Ipswich 1 Preston North End 1 - Dave Seddon's verdict on Paul Gallagher's memorable afternoon at Portman Road
The word on the street is that Paul Gallagher was at the wheel of Preston North End's team bus leaving Portman Road and then piloted their charter jet back to Liverpool Airport.
Far fetched? Probably not considering the afternoon the midfielder had just had against Ipswich.
Gallagher was everything good about what North End did in Suffolk.
He has done plenty in his 544-game career but surely Saturday’s events were a first for him.
To come off the bench, score with his first touch and then spend 20 minutes as the stand-in goalkeeper was Roy of the Rovers material.
The 34-year-old produced a spectacular diving save too, this not just a case of wearing the gloves and a green jersey for appearances’ sake.
If Gallagher ever sits down to write his autobiography, this will be chapter one.
He drew on his experience attending keeper training when a youngster and more recently the occasional go in nets at Springfields, when standing-in for the dismissed Chris Maxwell at Ipswich.
Maxwell was sent for an early bath just two minutes after Gallagher had equalised for North End with a free-kick which is more his day job.
Two yellow cards for fouls led to Maxwell’s red card and with all three substitutes used, who was going to brave enough to volunteer to be the last line of PNE’s defence for the final stages?
Louis Moult was Alex Neil’s initial choice, purely on the basis he needed Gallagher to keep Ben Pearson company in central midfield.
But Gallagher’s persuasive powers were good and he got the nod to pull on the spare fluorescent green top.
Tongue-in-cheek, he was to suggest a career change when speaking to the media once the dust had settled.
“This means I can play on until I’m 40, goalkeepers don’t retire as early,” said Gallagher.
He was joking, I think, but I wouldn’t put anything past this confident character.
Ipswich didn’t manage to put anything past him either, much to the frustration of their supporters who had smelt blood when Maxwell saw red.
In fact it was North End who could have come home with three points in their luggage.
Two good chances went to waste late in the game, what a story that would have been had either Lukas Nmecha or Tom Clarke found the net.
Gallagher’s equaliser, the Maxwell red card and then the stand-in keeper’s heroics were naturally the highlights of a game between two sides at the wrong end of the Championship.
It wasn’t at all difficult for the last 20 minutes or so to eclipse anything that had gone on previously.
PNE were not at their best going forward, in fact it wasn’t until they went down to 10 men that they posed a threat.
For spells in both halves they were on the back foot against a home side doing all they could to impress their new manager Paul Lambert.
It’s fair comment that they saw plenty of the ball without really threatening the North End goal.
Their opener on the stroke of half-time was very much a case of the visitors being the authors of their own downfall.
Josh Earl’s back pass from the halfway line fell into the unnecessary bracket.
Maxwell overplayed it in his own box, managing to nick it past one Ipswich striker but running into trouble with a second.
His challenge on Jordan Roberts was ball and then man, and perhaps the keeper could count himself a shade unlucky when referee Andy Woolmer gave a penalty and booked him.
But with a yellow card hanging over him, Maxwell on reflection will think that he should have stayed in his box instead of racing out to make the tackle which saw him dismissed later on and led to headlines being made by Gallagher.
Strip away the heroics of Gallagher and there was little in the way of gloss to put on the performance.
The front four toiled for an hour until Neil started to make changes, the midfield having had little impact behind them.
Arguably their best spell was from Gallagher’s free-kick onwards, his goal and the red card for Maxwell galvanising Preston as a team.
They had defended well until then and after that were to become even more resolute.
While the defence has been leaking all season, they formed a yellow wall to close out this contest – skipper Clarke leading by example.
That fact Gallagher faced just one shot on target in his emergency stint is testament to those in front of him.
It is now six unbeaten for Neil’s men, albeit that run has four draws among it.
Things are better than they were in late August and throughout September but there is still much work to do before North End can stop looking over their shoulder.
For the third time in four seasons – in November on all three occasions – they faced a Lambert managerial bow.
Preston had been the Scot’s opponents when he took charge of his first games at Blackburn and Wolves.
He had his new Ipswich charges up for this one and they were the better side until PNE got the bit between their teeth later.
It looked like the game was going to turn round goalless at the interval, only for Ipswich to score in the 45th minute.
Earl’s back pass from the was played with some power, Maxwell able to knock it past the lurking Freddie Sears.
But it ran towards the right hand corner of the box and Maxwell set off to try and clear it from the path of Roberts.
Down went the striker as the keeper challenged and Mr Woolmer gave a penalty - Sears sent Maxwell the wrong way from the spot.
Gallagher entered the fray with Nmecha in the 71st minute and scored with his first touch two minutes later.
Sean Maguire was tripped in the ‘D’ to earn a free-kick, Gallagher dispatching it low past the end of the wall and into the bottom corner.
Another two minutes went by before Maxwell came out of his box to stop the run of sub Kayden Jackson down the right-wing.
The keeper saw red and we know the story from there.