Match report: Birmingham 2 PNE 2
Goals from Alex Baptiste and Daniel Johnson earned Preston North End a hard-fought draw against Birmingham City at St Andrew's.
Although PNE twice took the lead in the contest, they were put under tremendous pressure by the Blues for a 20-minute spell in the second half and were probably relieved to come away from the West Midlands with a point.
Baptiste's first goal in North End colours, a scrambled effort from a corner, put the visitors in front in the 19th minute.
Ryan Shotton headed Birmingham level after half an hour, before a Johnson free-kick from the edge of the box was deflected home for Preston to regain the lead.
The home side bossed the second period, pinning Simon Grayson's men back in their own half for a spell.
And it came as little surprise when substitute Che Adams volleyed them level in the 68th minute.
Preston rode more pressure after that before getting more of a foothold in the closing stages, Callum Robinson having three late shots as they pressed for an unlikely winner.
John Welsh, Ben Pearson, Chris Humphrey and Johnson had come into the starting XI as Lilywhites manager Grayson switched to a 3-5-2 formation.
Paul Gallagher missed out after getting a knock in last Friday's win against Wigan, while Aiden McGeady, Simon Makienok and Alan Browne dropped to the bench.
Humphrey came in at right wing-back with Greg Cunningham on the left flank, Welsh, Pearson and Johnson moving a midfield three with Johnson the attacking one of that duo.
Callum Robinson moved from the left-wing to partner Jordan Hugill up front.
Birmingham threatened early on, Chris Maxwell diving to parry away Reece Brown's seventh-minute shot after Lukas Jutkiewicz had played him in.
In the home side's next attack, Wales international David Cotterill curled in a shot from the left channel which went straight at the well-positioned Maxwell.
North End's first proper sight of goal came when a stray pass in the Blues back line let in Robinson.
He took the ball into the box, went round goalkeeper Adam Legzdins but under pressure from a covering defender, shot into the side-netting at the near post.
Preston took the lead in the 19th minute, Johnson's corner from the right leading to an almighty scramble in the box with Bailey Wright and Tom Clarke both trying to get a touch.
The ball eventually fell to Baptiste who prodded it over the line from close range.
Birmingham equalised on the half-hour mark, Cotterill's corner met by the in-rushing Shotton who powered a header across goal into the far corner.
Within three minutes, North End were denied by the woodwork, a fine pass from Johnson releasing Greg Cunningham down the left hand side of the box.
Cunningham put a low centre into the middle, Robinson meeting it first time and seeing his shot hit the angle of post and bar.
That proved a brief respite for the hosts as PNE regained the advantage in the 35th minute.
Robinson was brought down by Greg Stewart a yard outside the box, earning a free-kick.
Johnson took the set piece left-footed, the ball catching a deflection off the Birmingham wall which took it past Legzdins.
As the interval approached, Johnson's gliding run took him through midfield, his pass freeing Hugill in the box.
The striker seemed to get the ball trapped under his feet and when he got his shot away, it was half-hit and rolled harmlessly through to the keeper.
A minute into the second half, North End attacked down the right, Robinson's cross half-cleared by the home defence as far as Cunningham 25 yards out, the Irishman's powerful first-time drive tipped over by Legzdins.
Birmingham struck the woodwork in the 49th minute, Cotterill's corner from the left cleared back out to him by the Preston defence - the winger drove a shot back in, it beating Maxwell and hitting the bar.
The end-to-end start to the second period continued with Pearson weaving into the box on the right and hitting a shot across the keeper and wide of the target.
There was a let-off for Preston with an hour gone, as Jutkiewicz's header from a Cotterill corner was blocked by his team-mate Adams.
When the ball was returned into the box, Blues skipper Michael Morrison headed over at the back stick.
Birmingham kept up their pressure and it was not a surprise to see them pull level in the 68th minute.
Jonathan Grounds sent over a cross from the left which was met with the sweetest of volleys by Adams, the ball staying low and flying into the bottom corner.
North End made a double change with Paul Huntington and Alan Browne joining the action, Pearson and Humphrey making way.
Huntington went into the back three, Baptiste moved to wing-back, with Browne a straight swap in midfield for Pearson who was on a booking.
As the contest moved into the last 10 minutes, Robinson had a couple of shots from the edge of the box, the first held at the second attempt by Legzdins and the second bouncing wide.
In stoppage-time, Robinson had a third punt from distance, this time forcing a diving save out of Legzdins.
Birmingham: Legzdins, Spector, Morrison, Shotton, Grounds, Kieftenbeld, Brown (David 56), Cotterill, Stewart (Adams 56), Maghoma (Soloman-Otabor 88), Jutkiewicz. Subs (not used): Robinson, Gleeson, Storer, Trueman.
PNE: Maxwell, Clarke, Baptiste, Wright, Humphrey (Huntington 70), Pearson (Browne 70), Welsh (McGeady 83), Johnson, Cunningham, Robinson, Hugill. Subs (not used): Makienok, Doyle, Pringle, Lindegaard.
Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northants)
Attendance: 15,779 (886 PNE)