Birmingham City 2 PNE 2
Alex Baptiste’s first goal for the club opened the scoring 19 minutes in, forcing home from close range after a Daniel Johnson corner; David Cotterill’s corner was converted by a powerful Ryan Shotton header to level matters, but parity was short-lived as Johnson fired home a free kick, via a deflection from the home side’s wall, to put the yellow back ahead before half-time and it remained that way.
North End had made four changes to the side that defeated Wigan Athletic at home the previous Friday, Ben Pearson, John Welsh, Chris Humphrey and Johnson back into the side for the trip to St Andrews.
But it was the home side who produced the first chance, Reece Brown latching onto Lukas Jutkiewicz’s lay off, one of three changes for Gary Rowett’s side, forcing Chris Maxwell to palm the ball away.
But the visitors grew into the game and just before the quarter hour mark Callum Robinson latched onto a back pass, broke into the box, rounded Adam Legzdins, but firef left-footed into the side-netting.
And the deadlock was broken on 19 minutes. Johnson’s corner from the right miss-hit ijnto the front post and missed by everyone, skipper Tom Clarke kept it alive and his fellow central defender Baptiste got a right boot on the ball to force it over the line.
The lead lasted 11 minutes as a Cotterill corner from the left found a run and a powerful header from Shotton into the top right hand corner from 15 yards out, Maxwell and defender on the line having no chance due to the placement of the header.
There was an almost immediate reaction from PNE as they broke down the left, Greg Cunningham got himself onto a pass to deliver from the left and Callum Robinson hooked a shot that beat Legzdins, but came back off the bar and Johnson and Robinson again couldn’t control the rebound.
But seconds later they were back ahead as Robinson brought down right on the edge of the box by Greg Stewart, a yard in from the right hand edge. Johnson stepped up with a left-footed free kick that flew into the top right hand corner of the goal, taking a deflection off the wall on the way through to give the keeper no chance.
And before the break it could have been three. Johnson collecting the ball, striding forward and sending Jordan Hugill in on goal, the striker couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet and scuffed the shot at Legzdins.
North End started the second half how they ended the first. On the front foot, Greg Cunningham’s vicious 30 yard effort tipped over the bar by Legzdins for an early corner.
And it was end to end as Cotterill’s corner from the left came back to him, allowing him to shoot, only for the ball to ricochet off the bar and away, all inside the first five minutes of the second period.
It was all-action and Pearson showed great skill down the right to beat three men and drive into the box, but he just dragged his effort across goal, missing the left hand post by inches, with the keeper beaten.
The home side had a concerted spell of pressure from the hour mark onwards, putting pressure on the North End defence with cross after cross coming in from both sides aimed at Jutkiewicz and substitute Che Adams, who had joined the Burnley loanee in attack.
And at the midway point of the half the pressure told as another cross came in from the left by Jonathan Grounds and this time Adams volleyed first time back across goal into the bottom left hand corner of the goal to level matters.
After North End had made a double shot of their own they came back into the game and just inside the last ten minutes Hugill was sent through on goal, but tried to reverse a ball back for Browne, when the shot was on, however, he won a corner that pressed them into attack once again.
Robinson was next to shoot goalwards, collecting Hugill’s flick on, beating a man to create space just inside the right hand corner of the box, but he too dragged his shot across goal.
In the closing seconds of the five added minutes another substitute Aiden McGeady drove at the heart of the Birmingham defence before passing to Robinson, but the No.37’s whipped shot was straight at Legzdins and both sides had to settle for a point.
Birmingham City line-up: Legzdins, Grounds, Shotton, Kieftenbeld, Cotterill, Jutkiewicz, Brown (Davis, 56), Maghoma (Solomon-Otabor, 88), Stewart (Adams, 56), Spector, Morrison (c). Subs not used: Trueman, P Robinson, Gleeson, Storer.
PNE line-up: Maxwell, Humphrey (Huntington, 70), Cunningham, Baptiste, Clarke (c), Wright, Welsh (McGeady, 83), Pearson (Browne, 70), Johnson, Robinson, Hugill. Subs not used: Lindegaard, Makienok, Doyle, McGeady, Pringle.
Attendance: 15,779 (886 PNE fans)
Referee: Mr Woolmer