PNE 2 Gillingham 2
Gillingham staged a second half comeback to deny North End the win with an injury-time equaliser.
Jermaine Beckford opened the scoring after 36 minutes with a superb effort from the edge of the box and Callum Robinson doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time.
However, the visitors grabbed a lifeline when Jermaine McGlashan fired home from inside the box before Leon Legge looped a header over Sam Johnstone from a long free kick in the first minute of stoppage time.
North End reverted to a 4-3-3 formation with Callum Robinson and Calum Woods returning to the side, Jack King and Chris Humphrey dropping to the bench.
Before the game the Club’s owner Mr Trevor Hemmings paraded his Grand National Trophy on the pitch, to fantastic applause from the PNE faithful.
But when the game got underway it was as astonishing first half with North End having 16 attempts on goal, eight of them on target, the first coming within 55 seconds of the game kicking-off.
The opening chance saw Jermaine Beckford cross from the right, Joe Garner hooking and effort inches wide of the left hand post from ten yards out.
Garner had a number of first half opportunities. On eight minutes he met a Callum Robinson left wing cross with his head but Gills keeper Glenn Morris got down well to save.
Seventeen minutes in Beckford was sent through by Robinson; he rounded the keeper, but Morris recovered to smother his first shot only for the ball to come back to the No.10 and his second shot came back off the line, cleared by Leon Legge.
Moments later Garner saw a shot – a left foot volley – go straight at Morris after a great break and cross by Robinson. Then the on loan Villa man himself had an excellent driving run and shot, but Morris again gathered well.
Just before the half hour mark Beckford dragged a shot just past the right hand post after breaking with pace with Robinson in a left hand channel, but he wasn’t to be denied.
On 36 minutes the on loan former Leeds United man notched his tenth goal of the season for the Lilywhites, making it five in five straight home games. He played a brilliant one-two with Paul Gallagher on the edge of the box before unleashing a vicious shot from 18 yards out high and past Morris to leave the back of the Bill Shankly Kop net rippling.
And after all the chance the lead was doubled right on the stroke of half-time. This time it was Callum Robinson who broke from the left wing, drove inside past two tackles before firing low into the bottom left hand corner to send the crowd into raptures as the home side headed into the tunnel for interval.
Simon Grayson was forced to make an early second half change with Scott Laird struggling after an injury picked up in the first half; Chris Humphrey coming on for him and Calum Woods moving to left back.
The visitors grabbed a goal to reduce the arrears just before the hour mark as Jermaine McGlashan raced onto a through ball and poked a shot under Sam Johnstone from 12 yards out.
With 20 minutes left Johnstone had to be alert to palm away a Bradley Dack free kick. A brace of corners followed for the visitors, but former PNE loanee Ehmer could only head wide at the near post from the second.
Joe Garner was denied a wonder goal by the fingertips of Morris with 14 minutes left, his 30 yard drive heading for the top left hand corner until the keeper’s intervention.
Five minutes of stoppage time was signalled and in the first minute of it the visitors drew level. A long ball was thrown into the box and Leon Legge looped a header up and over Johnstone into the top left hand corner to snatch a point.
: Johnstone, Woods, Laird (Humphrey, 49), Welsh Clarke (c), Wright, Robinson, Johnson (Kilkenny, 80), Garner, Beckford (Wiseman, 59), Gallagher. Subs not used: Stuckmann, K Davies, Little, King.PNE line-up
: G Morris, Egan, Ehmer, Legge, Loft (c), Marquis, McDonald (Norris, 69), McGlashan, A Morris (Pritchard, 90), Bell (Dickenson, 70), Dack. Subs not used: Nelson, Hessenthaler, Muldoon, Hoyte.Gillingham line-up
: 9,417 (127 away fans)Attendance
: Mr D CooteReferee