Daniel Johnson’s eighth goal of the campaign was cancelled out by Daryl Murphy’s 20-yard strike as PNE drew 1-1 with Ipswich Town at Portman Road.
Johnson pounced on Eoin Doyle’s cross from the right in the seventh minute and after his first shot was blocked he made no mistake at the second attempt after the ball serendipitously fell back into his path in the seventh minute.
The midfield maestro and PNE’s top scorer rifled the ball in with his left foot from eight yards out to open the scoring as positive Preston took control.
Ipswich levelled against the run of play in the 38th minute as Murphy’s low shot from the left thundered past Johnstone into the bottom right corner.
It was a tale of two halves as a galvanised Ipswich took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half.
But thanks to a solid defensive display North End absorbed their attacks and could have snatched all three points had new boy Ben Pearson’s effort not been disallowed for offside.
Just before kick-off Tom Clarke pulled up with a groin strain and he was replaced at right back by Calum Woods who was initially named on the bench.
Due to Clarke’s injury North End were only able to name six substitutes as Reach (who pulled out of the squad during the warm-up in Tuesday night’s game at Bristol City was still not fit enough to return to the 16)
Alan Browne was recalled to the starting XI in place of Clarke and teamed up with new boy Ben Pearson and Johnson in a midfield three as Grayson switched from a 3-5-2 formation.
The Lilywhites boss instead opted for an attacking 4-3-3 line-up and his side did not disappoint as they had their eye on goal from the off.
Gallagher, who had been pushed up to join Doyle and Garner in a front three, had the first attempt in just the first minute.
The forward’s 35-yard set-piece was batted away by Ipswich keeper Dean Gerken and the shot-stopper’s clearance just missed falling to a pressing Doyle.
Garner swung and missed and the ball pinged in and around the Ipswich box before it eventually fell to Doyle on the right who carved open the Town defence with a pin-point pass to the feet of an unmarked Johnson on the penalty spot.
Johnson’s first left-footed attempt crashed into a defender and rebounded perfectly back into his path and he gobbled up the second chance as he fizzed the ball home in the seventh minute.
Gallagher curled another free-kick round the right post and Ipswich’s set-piece specialist Ryan Fraser forced Same Johnstone into a diving save.
Doyle teed Garner up in the box after a slick run down the right but Garner’s first-time shot bobbled into the arms of Gerken.
PNE pressed, probed and dominated the opening 30 minutes but Ipswich created a moment of magic out of nothing to level the scores in the 38th minute.
Murphy honed in on goal and the big number nine pulled the trigger 20-yards out and his strike rocketed past a diving Johnstone into the bottom right corner.
Ipswich made a brighter start to the second 45 as winger Fraser danced his way into the box before drilling the ball straight at Johnstone.
Pearson gave the ball away as he failed to realise he was being tracked from behind as he tried to drive the ball out of PNE’s half and his mistake led to an Ipswich chance.
But fortunately for Pearson Murphy’s dipping shot from outside the box was tipped away by a diving Johnstone.
Pearson had the ball in the back of the net minutes later after a quick one-two with Doyle but his goal was ruled out for after the offside flag was raised as North End finally started to get a foothold in the second half.
Gallagher’s corner from the left was nodded straight back to him by Wright at the near post. The forward sprinted towards the edge of the box and unleashed an angled shot that Gerken just held onto.
Garner had to receive treatment on the pitch after an aerial challenge but when the physio left the field Garner was shown a yellow card.
Johnstone’s poor throw found Murphy just outside the box and the striker whipped the ball into the path of Freddie Sears at the back stick but he could not get his effort on target.
Within minutes Garner was slamming his fists into the turf in frustration after referee Simon Hooper waved away his penalty appeal. The striker went down under pressure and appeared to handle the ball on the ground and so the referee gave Town a free-kick.
Wright nearly nodded North End ahead from six-yards out but his header from Gallagher’s cross flew inches wide of the post in the 81st minute.
Johnstone made a fantastic reaction save to thwart Luke Chambers at the back post after he latched on to Brett Pitman’s flick-on from Jonas Knudsen’s left wing cross. But PNE failed to clear the ball and the home faithful’s appeal for a handball in the box as the ball appeared to strike Paul Huntington were waved away by the referee in the 85th minute.
Ipswich heaped the pressure on as the clock ticked towards the 90th minute and continued to attack North End’s goal in the five minutes of stoppage time.
But the resolute centre back pairing of Huntington and Wright dealt with the late surge and North End held on to bag a point.
PNE: Johnstone, Woods, Wright, Huntington, Cunningham, Johnson, Pearson, Browne, Doyle (Robinson, 87), Garner (Hugill, 79), Gallagher. Subs not used: Kirkland, Vermijl, Kilkenny, Welsh.
Ipswich: Gerken, Knudsen, Chambers, Smith, Berra, Skuse, Murphy (Varney, 82), Fraser, Bru (Pitman, 69), Sears, Douglas (Hyam, 74). Subs not used: Bialkowski, Maitland-Niles, Oar, Malarczyk, Varney.
Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire)
Attendance: 21108 (PNE 436)