Football / Match reports

Match report: Blackburn Rovers 2-2 Preston North End

Victory could have moved PNE within three points of the play-off places.

PNE stretched their unbeaten run to three games with a dramatic 2-2 draw against Lancashire rivals Blackburn at Ewood Park.

Tom Barkhuizen scored his fifth goal in four games, directing a close-range effort beyond beyond Blackburn goalkeeper Jason Steele before a thunderous strike from Elliott Bennett saw Rovers draw level with two minutes until the break.

Despite all the early pressure coming from North End, it was Blackburn who took a second-half lead, Craig Conway with a composed finish which nestled into the bottom corner.

Aiden McGeady saved the day for Preston, caressing Tom Clarke’s pass beyond Steele in the third minute of injury time.

Keen to maintain a run of six games unbeaten, Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray only chose to make one change, Charlie Mulgrew replacing Tommie Hoban in defence. Lucas Joao came in for the injured Danny Graham up front.

His opposite number Simon Grayson was also keen not to disrupt a PNE side who thrashed Reading 3-0 at home last week, with the same eleven who featured at Deepdale also starting the match at Ewood Park.

Continuing a fine run of form, Barkhuizen gave the visitors an early lead, latching onto a delicate lofted pass from Jordan Hugill before poking the ball beyond Steele.

McGeady looked to capitalize on the advantage North End had established, volleying Daryl Horgan’s corner-kick straight into the stand.

Joao could only head Bennett’s wicked delivery from the right straight at Preston goalkeeper Chris Maxwell.

North End were handed another prime opportunity after Mulgrew’s soft header fell straight into the path of Hugill but with a three-on-two situation the forward’s pass was just too short for the onrushing Barkhuizen.

PNE continued to restrict their opponents to shots from distance, the latest from Danny Guthrie flying straight over the bar.

Joao was unfortunate not to pull Rovers level in the 38th minute, his close-range header bouncing off the post after Derrick William’s left-hand cross.

After looking like they would go in behind at the break, Bennett unleashed an unstoppable effort from long range which flew past Maxwell and into the back of the net.

Barkhuizen had two golden chances early on in the second half, skewing Horgan’s cross wide before narrowly failing to direct McGeady’s delivery towards goal.

PNE had looked the more dangerous after the break but it was Blackburn who took the lead, Conway receiving the ball from Marvin Emnes before caressing a low shot beyond the reach of Maxwell.

Ryan Nyambe made a darting run down the wing, skipping past Greg Cunningham with ease before directing a powerful effort wide of goal.

North End had struggled to build any pressure, despite Grayson trying a different approach brining Simon Makienok for the final quarter of an hour.

McGeady took it upon himself to try and pull the Lilywhites level but sent a curling effort from outside the box wide of the target.

Paul Huntington thought he had scored an injury-time equalizer, heading the ball beyond Steele but the flag was up for offside.

Just when it looked like Rovers would hang on for all three points, McGeady stroked Clarke’s pass along goal into the back of the net to salvage a point for North End.

The draw leave North End in 8th place six behind Sheffield Wednesday, who occupy the final play-off spot.

Meanwhile Rovers slipped into the relegation zone after failing to hang on for the victory.

Blackburn: Steele, Williams, Lowe, Mulgrew, Emnes (Gallagher, 79), Joao, Guthrie, Nyambe, Lenihan, Bennett (Mahoney, 75) and Conway (Feeney, 79). Subs not used: Raya, Hoban, Akpan and Brown.

PNE: Maxwell, Cunningham, Pearson, Clarke, Horgan (Robinson, 67), Johnson (Gallagher, 75), McGeady, Huntington, Boyle, Hugill (Makienok, 77) and Barkhuizen. Subs not used: Lindegaard, Browne, Beckford and Spurr.

Referee: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire)

Attendance: 18435 (6005)

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