AIDEN MCGEADY rescued a point for Preston North End at Ewood Park, with the on-loan Everton man scoring in the 93rd minute to seal a 2-2 draw with relegation threatened Blackburn Rovers.
Tom Barkhuizen had netted his fifth goal in four games for the Lilywhites to put the away side in-front, but Elliott Bennett and Craig Conway goals either side of half-time put Rovers into a 2-1 lead. Irish international McGeady though had the last word from close range with just seconds of the game remaining.
12 minutes had passed without an actual chance on goal, before North End opened the scoring. Barkhuizen flicked the ball into the path of Jordan Hugill, who then knocked the ball over the top of Darragh Lenihan and back into the path of Barkhuizen.
The former Morecambe man outmuscled his marker, before firing his fifth goal in four games beyond the reach of Jason Steele.
McGeady then fired viciously over the bar on 15 minutes, after an outswinging Daryl Horgan corner fell to him on the edge of the box.
Lilywhites stopper Chris Maxwell had a scare in the 18th minute, as he failed to deal with a Bennett cross, which he fumbled back into the danger area, but it was Daniel Johnson who tended to the potential crisis and could clear the ball away.
Just a few minutes later, Rovers had a great chance to equalise. Bennett was in the thick of the action again, delivering a beautiful cross into the six-yard box, but Sheffield Wednesday loanee Lucas Joao couldn’t divert his header past Maxwell.
Hugill spurned a great chance on 22 minutes to help PNE grab a two-goal advantage. The striker broke from the half-way line in a three-on-three move, with Horgan advancing to his right and goal scorer Barkhuizen to his left. Hugill chose the latter option, which was snuffed out by Rovers defender Charlie Mulgrew for a corner.
Rovers hitman Joao was making a nuisance of himself up top, and went close from outside the area on 33 minutes. The Portuguese forward held off the challenge of Greg Cunningham, before firing over from all of 25 yards, a shot which had Maxwell stretching across his goal.
For the first time in the game after 36 minutes, sloppiness at the back for North End almost gifted Rovers with an equaliser. Paul Huntington couldn’t shield the ball out for a goal kick before Marvin Emnes could close him down, so the ball was averted out for a throw in.
From the resulting throw, the ball was worked across to the left side of the pitch, where left-back Derrick Williams floated a cross towards the back post. It was Joao again who rose highest, but was this time denied by the woodwork.
Rovers continued to press forward, and were rewarded with an equaliser just four minutes before half time. Bennett received the ball 30 yards from goal after Joao layed the ball off, before firing the ball low and hard fantastically beyond Maxwell’s outstretched arms.
It almost got even better two minutes later. A stunning solo run by Joao saw him dummy the North End defence not once but twice, but his end product was lacking as he sliced the ball into the air. Emnes was on hand to divert it into the North End net, but saw the linesman David Bryan’s flag raised.
Just a minute after referee Stuart Attwell recommended the match for the second half, Barkhuizen really should have doubled his tally.
Horgan bamboozled Williams on the right-wing, before sending a cross towards the back post. The ball flashed right in-front of Barkhuizen after Hugill failed to connect with the ball, but he was unable to notch his second brace in as many games as he fired the ball over the bar and into the 6,005 travelling Lilywhites fans.
‘Barky’ had yet another chance on 50 minutes to regain the lead for North End. His cross from the right evaded everyone in the box, howvever Aiden McGeady’s delivery from the left was deflected by a Blackburn player to the back post, but missed the boot of Barkhuizen by an inch.
Those missed chances would prove costly. 10 minutes after the interval, Craig Conway exchanged passed with Emnes in the middle of the park. The Dutchmans through ball was impeccable, and Conway calmly slotted past Maxwell in the area to give Rovers the advantage.
Rovers probably should have extended their lead on 66 minutes. Cunningham scythed down Bennett 35 yards from goal – a challenge he was booked for eventually – but Rovers were given the advantage as Ryan Nyambe picked up the ball. The 19 year old full-back marauded into the box, left McGeady for dead, but ended up firing the ball wide powerfully instead of guiding it into the back of the net.
North End pushed men forward in pursuit of an equaliser, bringing Callum Robinson on for extra pace, and six foot seven target man Simon Makienok to partner him, but it was left-back Cunningham who should’ve equalised.
North End’s other substitute, Paul Gallagher, played a training ground routine short in the box to the Irishman, but he completely scuffed his shot from around 15 yards out and subsequently Rovers scrambled the ball to safety.
Ex-Rovers midfielder Gallagher was in the thick of the action again nine minutes from time, the ball falling to him on the edge of the box after Cunningham’s shot from out wide was deflected to him. The 32-year old was unable to put his foot through the ball though, his tame shot was diverted away by Steele in between the sticks for Rovers.
North End had a goal chalked off as the game crept into stoppage time. Gallagher delivered the ball from a central position to the far stick, finding Huntington who looped a header beyond Steele at the back post. For the second time in the game though, the linesman on the Jack Walker Stand side of the ground had ruled out a goal, deeming the centre-back to be offside.
The visitors did though snatch an equaliser at the death. Some lovely play on the floor saw Gallagher slip the ball to Tom Clarke inside the box. Clarke pulled the ball back to McGeady, who personified calmness from six yards out to rescue a point for the Lilywhites.
Blackburn Rovers line-up: Steele; Nyambe, Lenihan, Mulgrew, Williams; Bennett (Mahoney 74’), Guthrie, Lowe ©, Conway (Feeney 79’); Emnes (Gallagher 79’), Joao
Substitutes: Raya, Hoban, Feeney, Gallagher, Akpan, Mahoney, Brown
Preston North End line-up: Maxwell; Clarke ©, Huntington, Boyle, Cunningham; McGeady, Johnson (Gallagher 74’), Pearson, Horgan (Robinson 66’); Barkhuizen, Hugill (Makienok 76’)
Substitutes: Lindegaard, Browne, Makienok, Beckford, Gallagher, Spurr, Robinson
Attendance: 18,435 (6,005 PNE fans)