Preston came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw against Leyton Orient on Friday night. It could have been so much better for Grayson’s men though as they led the match with only 20 minutes left on the clock.
Loanee keeper and local lad Sam Johnstone came in for Thorsten Stuckmann for his PNE debut with Kyel Reid and Josh Brownhill the other different faces from the defeat at Sheffield United last week.
A scrappy start by both sides was brought to life five minutes in as hard working Orient striker David Mooney took the ball off left back David Buchanan before driving towards the box and toe poking a shot inside the far post. Debutant Sam Johnstone was left with no chance.
Only moments after the restart Neil Kilkenny appeared to control the ball in PNE’s box with his arm but Orient appeals were drowned out by the groans of the Deepdale crowd.
As play began to settle down Grayson’s men snapped into action, taking control after 20 minutes and soon getting their reward. Chief creator Paul Gallagher whipped a fantastic free kick across the face of goal giving Jermaine Beckford no option but to find the back of the net with his header.
This seemed to spur the Lilywhites on, as they enjoyed near total domination for the next 20 minutes without anything to be described as a clear cut chance.
Grayson’s men were hitting plenty of long range shots, the problem being that they seemed to be aimed at Bill Shankly’s face in the stand rather than the goal itself.
The crowd did get a glimpse of the confidence of their new ‘keeper on 35 minutes though. Controlling a back pass, Johnstone feigned to clear the ball but instead turned the striker closing him down to a rapturous response from most of the 8,555 in attendance.
That dominance continued into the second half but it’s how you perform in both boxes that decide matches and all of PNE’s good composure came undone whenever they were in sight of goal. It should have cost them too, Bradley Pritchard’s deflected ball across Johnstone’s box looped over everyone and fell just wide of the post.
Johnstone did prove his worth only a few minutes later as Orient’s most influential player Mooney hit a low volley which required the Preston born keeper to be down at his near post quickly.
Preston took control again with a series of Kyel Reid runs coming to nothing until he was found by Scott Wiseman and hauled down by right back Scott Cuthbert to which referee Duncan pointed to the spot. Paul Gallagher stepped up and in his usual style drilled it down the middle giving the Town End something to really cheer.
Kyel Reid gave Cuthbert twisted blood throughout the whole second half. Earning free kicks off him regularly which on another day could have led to a feast of goals. It was no coincidence that as soon as Preston stopped using Reid they had less of the ball. They let Orient back into the game and they took their chance as Chris Dagnall bullied his way through a succession of tackles before earning Orient a point with a curling shot inside the far post.
Ultimately a frustrating draw for Grayson’s men and three points on Tuesday night against bottom of the league Yeovil are now even more vital to keep pace with the automatic promotion slots.
PNE XI: Johnstone, Wiseman, Clarke, Huntington, Buchanan (Laird 56), Kilkenny, Brownhill (Browne 84), Reid, Humphrey (Davies 84), Gallagher, Beckford
Subs: Stuckmann, Wright, Welsh, Ebanks-Blake
Orient: Woods, Lowry, Cuthbert, Clarke, Sawyer, Lundstram, Wright, Pritchard, Dagnall, Mooney, Lisbie