Tranmere Rovers v PNE
Top scorer Jake Cassidy grabbed an undeserved point for the home side with just five minutes left after Paul Huntington had opened the scoring five minutes into the second period.
The centre half headed home after Jeffrey Monakana's shot had come back off the bar, before the Rovers No.9 slotted low into the bottom corner with a rare foray into the North End box.
The first half was a thrilling affair without the goals of the previous fixture, but it left North End in disbelief that they now approached 2,500 minutes without being awarded a penalty, after two stonewall shouts for a spot kick being waved away by referee Phil Gibbs.
Graham Westley named an unchanged 18 for the first time this season, which meant John Welsh captained the side against his former club alongside fellow ex-Rovers players Shane Cansdell-Sherriff and Steve Simonsen.
The Lilywhites started off on the front foot and Nicky Wroe was only inches too long with a through ball that would have sent Jack King through on goal.
The high-scoring home side were being well-managed, restricted to crosses from the box, Bell-Baggie catching the post and bar with an overhit ball in from the right 20 minutes into the game.
However, the match truly came to life in the 35th minute. North End’s players and bench were up in arms for the first time in the half as Stuart Beavon was smashed in the box after Laird had clipped the ball over the advancing Fon Williams from Wroe’s ball in. The referee even stopped play for Beavon to get treatment – but did not award a spot kick?!
A Head-bandaged Beavon returned to the pitch two minutes later and immediately got back in the play, running from the left wing and hitting a 25 yard screamer to Fon William’s right, but the Welsh keeper palmed it away at full stretch.
North End were now on top and a great move down right saw Jeffrey Monakana make full back Bakayogo look a fool with a great bit of skill before putting the ball across from the right.
What followed then was unbelievable as North End should not only have been awarded a clear cut penalty, but the home side should have been down to ten men. The ball ended up at the back post with Paul Huntington picking it up in front of the North End fans. The centre back delivered a great cross back into the six yard box and Stuart Beavon headed goalwards only to see home side skipper James Wallace palm the ball off the line. It was as clear a penalty and sending off as you would see, but Phil Gibbs saw nothing as the players, fans and bench held their arms aloft in sheer astonishment that none of the officials had seen it.
Just 70 seconds into the second half things opened up for Beavon and he hit another strike from 25 yards, but once again the Rovers No.1 was up to the task, tipping the ball away.
North End continued to press and won a corner after another clever set piece set the home side ill at ease. Laird's deep cross was headed goalwards, but another corner quickly followed. This time Wroe swung it in from the left in front of the towering home stand.
The ball came out to Jeffrey Monakana on the right who clipped over by the wing man, whose ball clattered against the cross bar, but straight out onto the head of Paul Huntington who headed back into the bottom right hand corner of the goal - a well-deserved goal for the way the side had dominated to that point, five minutes into the second half.
Scott Laird fired a shot from 62 yards just inches past the post from 30 yards with a stunning shot just past the hour mark and then some superb build up play almost saw King double the lead after excellent play by Monakana and skipper Welsh.
And with 20 minutes left a gilt-edged chance to make it 2-0 fell the way of Jack King as North End broke with pace, Beavon holing it up for Wroe whpo then played it across to King to run unopposed clean through on goal, he then beat Fon Williams, but also put it narrowly past the left hand upright.
The home side had the ball in the back of the net with 15 minutes to go, but Cassidy's header was ruled out for offside in a rare attempt on Steve Simonsen's goal.
Fon Williams then made the save of the afternoon on 78 minutes to deny Beavon, who turned and shot ten yards out after brilliant build up play by Wroe and Laird, who pulled the ball back from the byline for the frontman to spin and shoot powerfully goalwards until the intervention of the custodian.
The home side drew level, however, with their first attempt on target of the second half with just five minutes to go as their top scorer was threaded through in a left hand channel and slid the ball through the legs of Steve Simonsen and into the bottom corner and the game remained level, the home side somehow getting away with something after a dominant display by North End.
: Fon Williams, Holmes, Taylor, Palmer, Wallace, Cassidy, McGurk (Stockton, 61), Bakayogo, Gibson, Bell-Baggie, Eccleston (Thompson, 80). Subs not used: Black, Goodison, Harrison, Kay, Mooney.Tranmere Rovers Line-Up
: Simonsen, Keane, Cansdell-Sherriff, Welsh, Huintington, Robertson, Monakana (Byrom, 79), Wroe, Beavon, King, LaIrd. Subs not used: Stuckmann, Amoo, Cummins, Sodje, Procter, Beardsley.PNE Line-Up
Referee: Mr Phil Gibbs