Fulham 1 PNE 1
North End put in an excellent performance in front of almost 2,000 travelling fans at Craven Cottage, but they had to settle for a point despite Joe Garner scoring for the second game in succession.
Garner – off the mark seven days earlier against former club Blackburn scored with a close range header from a Paul Gallagher cross early on.
Home skipper Ross McCormack equalised with a free kick into the top right hand corner from the edge of the box with 12 minutes left.
Simon Grayson had been forced to make two changes to the starting line-up, Bailey Wright missing the first of two games through suspension and Calum Woods, out with a hamstring injury, replaced by Marnick Vermijl and returning skipper Tom Clarke.
And the visitors were on the front foot from the opening moments. The first chance came when Daniel Johnson’s ball in behind found Eoin Doyle, whose volley from the edge of the box was acrobatically pushed away by Joe Lewis in the Fulham goal.
Moments later a Paul Gallagher corner from the left was flicked on by Clarke across the face of goal, but no one was able to get a final touch.
Joe Garner then saw a shot blocked after Vermijl’s cross brought was down on his chest by the No.14 and Gallagher follow up with an effort from the edge of the ‘D’ that was also blocked.
However, they earned a deserved lead in the 11th minute as Garner met a Gallagher cross at the back post after a short corner played between Gallagher and Cunningham on the left hand side.
After waiting all season for his first goal of the season, the League One player of the year for 2015 made it two in two.
He now looked at the top of his game and shortly after almost doubled his and the Lilywhites’ tally from 30 yards after a superb run from the left by Adam Reach providing the ball on a plate for Garner whose curled was inches wide of the right hand upright.
At the mid-point of the half, with the home fans vocal in their vitriol against their own teams’ efforts, Gallagher saw a volley go wide after a Johnson ball into box was headed back by Garner for the No.12.
Around the half hour mark the home side finally created one or two opportunities. Firstly a brilliant recovery last-ditch tackle was required from Adam Reach to deny Ross McCormack with Fulham’s first real chance.
And second later Jordan Pickford was finally needed with a wonderful diving backwards save to tip Moussa Dembele’s deflected shot over the bar.
However, it could and perhaps should have been 2-0 to the side in yellow before half-time when Eoin Doyle missed a close range header from three yards out after Tom Clarke’s early cross was superbly headed back across goal by Garner for his striker partner.
North End and their supporters felt they should have had a penalty four minutes after the break when a strong run from Daniel Johnson saw him upended by Ream, but neither the referee nor the linesman – who was closer – seemed to see what looked an obvious trip.
Shortly before the hour mark James Husband should have been sent off – no doubt about it. He had been dispossessed in the box by Clarke and then he spear tackled the North End skipper and somehow survived with only a yellow card.
A Tom Cairney free kick was deflected over the bar by the PNE wall with 20 minutes left, but another free kick from a similar position drew the home side level with 12 minutes left – Ross McCormack curling the ball into the top right hand corner from the right hand edge of the box after substitute John Welsh was harshly adjudged to have handled.
There was almost an immediate response from North End and Vermijl and another change Keane raced down the right, with the No.9 squaring the ball to the edge of the box only for Alan Browne to be unable to get real purchase onto an effort and Stearman, the Cottagers skipper, blocked the ball and cleared.
In the final minute North End had two excellent chances to win the game, Reach seeing a shot blocked by Fredericks and then John Welsh firing the follow up over the bar from 22 yards.
The Lilywhites had a final chance in the last minute of the five added on, with a corner won by a brave Stevie May challenge, which saw him need treatment for it and in fact be stretchered from the field of play, but the corner was cleared and North End had to settle for a point.
: Lewis, Fredericks, Stearman, Reama, Husband (Pringle, 89), Parker (Smith, 75), O’Hara, Kavanagh (Hutchinson, 46), Cairney, McCormack (c), Dembele. Subs not used: Rodak, Garbutt, Voser, Woodrow.Fulham line-up
: Pickford, Vermijl, Reach, Clarke (c), Huntington, Cunningham, Browne, Gallagher (Welsh, 74), Johnson, Garner, Doyle (Keane, 74). Subs not used: Kirkland, Kilkenny, Davies, May, Hugill.PNE line-up
: 17,362 (1,933 away fans)Attendance
: Mr G HorwoodReferee