North End’s Academy were denied all three points after Shrewsbury Town dramatically equalised late on in a six-goal thriller.
After a few more chances had come and gone for Shrewsbury, Tom King got on the end of another cross from Jones, arriving late at the back post to put his side into the lead.
However, minutes later the match took a turn when Eddie Dsane waltzed through Shrewsbury’s defence, only for a desperate lunging tackle to bring down the attacker who was one against one with the goalkeeper and earned PNE a penalty.
The Blues’ defender Alex Fletcher controversially only received a yellow card for his offence but after Dsane sent the keeper the wrong way to make it 1-1, Fletcher received a red card for abusive language.
With the man advantage the Academy started to settle into their stride making the extra man tell, but it was from a devastating counter-attack that PNE made it 1-2.
From a Shrewsbury corner Bradley Roscoe picked up the clearance and clipped a delightful ball down the right channel to Luke Pritchard who manoeuvred his way inside beating two players before rounding the keeper and tapping into an empty net.
Preston really found their confidence having taken the lead and were dominating possession and scrutinising the Shrewsbury back four.
Shrewsbury were clearly affected by the red card and were struggling to build anything of their own with Ethan Jones looking their only threat.
But as is the way with football sometimes Shrewsbury drew level just before the stroke of half-time after Joshua Sampson gave away a penalty for a push in the back, which King duly converted to make it 2-2 and for his second of the game.
PNE still had time for another chance to put them back in front before the half was out when Dsane found room down the right channel and slid in Clive Smith, but Shrewsbury goalkeeper Shaun Rowley pulled off a magnificent save to prevent the right-back.
After the disappointment of not carrying a lead into half-time against the 10 men of Shrewsbury, the Academy needed an early goal to settle some nerves, and that’s exactly was captain Roscoe delivered.
A corner from Jonathan Lunney drifted towards the back post where the skippers initial header was saved by Rowley, but the ball dropped to Sampson and Dsane who both had stabs at goal before the ball found its way back to Roscoe who lashed it home to reinstate Preston’s lead at 2-3.
Dsane warmed the hands of the keeper with his swivel shot soon after, with a good free-flowing move down the right flank
Shrewsbury expressed their incredible spirit by continuing to cause PNE problems when Joe Kenton tried to pick out King for his hat-trick but the cross was just too high.
Down the other end the impressive Dsane had a chance to put some daylight between the sides but he didn’t quite get enough on his attempted lob which was tipped behind.
The resulting corner saw Josh Sampson tower above everyone at the back post but his effort could only find the side netting.
Nick Harrison then changed personnel in the midfield replacing Bradley Wicks with Adam Robinson.
Harry Hagon then showed impressive defensive capabilities fending off the quick and powerful Jones who was bearing down on the defender.
This was the start of some resilient defending from the visitors as the home side turned the screw, increasing the pressure on Ross Dalton’s goal.
Surprisingly the home side withdrew Tom King who had netted both of Shrewsbury’s goals and on came Jordan Wilson.
But almost equally as surprising the substitute made his mark on the game having only been on the pitch a matter of minutes. Wilson picked up the pieces from a defensive mistake and rifled his shot into the bottom left corner eight minutes from time to make it 3-3.
Both sides made changes in the final stages of the game hoping fresh legs might make the difference.
Shrewsbury replaced Joe Kenton with George Hassal whilst Nick Harrison sent on James Quigley in place of James Boyd.
With the game poised for an exhilarating finale both teams certainly weren’t happy with the draw and PNE almost found a winner when a mix-up in the Shrews’ defence saw Dsane put in a dangerous cross but the danger was fended off my a determined Shrewsbury side.
It was the Academy who had an abundance of chances in the closing seconds but Shrewsbury stood strong and the referee brought an end to what had been a thoroughly entertaining game of football, but one that will leave PNE slightly disappointed that they didn’t see off a 10-man Shrewsbury having lead twice.
Shrewsbury Town line-up: Rowley, Hickman, Burton, Grogan, Watkins, Flint, Kenton, Fletcher, Anderson, Jones, King. Subs: Millis, Golston, Carta, Wilson, Hassal.
PNE line-up: Dalton, Smith, Whelan, Roscoe, Sampson, Hagon, Lunney, Wicks, Dsane, Boyd, Pritchard. Subs: Quigley, Bullock, Jagne, Robinson, Roberts.
After the game manager Nick Harrison offered his thoughts on the 3-3 draw which he believed wasn’t all doom and gloom.
He said: “We’re obviously disappointed to concede in the last five minutes but overall I thought we played some excellent football and I thought we passed the ball well and created chances. I think we’re just disappointed we didn’t take our chances really.”
Harrison’s insisted that he isn’t worried about his side’s defensive qualities and rightfully so for a team that’s kept six clean sheets this season.
He said: “I’m not concerned, I think the players have shown they’ve got a desire to keep clean sheets. We’ve conceded one or two in the last couple of games, I just think the players have got to learn from it and get back to defending and doing the basics well.”
The Academy manager did concede that his side maybe lacked that ruthlessness against a ten-man Shrewsbury: “We would’ve expected our boys to get one or two more goals especially against ten men, we certainly created the chances, three or four clear cut one’s, but yes they’ve got to show a bit more devilment in front of goal and if they do that they’ll win games.”
Harrison did also commend the spirit of the home side who showed fantastic resilience throughout the match having gone down to ten men early on.
“I think any team that go down to ten men, they galvanise themselves and they come together as a group. Our players have got to deal with that and they’ve got to learn how to play against ten men because sometimes it can be difficult”.
Report by Chris Walford