Match report: Norwich 1 PNE 1

Tom Barkhuizen celebrates scoring PNE's equaliser
Tom Barkhuizen celebrates scoring PNE's equaliser

Tom Barkhuizen's close-range equaliser earned Preston North End a more than deserved point against Norwich City at Carrow Road.

Barkhuizen got the last touch on a Paul Huntington header from Paul Gallagher's corner in the 70th minute.

Callum Robinson holds off Norwich's Harrison Reed

Callum Robinson holds off Norwich's Harrison Reed

It brought North End level after they had gone behind in the first half to a free-kick from James Maddison.

The closing stages of the game saw farcical scenes after assistant referee Mark Jones pulled up with an injury.

With Mr Jones unable to continue, fourth official Andy Davies took up the flag.

But a long delay followed as a replacement fourth official was sought, one eventually coming forward from the crowd - Norwich fan David Thornhill who is a qualified referee.

Tom Barkhuizen slides to celebrate his goal

Tom Barkhuizen slides to celebrate his goal

PNE were worthy of their point, having the contest's best chances.

Alan Browne hit the bar with an overhead kick shortly after Norwich's goal, while in the second half Calum Woods squandered an opportunity in front of goal and Barkhuizen came out second best to the keeper in a one-on-one situation.

They are now three games unbeaten, finding a bit of form after four defeats on the bounce.

This was Alex Neil's first return to Norwich since they sacked him in March and he was given a good reception by the home supporters.

He made two changes to the side, Browne and Callum Robinson returning to the starting XI, both having come on as a second-half substitutes at Bristol City last Tuesday night.

They replaced Stephy Mavididi who had come off injured in midweek and the suspended Ben Pearson.

North End, operating in a 4-2-3-1 system, had the game's first chance of note during an untidy opening spell, skipper Huntington sending a header too high from a Paul Gallagher free-kick.

Gallagher forced Canaries goalkeeper Angus Gunn into action in the 18th minute, Gunn diving to his right to save the midfielder's 20 yards shot.

Norwich were almost gifted an opener when Josh Murphy got behind the Preston defence to latch on to a through ball.

Chris Maxwell dashed out of his box to challenge Murphy but the Norwich man knocked it past him and the goal opened up in front of him.

But he delayed taking his shot and Darnell Fisher got back to block when Murphy eventually fired goalwards.

A swift PNE counter-attack almost paid dividends, Robinson's pass sliding Browne away down the left hand side of the box.

Robinson continued his run into the middle and met Browne's resulting cross, but he got underneath the ball and sent a header over the bar.

Calum Woods cut inside from the left and saw his shot fly too high.

Norwich went in front in the 33rd minute, Fisher conceding a free-kick just outside the corner of the box after being judged to have fouled Wes Hoolahan.

Maddison took the set-piece right-footed, whipping it over Maxwell and into the far top corner, there being a question mark against the keeper's positioning.

North End were so unlucky not be level five minutes later, Robinson's cross from the left finding Jordan Hugill beyond the far post.

Hugill headed it back into the middle, Browne with his back to goal controlling the ball on his chest before executing an overhead kick which beat Gunn but came back off the bar.

Two minutes before half-time, a right-footed cross from Browne from the left corner of the box picked out Barkhuizen at the far post, his header back across goal dropping inches wide of the target.

In the 54th minute, Ben Davies got in a fine block in front of goal to deny Hoolahan, the follow-up shot from Murphy deflected behind at the expense of a corner.

Just past the hour, Barkhuizen was a coat of boot polish away from reaching a fine through ball from Gallagher.

North End squandered a golden opportunity in the 64th minute, Robinson's cross from the left reaching Woods in front of goal but the left-back sent his header from five yards out straight at the keeper.

But they levelled six minutes later after forcing a corner on the right hand side.

Gallagher whipped the corner into the middle, Huntington climbing unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box to head goalwards - Barkhuizen getting the last touch to take it over the line.

The injury to the assistant referee and finding a replacement took the sting out of a game which was bubbling-up nicely in the final stages.

Nearly 15 minutes of stoppage-time ended-up being played, the one clear chance of that spell falling North End's way.

With 96 minutes on the clock, a ball out of midfield from the impressive Robinson released Barkhuizen behind the Norwich defence.

Barkhuizen first touch as he controlled on his thigh was poor though, it allowing Gunn to come out and block.

Norwich: Gunn, Pinto, Zimmermann, Hanley, Stiepermann, Reed (Pritchard 76), Vranic, Hoolahan, Maddison, Murphy (Wildschut 76), Oliveira. Subs (not used): Jerome, Franke, Phillips, Cantwell, McGovern.

PNE: Maxwell, Fisher, Huntington (Clarke 90), Davies, Woods, Gallagher (Harrop 81), Johnson, Barkhuizen, Browne, Robinson, Hugill. Subs (not used): Boyle, Horgan, Welsh, O'Connor, Rudd.

Referee: Tim Robinson (West Sussex)

Attendance: 25,167