PNE 1 Sheffield United 1
North End took an early lead when Little cut in from the left and drove a shot that flew threw a crowd and into the bottom right hand corner, but the Blades equalised four minutes before the interval through Baxter’s deflected shot.
Manager Simon Grayson had gone with a 4-3-3, with Andy Little and Chris Humphrey either side of Joe Garner in attack.
The visitors had the first real chance, nine minutes in, as Jamal Campbell-Ryce crossed from the right; big forward Michael Higdon rose above Jack King in the air, but Jamie Jones palmed the effort around the post for a corner. The ball was driven back in at second attempt by Chris Basham, but it was fired over from close range by United’s Ben Davies.
The Lilywhites went ahead on 11 minutes, however, with a ball out to the left to Andy Little by Neil Kilkenny; the former Rangers man cut in from the left flank and drove a ball in that ended up in the bottom right hand corner, with Joe Garner also claiming the final touch.
Just after the half’s midway point Campbell-Ryce got on the counter-attack and whipped a cross across the face of goal only for Higdon to slice wide.
North End’s best spell came around the half hour mark. Firstly some great play by Chris Humphrey saw him lay the ball off to Alan Browne. The Irishman was tackled, but Humphrey carried on the run, put over a cross to the back post for Garner, who headed over from ten yards out at the back post.
Then it was almost 2-0 as a ball from Kilkenny into Joe Garner 40 yards out, saw the No.14 bring the ball under control and seeing the keeper off his line lifted a shot towards goal, that beat Mark Howard all ends up, but also an inch past the left hand post.
On 37 minutes there was a gilt-edged chance for an equaliser. Campbell-Ryce raced clean through after a short headed back pass, but he tried to chip Jones and put it straight into the keeper’s hands.
On 40 minutes Kilkenny laid the ball into Humphrey, in a central position 25 yards out. The Jamaican turned and hit a vicious strike that was turned around the post for PNE’s first corner.
However, from the corner came the Blades’ equaliser. A long clearance down field was collected by Campbell-Ryce, who is forced away from goal, but the ball fell to Jose Baxter who hit a shot that deflected off the boot of Chris Humphrey and onto the inside of the left hand post.
A change at the interval saw Calum Woods on for Ben Davies, the former Huddersfield man primed with stopping the threat of Campbell-Ryce.
The Deepdale crowd decided that the team needed a lift after the break as the noise was cranked up.
And the team were lifted too, Chris Humphrey curling a brilliant effort on 56 minutes that was tipped out of the top corner by Howard.
From the corner Tom Clarke met Kilkenny’s cross to the back post and Jack King headed down only for Howard to palm it out, but with King wheeling away in celebration of what he was certain was a ‘goal’, only for the referee to let play go on!
Up the other end and Jamie Jones had to make a brilliant back-pedalling stop on the hour mark to deny Baxter’s cross-cum-shot from the left hand touchline.
North End needed to clear the ball off the line in the 63rd minute as Hogdon’s header was got to safety by Scott Wiseman in what had become a real end-to-end Roses clash full of bite and spirit.
Jordan Hugill added to the attacking threat, for Josh Brownhill, but it was Alan Browne who almost forced a second at the mid-point of the half as Kilkenny croenr from the left was flicked on, only for Howard to eventually scramble down on top of it.
With 18 minutes left some superb football saw Kilkenny find Garber on the left, he then delivered a first time ball to Jordan Hugill’s back post run and the forward hit the ball on the volley under Howard, only to come off his back leg and out for a corner.
Howard then denied Gallagher with four minutes left as North End camped in the last third of the Blades’ half and then as the three added minutes started Alan Browne found space on the right to cross, picking out Paul Gallagher, but his first time shot was over the bar as the visitors held on for a point.
PNE line-up: Jones, Wiseman, B Davies (Woods, 46), Kilkenny, Clarke (c), King, Humphrey, Browne, Garner, Brownhill (Hugill, 64), Little (Gallagher, 76). Subs not used: Stuckmann, Wright, K Davies, Hayhurst.
Sheffield United line-up: Howard, Basham, Doyle (c) (Harris, 90), Murphy, Baxter (Wallace, 81), Collins, B Davies, McGahey, McEveley, Campbell-Ryce, Higdon (McNulty, 78). Subs not used: Turner, Flynn, McGinn, Reed.
Attendance: 11,058 (1,817 away fans)
Referee: Mr S Stockbridge