Crewe Alexandra 1 PNE 1
The on loan front man equalised from Kevin Davies’ flick on 90 seconds after George Cooper had given the home side the lead with their only shot on target of the game.
North End pushed for a winner in a frantic last few minutes, but the home side threw their bodies on the line to deny the Lilywhites what would have been a deserved win.
Manager Simon Grayson made four changes to the side that defeated Barnsley on Boxing Day with Alan Browne, Josh Brownhill, Andy Little and Scott Wiseman coming into the starting line-up.
The game was a scrappy affair in the first half with the frosty conditions not helping matters – despite the 2,200 North End fans warming up affairs from the terraces.
The first real chance for North End came 20 minutes in as Scott Laird cut in from left and fired goalwards from 25 yards, but it was straight at Ben Garratt in the home goal.
Ten minutes before the break PNE cut open the Alex defence; a great lay off from Kevin Davies from Clarke’s ball up field, to Andy Little, who took the ball on and laid it into a left hand channel, but Paul Gallagher’s first time shot was straight at Garratt once again.
Just before the hour mark John Welsh fizzed a shot straight into the hands of Garratt, but it wasn’t an easy one for the keeper after the midfielder got real pace on it from 22 yards.
Moments later Andy Little brought a great save from the young keeper after a lofted attempt – his last touch of the game as Chris Humphrey replaced the No.18.
Jermaine Beckford came on at the mid-point of the half and again he linked up brilliantly with Davies from the outset, the latter flicking on for the loan man, but Garratt was again up to the test, saving well from the No.10.
The substitute again was in the right place with 7 minutes left, this time John Welsh putting a great ball in from the left and Beckford got across the centre half, but could onlyt divert the ball past the post from 12 yards out.
But despite the pressure and possession of the Lilywhites they were hit by a sucker punch with eight minutes left.
Crewe’s first shot on target came from George Cooper on the edge of the ‘D’ after a ball from Ajose on the right of the box was squared to the young forward, who fired into the bottom right hand corner.
But within a minute the yellows were level. A long ball was played up to Kevin Davies who flicked the ball on to Jermaine Beckford who collected the ball from behind him and slid it under Garratt into the bottom left hand corner.
Kevin Davies should have earned PNE a corner as his shot was deflected wide for a corner with two minutes left as the Lilywhites pressed for a winner in the closing stages.
The four minutes of injury time was all North End attacking with Davies denied by a block and then with the last touch of the game Tom Clarke headed against the post but the home side held on for a point.
Crewe Alexandra line-up: Garratt, Guthrie, Davis (c), Turton )Cooper, 68), Baillie, Leigh, Haber (Ikpeazu, 63), Ness, Stewart, Ajose, Grant. Subs not used: Shearer, Tootle, Nolan, Jones, Ng.
PNE line-up: Stuckmann, Wiseman, Laird, Welsh (Kilkenny, 86), Clarke (c), Huntington, Little (Humphrey, 60), Browne, K Davies, Brownhill, Gallagher (Beckford, 68). Subs not used: Jones, Wright, Woods, King.
Attendance: 6,429 (2,176s away fans)
Referee: Mr S Stockbridge