Brad Potts’ goal on the hour mark gave PNE a point in their first Central League game for a decade, against the Saddlers.
The Lilywhites, who saw a first half penalty from trialist Connor Wickham saved by visiting goalkeeper Jack Rose, dominated proceedings, but a third minute strike from a visiting trialist earned Walsall the draw.
Wickham partnered Josh Murphy in attack, supported by scorer Potts in an experienced side for the home team, in sweltering conditions at the Euxton training ground.
But it was the midland side that took the lead three minutes in, as one of the two trialists in Mat Sadler’s team – wearing No.8 - volleyed home from Danny Coogan’s cross to the back post from the right.
Wickham was a constant thorn in the Walsall side and he made a great run down the right, outpacing his full back, before his cut back towards Murphy was cut out. Moments later and the two combined in reverse, this time the Cardiff loanee going down the left before pulling a cross back to his strike partner, whose shot was blocked, Jamie Thomas following up, but firing inches wide from 18 yards.
On the 18-minute mark referee Nat Cox pointed to the penalty spot when the Walsall goalscorer fouled Brad Potts. Wickham fired low to keeper Rose’s right, but the stopper got down and pushed the ball away. North End were unlucky not to have a second spot kick seconds later, however, when Joe Rafferty was seemingly fouled by Noel Angafor, but this time the official waved away the strong shouts.
Murphy tested Rose again just before the half hour mark, cutting inside from the left and seeing his left-footed shot tipped over the bar and the Saddlers No.1 seemed to be the only defence between PNE and his goal in the closing stages of the half as he again denied Murphy, before the best save of the lot, clawing a shot from Adam O’Reilly out from the top left corner, after initial shots by Wickham and Murphy had been blocked.
Joe Rodwell-Grant replaced Murphy at half-time and was immediately into the game, shooting just wide of the right-hand post after running onto a Declan Rudd clearance and then pushing an effort just wide after a Thomas corner from the right, before another effort was deflected wide after he ran onto a well-directed Wickham flick on.
But on the hour mark the home side were deservedly level after good work from O’Reilly who breezed past his man down the left before finding Potts, who checked inside and caressed the ball into the bottom corner with his right foot.
Ethan Walker and Lewis Coulton replaced Lewis Leigh and Jack Baxter respectively in the final half hour and both were involved in further chances for North End.
Firstly Rodwell-Grant got down the right and drilled a ball back for Walker, only for his shot to fly just past the post and then Coulton did well from left back to find Potts, with Rose again the hero with a superb save.
And the Saddlers’ man of the match denied PNE the win when Rodwell-Grant was sent one-on-one through on goal in a left-hand channel; he drew the custodian and tried to put it across him into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal, but it was saved and the game ended all-square.
PNE line-up: Rudd, O’Reilly. Baxter (Coulton, 70), Rafferty, Huntington, Cunningham (c), Thomas, Potts, Wickham, Murphy (Rodwell-Grant, 60), Leigh (Walker, 58). Subs not used: Pradic, Lewis.
Referee: Mr N Cox