PNE 1 Birmingham City 1
Adam Reach opened his PNE account, but North End had to settle for a point after Michael Morrison’s second half headed equaliser.
Reach registered his first goal in a North End shirt with a cross from the right hand side that evaded everyone and sneaked in, hitting the inside of the left hand side netting.
Michael Morrison headed home the equaliser from a left wing corner, despite Marnick Vermijl’s goalline clearance, referee Kevin Wright adjudging the ball was over the line.
Both sides were unchanged from their weekend games, but it was the Lilywhites who found their stride first.
Two headers from forward Joe Garner, one from a Paul Gallagher corner and a second from Adam Reach’s follow up cross both went close, the second flying agonisingly wide with Tomasz Kuszczak beaten.
However, he was beaten properly 19 minutes in when Reach’s left foot inswinging cross from near the right hand touchline found its way through everyone and into the bottom left hand corner, leaving fans asking was it a cross that confused everyone or a shot? Who cares?!
The visitors grew into the game after going behind. Right back Neal Eardley burst forward from his full back position and fired a vicious shot from the corner of the box just over Pickford’s bar.
But the better chances were still falling to the Lilywhites. Garner from the edge of ‘D’ saw an effort tipped over by Kuszczak, after great reverse ball into the frontman’s feet by Daniel Johnson.
And then the former Aston Villa man himself ran from his own box and shot from 25 yards, Kuszczak doing very well to hold a rasping drive from the No.11.
Just before half-time a great chance fell to Blues starlet Demarai Gray, who was clean through after one-two with Andrew Shinnie, but he hit his shot straight into ground and up into Pickford’s hands.
The last chance of a busy first half fell to Alan Browne with a good chance at the back post after a poor punch from Kuszczak following a corner from Paul Gallagher on the right.
Ten minutes into the second half, where the visitors had started brightly, Demarai Gray stung the gloves of Pickford with a driving run in from the left and powerful low drive, but the ’keeper got down well and got a strong hand to the ball.
Stephen Gleeson then headed against the bar after another cross from Gray on the left hand side as North End had to try and ride out the storm that City were throwing their way.
Pickford was again in fine form and denied Gleeson with a fine low save to his right, but from the corner Michael Morrison rose highest and headed goalwards. Marnick Vermjl smashed clear, but the referee adjudged it had crossed the line for the equaliser.
A great chance fell to Joe Garner with 13 minutes left after both full backs had put dangerous balls into the box from their side of the pitch, the ball eventually falling to the No.14 12 yards out, but he couldn’t gook his left boot around the ball and it went straight at Kuszczak.
Pickford was needed yet again to keep out Morrison who had raced forward from the back, diving this time to his left to keep out the low driven shot with ten minutes left.
Four minutes of injury time was end to end; Gray clean through sliding the ball wide from 12 yards out at one end and Daniel Johnson driving into the box and firing just wide at the other end, but both sides had to eventually to settle for a point.
: Pickford, Vermijl, Cunningham, Browne (Kilkenny, 83), Clarke (c), Huntington, Keane (Hugill, 70), Johnson, Garner, Gallagher (Welsh, 70), Reach. Subs not used: Kirkland, Wright, Doyle, Woods.PNE line-up
: Kuszczak, Eardley, Grounds, Kieftenbeld, Gray, Gleeson, Vaughan (Halford, 88), Maghoma (Davis, 89), Shinnie (Toral, 46), Spector, Morrison (c). Subs not used: Legzdins, Solomon-Otabor, Caddis, Brock-Madsen.Birmingham City line-up
: 10,568 (804 away fans)Attendance
: Mr K WrightReferee