Match report: PNE 1 Bristol City 1

PNE v Bristol City
PNE v Bristol City
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Preston North End maintained their push for automatic promotion with a hard-fought draw against leaders Bristol City in League One’s match of the day.

The result stretched their unbeaten league run to 14 games, the share of the spoils a fair reflection of a battling contest between two streetwise sides.

North End were thankful of two good saves from Sam Johnstone to keep out efforts from Aaron Wilbraham before taking the lead just before the hour mark.

Jermaine Beckford netted from close range to the delight of the majority of a 16,441 crowd - the highest at Deepdale in the league this season.

However, it was the 2,400 Robins supporters celebrating four minutes later as Wilbraham scored the visitors’ equaliser.

With MK Dons drawing 0-0 at Port Vale, Simon Grayson’s men stayed five points clear in second place with five matches to go.

Grayson had made one change to the North End side, Jack King coming into the starting XI to replace Paul Huntington who suffered a recurrence of a back injury in the Easter Monday win at Bradford City.

King lined-up in the middle of a three-man defence with Tom Clarke and Bailey Wright either side of him.

The first half was played in parts at a frantic pace, North End at times lacking composure when in possession.

City went close in the 13th minute with a free-kick routine from the training ground which Marlon Pack put into the side-netting.

Soon after at the other end, Clarke got his header to Paul Gallagher’s corner but put his effort too high.

Johnstone produced a fine save at the near post with 18 minutes on the clock, getting a glove to Wilbraham’s glance after a Joe Bryan cross had been flicked on.

Joe Garner escaped the attentions of the visitors defence to pull off to the back post and meet Chris Humphrey’s deep cross delivered from the right-wing.

At full-stretch, Garner was unable to get sufficient pace on his header and keeper Frank Fielding was well positioned to save.

Johnstone saved comfortably from a Luke Freeman free-kick, North End going straight on the attack and almost scoring.

A ball into the box seemed to offer little danger but Beckford teed himself up to produce an overhead kick which clipped the outside of the post and went into the side-netting.

That kick-started a good spell of pressure for PNE, Garner going to ground when tackled by goalkeeper Fielding as they chased a ball in the box, the outcome being a corner rather than the penalty which the crowd shouted for.

Six minutes before half-time, Gallagher’s hanging cross was punched clear by Fielding as far as Humphrey on the right hand side of the box.

Humphrey came inside and worked himself into a shooting position but drove a left-foot effort over the bar.

With less than two minutes of the second half played, Scott Laird’s pass found Daniel Johnson just inside the box but after taking a touch the midfielder lifted his shot into the Alan Kelly Town End.

Johnstone came to PNE’s rescue when he pushed Wilbraham’s close-range effort up against the bar, a good run by wing-back James Tavernier having created the chance.

Gallagher swept a first-time shot from 25 yards wide of the far post after Laird’s pass had found him in space.

Robins centre-half Aden Flint planted a header inches wide after meeting a corner, Agard almost getting a touch by the post.

North End took the lead in the 59th minute, Humphrey lifting a cross from the right-wing into the middle and beyond the back post.

Garner jumped to head it down into the path of Gallagher who brought it under control and knocked the ball square for Beckford to side-foot home from inside the six-yard box.

The advantage was to last just four minutes though, Wilbraham heading in from close range at the far post after Flint had nodded a free-kick to him.

Both sides went for victory, Agard’s angled low shot from the right hand side of the box palmed behind by the impressive Johnstone.

Late on, substitute Callum Robinson got into a decent position but his shot lacked power and Fielding saved comfortably.

North End return to action on Tuesday night when they play Gillingham at Deepdale.

PNE: Johnstone, King, Clarke, Wright, Humphrey (Wiseman 83), Welsh, Johnson, Gallagher, Laird, Beckford (Davies 90), Garner (Robinson 83). Subs not used: Kilkenny, Woods, Little, Stuckmann.

Bristol City: Fielding, Ayling, Flint, Williams, Tavernier, Pack, Smith, Freeman (Elliott 90), Bryan, Wilbraham, Agard (Emmanuel-Thomas 82). Subs not used: Osbourne, Wagstaff, Saville, Cunningham, Richards.

Referee: Robert Madley (West Yorks)

Attendance: 16,441 (2,442 away)