: Stuckmann, Hunt (Miller 78), Robertson, Wright, Parry, Coutts, Ehmer (Proctor 69), Procter (Aneke 84), Mayor, Hume, Holroyd. Subs: Cummins, Arestidou.

MK Dons: Martin, Chicksen, Williams, McKenzie, Lewington, Potter, Gleeson, Chadwick (Ibehre 59), Smith (MacDonald 76), O’Shea (Slane 81), Powell. Subs: Flanagan, McLoughlin.

Referee: Chris Sarginson (Staffordshire)

Attendance: 13,941