Birmingham City 2 PNE 2
Clayton Donaldson had given Gary Rowett’s side a two goal cushion with close range tap ins either side of half-time, but Alan Browne sparked the comeback with an excellent finish from Tom Clarke’s cross before Greg Cunningham hooked a volley home to equalise after the Lilywhites had hit the post twice in the space of five seconds with a minute to go.
The Lilywhites made three changes to the side that faced MK Dons, with skipper Tom Clarke, Alan Browne and Joe Garner replacing Huntington, Johnson and Beckford in the starting line-up.
The home side took the lead 13 minutes in. Full back Paul Caddis had the ball down the right hand side and slid it in to Diego Fabbrini on the edge of the box. The £1.5m man cuts inside and fired a low shot goalwards forcing Anders Lindegaard into a fine save to push the ball out, but only as far as the unmarked Clayton Donaldson, who fired low into the empty net in the bottom left hand corner.
All the chances after that in a first half that saw an early substitution for both sides and four bookings from referee Keith Stroud, came the way of the Lilywhites. Firstly, a Joe Garner half volley from 25 yards flew inches wide of the left hand post after his initial shot came back off team-mate Doyle and into his path.
Next up Paul Gallagher fired just wide of the right hand upright after his initial 40 yards free kick was punches away by Tomasz Kuszczack.
The Polish ’keeper then made a brilliant flying save after Gallagher’s curling ball into the box was headed towards the top right hand corner from 15 yards by Eoin Doyle and then just before the break Alan Browne almost equalised from 30 yards out, with a snap volley after Garner’s knock down forced a fine save from the former Mancherster United stopper, who palmed the ball down and then scrambled to collect the rebound before the Irishman could follow up his own effort.
Having lost Marnick Vermijl through injury 20 minutes in, the Lilywhites also lost Anders Lindegaard at the break, Chris Kirkland replacing the big Dane in goal.
But despite having the better of the first half chances, they went two behind just before the hour mark. Chris Kirkland made a fine save to push out David Cotterill’s driven free kick, but once again Donaldson was on hand to poke home from close range for his and Birmingham City’s second.
North End almost had an immediate reaction when Paul Huntington met Tom Clarke’s pacy cross from the right, but at full stretch Kuszczak tipped the ball around the post and out for a corner.
Alan Browne missed a chance to reduce the arrears with 20 minutes left; the ball falling to the Irish U21 international in the left hand corner of the box after Garner’s deflected shot, but his effort was into the ground and wide of the left hand upright.
Jermaine Beckford came on with 18 minutes to go and the arrears were reduced less than 30 seconds later, but not by the striker, but Alan Browne, who fired home from ten yards out smashing home Tom Clarke’s powerful low cross from the right, after an excellent chest down and run by the captain.
And with a minute to go the Lilywhites were level. A corner came over from Paul Gallagher and Greg Cunningham’s overhead kick came back off the post before falling to Jermaine Beckford who hit the post again, but this time it came back out to Cunningham who brilliantly volleyed past Kuszczak from eight yards out.
There was time in the four minutes added on for Garner to have a snap shot from 20 yards, but this time the keeper gobbled it up and both sides had to settle for a point.
Birmingham City line-up: Kuszczak, Caddis, Morrison (c), Shotton, Grounds, Kieftenbeld (Gleeson, 39), David, Cotterill, Fabbrini (Lafferty, 76), Maghoma, Donaldson. Subs not used: Legzdins, Robinson, Vaughan, Solomon-Otabor, Spector, Lafferty.
PNE line-up: Lindegaard (Kirkland, 46), Vermijl (Huntington, 20), Cunningham, Pearson, Clarke (c), Wright, Browne, Gallagher, Doyle (Beckford, 72), Garner, Reach. Subs not used: Kirkland, Johnson, Welsh, Hugill, Robinson.
Attendance: 14,366 (538 away fans)
Referee: Mr K Stroud