Match report: PNE 2 Gillingham 2

PNE v Gillingham
PNE v Gillingham
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Promotion chasing Preston North End let a two goal half-time lead slip as they drew 2-2 with Gillingham at Deepdale.

North End peppered the Gills goal in the opening 45 and had 11 chances in the opening 29 minutes before Beckford opened the scoring by thundering home the hardest chance of the game in the 36th minute.

The striker played a neat one-two with strike partner Garner before pouncing on the ball on the edge of the box and sweetly smashing it past helpless Gills keeper Glenn Morris into the back of the net.

Callum Robinson made it two in first-half stoppage time with a fine solo goal as he danced across the top of the box before smashing a low shot into the left corner.

PNE had more opportunities to increase their lead in the second 45 but clinical Gillingham punished Simon Grayson’s men for wasting their chances.

Left back Scott Laird limped off injured in the 49th and was replaced by right winger Chris Humphrey.

Gills took advantage of Grayson’s positive substitution by pushing forward on the right. Jermaine McGlashan beat a desperate Tom Clarke to John Marquis pass and slipped the ball past Sam Johnstone in the 58th minute.

Former Deepdale loanee Max Ehmer appeared to raise his arm towards Garner but much to the Deepdale faithful’s disgust he only received a yellow card. To add insult to injury Garner was also booked by referee David Coote after he was fouled.

But Leon Legge rose up high in the box and powerfully headed home in injury time to seal a point for the visitors.

The result means second-placed North End’s cushion has been reduced to three points with just four more League One games left to play.

PNE boss Simon Grayson made two changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Bristol City on Saturday as Calum Woods and Robinson replaced Jack King and Humphrey.

Just like North End owner Trevor Hemmings’ Grand National winning racehorse Many Clouds PNE were straight out of the blocks. Joe Garner connected with Beckford’s cross at the back post but he diverted the ball wide of goal in the second minute.

North End continued to press as Garner headed straight at Morris in the ninth minute.

Beckford beat the offiside trap but was thwarted by Morris. He pounced on the rebound but John Egan cleared it off the line.

Garner’s volley was comfortably saved by Morris and Beckford’s first time shot flew over the bar as North End peppered Gillingham’s goal.

Robinson carved his way through the Gills before slipping the ball to Beckford on the left but Beckford’s shot curled agonisingly wide of the right hand post in the 28th minute before Garner’s long range effort was tipped away by Morris moments later.

Gillingham hit back but Johnstone managed to hold on to Bell’s long range strike in the 35th minute.

But Beckford opened the scoring in spectacular fashion as he played a neat one-two with Garner before unleashing a thunderous shot and firing the ball past Morris from the edge of the box in the 36th minute.

Gallagher fired way over from distance in the 44th minute and Garner’s directed his diving header wide of the right post moments later.

But Robinson rippled the back of the net in first-half stoppage time. The winger had been running rings around the Gills defence with some probing runs and finally got his just deserts as he ghosted past several defenders before firing a low shot into the bottom left corner.

Left back Scott Laird limped off in the 49th minute and was replaced by winger Humphrey.

Daniel Johnson’s 20-yard effort was parried by Morris but the keeper recovered to claim the loose ball and Morris easily saved Robinson’s long range effort in the 56th minute.

McGlashan scored for the Gills in the 58th minute as he stole in unmarked on the right and beat a diving Clarke to the ball to fire past Johnstone.

Beckford limped off and was replaced by Scott Wiseman seconds after the goal.

And Garner’s goal bound first-time shot was blocked by a Gills defender moments later.

Dack’s teasing free-kick was palmed out of play by PNE keeper Johnstone and the shot-stopper was on hand to tip wide Dack’s rising shot from the subsequent corner.

Garner’s 20-yard strike was tipped wide by a diving Morris in the 76th minute.

Ehmer was booked for a foul on Garner and the PNE striker was also cautioned much to the dismay of the Deepdale faithful who chanted “You don’t know what you’re doing” to referee David Coote.

Substitute Brennan Dickenson was only cautioned after lunging at Gallagher and sending the forward tumbling to the ground.

But Legge popped up and headed home past Johnstone to share the spoils.

PNE: Johnstone, Woods, Clarke, Wright, Laird (Humphrey, 49), Johnson (Kilkenny, 80) Welsh, Gallagher, Beckford (Wiseman, 58) Garner, Robinson. Subs not used: Stuckmann, Davies, Little, King.

Gillingham: G Morris, Egan, Ehmer, Legge, Loft, Marquis, McDonald (Norris, 69) McGlashan, A Morris (Pritchard, 85) , Bell (Dickenson, 69), Dack. Subs not used: Nelson, Hessenthaler, Muldoon, Hoyte.

Attendance: 9,417 (127 away)