Colchester United pinched a point at Deepdale with their only shot on target in a one-sided game.
North End took the lead on the stroke of half-time, Joe Garner continuing his great run of goalscoring form with a superb header into the top left hand corner from Paul Gallagher’s left wing cross.
But Colchester sub Dominic Vose scored with a long distance stroke with 14 minutes left to give the visitors something to hold onto – with their first and only shot on target of the game!
It was a first half that North End had completely dominated; but was lacking a bit tempo that was needed to bring the stadium to life.
The visiting team had clearly set up to frustrate the Lilywhites and they did that for the first 45 minutes, North End had had a dozen shots by the break, with half of those on target, but Chelsea loanee Sam Walker had proved their nemesis with some fine saves.
He heroics started after only 40 seconds; Paul Gallagher collected Neil Kilkenny’s pass on the left hand side and Joe Garner rose highest to head towards the top corner only for Walker to palm behind – the North End pair later combining to better effect!
The half continued in the same vein throughout. On six minutes, some excellent play by PNE saw Gallagher send Laird down left – the full back a year on from his broken leg - put over a perfect cross for Kevin Davies at back post. He was five yards out with an open goal and he did everythiongf right, heading down, but the yellow ball bounced down and up and over the bar.
Davies and Garner were being supported from the flanks by Gallagher (left) and Holmes (right) with Kilkenny coming in for his first start to partner skipper John Welsh; Keith Keane and Chris Humphrey on the bench.
Within 15 minutes of the game being underway referee Scott Duncan was already warning the visitors about time wasting as Walker took an overly long time to take goal kicks.
Just after the half hour mark the pressure intensified and Tom Clarke, playing right back, headed Lee Holmes’ right wing cross straight at Walker. Shortly after Davioes was flattened 20 yards out in a left hand channel by Magnus Okuonghae and loan man Gallagher stepped up. His ball was up and over the wall, but could not beat Walker again.
Gally and the visitors’ custodian seemed to be having a personal battle and the No.44 again denied the PNE man moments later, this time an even better save, tipping the 25 yard pile-driver round the post in front of the 100 travelling fans.
The goal finally came as the first half entered the one minute of time added on by. Scott Laird fed the ball down the line to Gallagher whose cross – exactly like in the first minute, was perfect for his former Blackburn team-mate, but this time Walker could do nothing but pick it out of the back of the net as the header was powerful and right in the top left hand corner.
The second half started with a moment of controversy as Joe Garner seemed to be completely pulled down in the box by Okuonghae and a penalty seemed the only decision open to Mr Duncan, but he didn’t see it that way and gave a foul against the North End No.14!
After that start the half continued in the same vein as the first, Gallagher continuing to find Walker at his best, denying him again from a 20 yard free kick on 56 minutes.
Walker then tipped a Gallagher header onto the bar on 65 minutes after a superb cpounter attack brought about by Garner blocking a freee kick and Gallagher running through, laying the ball out to Kilkenny who crossed back for his on-rushing fellow loanee, but the U’s keeper somehow kept it out!
How it wasn’t a goal a minute later no-one will know as Garner was denied by a deflection after Holmes had got to the byline and pulled it back for the top scorer; Kevin Davies an inch away from turning it in at the back post as well.
The chances continued to flow with Davies poking wide on 68 minutes after Scott Laird had burst down the left and pulled the ball back for Joe Garner, who was dispossessed, but only into the path of Davies who was looking to pounce to the left of the penalty spot.
But with 14 mionutes left a hammer blow as Colchester scored with their first shot on goal of the game. A ricocheted clearance came out to substitute Dominic Vose 25 yards from goal who wasn’t closed down and allowed to fire hard and low into the bottom right hand corner.
Joe Garner fired a blistering volley from Humphrey’s cross with six minutes left straight into the ground and up and just over the bar as PNE pressed for a winner.
Four minutes were added on by the match official and North End poured forward, but couldn’t get the goal their play deserved.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Clarke (Keane, 81), King, Wright, Laird; Holmes (Humphrey, 71), Welsh (Brownhill, 79), Kilkenny, Gallagher; K Davies, Garner. Subs not used: Stuckmann, Keane, Humphrey, Byrom, Buchanan, Hayhurst, Hume.
Colchester United line-up: Walker, Okuonghae, Bolger, Garbutt, Dickson (Vose, 69), Gilbey, Bean, Sears (Ibehre, 27), Massey (Olufemi, 51), Morrison. Subs not used: Cousins, Wright, Bond, Eastman.
Referee: Mr S Duncan
Attendance: 8,492 (110 away fans)