Trailing 1-0 at half-time having hardly raised a gallop in an attacking sense, PNE were so much better in the second half and got back on level terms to earn only their fifth draw of 2020/21.
It was only the fourth time this campaign they’d taken something out of a league game after being in a losing position – North End had won at Brentford and Huddersfield, and drawn with Wycombe.
Finishing anything other than empty-handed had looked a forlorn hope as the teams headed to the tunnel for their interval breather.
They had allowed their visitors the freedom of Deepdale, dropping off the Cherries and allowing them to move at will.
Much of the opening 45 minutes was played in PNE’s half of the pitch, at times it resembling an attack versus defence training game.
Daniel Iversen stood tall between Bournemouth having a three-goal lead and the slender 1-0 advantage they in fact held at half-time.
North End were better in the second half, a lot better, the tide really starting to turn around the hour mark.
Suddenly they carved-out a couple of good chances and that injected some confidence into their play.
It took a mistake to set the balling rolling for the equaliser but Daniel Johnson still had much to do, sweeping a finish into the far corner in a manner we’ve seen from him plenty of times.
That’s four points taken from Bournemouth this season, following-on from the 3-2 victory on the south coast at the start of December.
Saturday’s contest was not a patch on the one at the Vitality Stadium, the display there as good as North End have produced this season.
Only four of the Preston starters that night, started at the weekend – Johnson, Alan Browne, Tom Barkhuizen and Scott Sinclair.
PNE lost Patrick Bauer to injury right at the end of the 3-2 win, with Declan Rudd since joining him on the casualty list.
An injury kept Ryan Ledson out for a sixth game, while Joe Rafferty only made the bench.
Ben Davies was sold to Liverpool in January, a few days after Ben Pearson left for the Cherries – he returned in a black and red shirt to his old stomping ground.
For 45 minutes, North End played like a team very much missing some of those players just listed.
For whatever reason they looked timid, Alex Neil using the word ‘fear’ when trying to explain what had gone wrong in the first half.
That fear went in the second half, Neil’s men playing with more belief and it knocked Bournemouth out of their stride.
It pushed them on to 44 points to the season, nearer to that half-century tally which would banish any threat of being dragged into trouble.
It did little for things looking the other way, with them 13 points off sixth.
Forget the play-offs, the remainder of the season will be a jockey for positions in that mid-table area.
In the four games over the last couple of weeks, North End have taken a reasonable five points.
But their form in 2021 is a somewhat underwhelming 12 points from 13 matches.
Preston’s two stand-out performers in this one were both loanees – Iversen and Sepp van den Berg.
Iversen’s saves at crucial times have already been touched on and that will have helped the Dane put last midweek’s mistake against Millwall behind him.
Van den Berg hadn’t been great at The Den but was back on song in the right-back berth.
He had a calmness about his play, defending solidly without any sense of panic.
The Dutch teenager was in a back four which had to be changed again. A shoulder injury ruled Andrew Hughes out, his place going to Paul Huntington – 304 appearances and counting.
The three other changes made by Neil were voluntary, Anthony Gordon, Brad Potts and Jayson Molumby giving way to Tom Barkhuizen, Alan Browne and Johnson.
The No.10 role handed to Johnson brought him into close contact with Pearson who it took some getting used to wearing the No.22 shirt of the opposition.
Pearson sat quite deep in Bournemouth 4-3-3 system, much of the first-half play higher up the pitch as the visitors dominated.
Their passing play was pleasing on the eye and caused PNE no end of issues.
Iversen was stretched as early as the 10th minute, plunging to his right to get a strong glove to Lloyd Kelly’s low shot and gather at the second attempt.
Later in the first half he was to dive the other way to push away Jefferson Lerma’s effort.
A third save saw him get in the way of Amaut Danjuma’s near-post shot from a smart Kelly cut-back.
There was an inevitability about Bournemouth taking the lead, that happening in the 37th minute.
A ball was clipped down the visitors’ right channel, Jordan Storey moving across to cover under pressure from Dominic Solanke.
He got underneath the ball, succeeding only in heading it up into the air rather than away from the edge of the box.
Solanke seized on the mistake, feeding a pass inside to Danjuma who steered a good finish past Iversen.
Just beyond the hour mark, openings for Barkhuizen and Ched Evans provided evidence that Preston sensed a way back.
Bournemouth skipper Steve Cook gave them a helping hand doing that, his pass in field from their left channel cut out by Johnson.
Being 30 yards out DJ had work to do, moving inside to the edge of the ‘D’ where he stroked a low left-foot finish across the keeper into the far bottom corner.
Bournemouth bringing on Shane Long and Jack Wilshere after the equaliser showed what PNE were up against in terms of budget, however they saw the game out to make it three unbeaten at Deepdale.
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