PNE 1 Bristol City 1
As was the case back in April when the sides were chasing promotion from League One, Aaron Wilbraham scored with a header to deny North End all three points at Deepdale.
Neil Kilkenny had given the Lilywhites the lead against his former club with a stunning 30 yard strike into the top right hand corner, but the Robins skipper headed home from close range to level matters in the last ten minutes.
Both sides had their keepers to thank for the scoreline remaining that way in the closing stages, with Jordan Pickford and Frank Fielding both making fine saves, but the two promoted sides had to settle for a point a piece in the Sky Bet Championship.
Stevie May was given his first start at Deepdale and Chris Humphrey also came back into the side, with two changes for the Lilywhites, with both sides lining up with a 3-5-2 formation.
In the opening stages the Lilywhites were on top and not for the last time in the half they should have been awarded a penalty on five minutes when Joe Garner was thrown to the floor in the penalty area by Aden Flint, but experienced official Eddie Ilderton gave nothing.
Chris Humphrey looked sharp in the opening exchanges and he was sent down the right by Kilkenny; the winger showing great pace to beat Joe Bryan to the ball before shooting across the face of goal, beating Fielding in the City goal, but ending up an inch wide of the left hand post.
Jordan Pickford was in good form and made a fine save with strong a left arm to prevent Luke Freeman form scoring with a shot from 20 yards in a left hand channel.
But there was more strong shouts for a penalty before the game had even reached the quarter hour mark. It was another PNE corner and another great shout for a spot kick. Firstly Tom Clarke might as well have given his shirt to Aaron Wilbraham, the way it was pulled off his back, and then John Welsh was fouled just on the line of the left corner of the box quite clearly by Korey Smith, but on both occasions the referee waved play on!
Just before the half hour mark Paul Huntington made an excellent block to deny Jonathan Kodjia after a swift City counter-attack.
But it was the home side, attacking the Town End in the first half, who finished the opening period strongly. Former Ronins player Greg Cunningham combined well with Stevie May in the left corner of the box, before his shot was deflected for a corner; the ball eventually came out to another ex-City man, Neil Kilkenny, whose driven shot was deflected over by Wilbraham when goal-bound.
And then right on the 45 minute mark North End broke quickly once again and Joe Garner fired in a shot that was tipped onto onto the cross bar from 25 yards out by Fielding the woodwork again denying the front man!
But the deadlock was broken five minutes into the second half and what a goal it was too! The luck seemed not to be going the way of the Lilywhites as yet another Joe Garner effort was blocked, but the ball was recycled and it came out to Neil Kilkenny 30 yards out who curled an effort with pace and accuracy into the top right hand corner giving Fielding no chance.
Eoin Doyle added additional firepower with a switch to 4-3-3 in the last 20 minutes and Stevie May dragged a shot just wide of the left hand post after good pressure from the strikers as the game entered the last 15 minutes.
But it was the visitors who drew level in the 81st minute as Joe Bryan got space down the left, delivered a cross to the near post where skipper Aaron Wilbraham powered a header home from six yards out.
With 90 seconds left on the clock substitute Kieran Agard found time and space in the box to curl a shot that seemed destined for the top corner until a brilliant hand from Jordan Pickford turned it around the post for a corner and then as stoppage time was about to begin Luke Freeman missed a gilt-edged chance three yards out, heading over unchallenged – a let off for the Lilywhites.
And up the other end they were presented one last chance of their own as Alan Browne delivered from the left and Greg Cunningham of all people flicked a header that seemed to be heading for the top corner until Fielding got a hand up to push it around the post to keep the scoreline level.
: Pickford, Humphrey (Doyle, 72), Cunningham, Clarke (c), Huntington, Wright, Welsh, Kilkenny (Browne, 85), Garner, May (Keane, 85), Johnson. Subs not used: Kirkland, Vermijl, Keane, Woods, Browne, Brownhill.PNE line-up
: Fielding, Ayling, Bryan, Moore (Little, 65), Baker (Williams, 14), Flint, Smith, Freeman, Pack, Kodjia (Agard, 87), Wilbraham. Subs not used: Hamer, Robinson, Agard, Wagstaff, Reid.Bristol City line-up
: 9,963 (324 away fans)Attendance
: Mr E IldertonReferee