Josh Harrop scored a stunning equaliser as the Lilywhites came from a goal down to take a point in a hard-fought Lancashire derby at Ewood Park.
The No.10 smashed home on the half volley from the edge of the penalty area 17 minutes in to level up after Adam Armstrong had given Tony Mowbray’s Blackburn Rovers an early lead in the driving rain.
The Lilywhite started with Patrick Bauer returning to partner Ben Davies, with Tom Clarke and Joe Rafferty at full backs, and Harrop was on the left of a three behind Maguire in the No.9 role.
And the Irishman started brightly and almost put the visitors ahead before the early Rovers goal. He made a run past three defenders right at the heart of the hosts’ backline, but his low shot was claimed by Christian Walton low to his left.
But in the third minute Mowbray’s men went ahead. Armstrong broke down the left and checked into the box. It looked like the ricocheting ball would be cleared, but it fell back into his path and slid the ball under Declan Rudd from 12 yards out.
The game was delayed for eight minutes as Corry Evans was injured in an accidental clash with Clarke, but Rovers went close after the restart to doubling their lead as skipper Darragh Lenihan had a volley 12 yards out just wide of the left-hand upright from Stewart Downing’s long ball into the box.
But a minute later, on the 17th minute, the green-clad Lilywhites were level as Gallagher’s 40 yard free-kick into the penalty area was headed down by Rafferty to the edge of the box and a sweetly struck half-volley with real power from Harrop flew past Walton into the roof of the net for his seventh goal of the season.
The home side had the better of the last 20 minutes of the first half, but rarely threated the goal in front of the 6,276 North End fans, Lewis Holtby the only one causing the PNE No.1 any difficulty, Rudd doing well to push the midfielder’s left-foot effort from the 20 yards around the post.
Even though there was not a change in personnel, there was a tweak in tactics from the North End boss after the break as he went man for man and with Ben Pearson driving this, despite being elbowed and kicked at different points during the half, both missed by referee James Linington, he helped drive his team on.
The introduction of Jayden Stockley and Scott Sinclair – for his debut – also lifted the team on and off the pitch, with the soaked supporters getting right behind their team and after a slight worry, when Armstrong’s from the left came off the right-hand post and into Rudd’s hands, it was Sinclair who was involved in a late chance to win the game.
He was freed down the left-hand side, finding Alan Browne with a pass. The No.8 tried a backheel back to the former Celtic man, but it deflected off Elliott Bennett and into the path of Paul Gallagher 15 yards out, his shot on target, only for left back Amari’i Bell to get across and block the goulbound effort.
There were four minutes of added time and in the final minute captain Clarke was needed to make a fine saving header at the back post ahead of Blackburn substitute Danny Graham, before from the resulting corner Rudd made one final stop to deny Manchester City loanee Tosin Adaribioyo at the back post as the game finished level.
Blackburn Rovers line-up: Walton, Nyambe (Bennett, 51), Armstrong, Gallagher, Bell, Downing, Holtby (Graham, 69), Adaribioyo, Lenihan (c), Travis, Evans (Johnson, 13). Subs not used: Leutwiler, Williams, Rothwell, Chapman.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Clarke (c), Rafferty, Pearson, Bauer, Davies, Barkhuizen (Stockley, 62), Gallagher (Potts, 88), Maguire, Browne, Harrop (Sinclair, 81). Subs not used: Ripley, Fisher, Huntington, Nugent.
Attendance: 19,963 (6,276 PNE fans)
Referee: Mr J Linington