A 76th minute strike from Colchester’s Luke Garbutt denied North End a third successive victory, after in-form Joe Garner gave PNE the lead on the stroke of half-time.
In total, the hosts had 26 shots compared to the U’s 4 but their inability to kill the game off deprived them of the chance to shorten the gap on Promotion rivals Orient, Wolves, and Peterborough.
Opportunities were being wasted as early as the 15th minute. Kevin Davies had a great chance to give his side an early lead but his header lacked direction, sailing over the frame of the goal.
Lee Holmes who looked busy throughout the first-half, dodged his way past several gold shirts before he blazed his shot high and wide.
On the back of his hat-trick at Barnet the last time the Lilywhites graced the Deepdale turf, Paul Gallagher was quick to work United’s keeper Sam Walker. A trademark free-kick bending towards the top corner, only for the hands of the diving Walker to deny him his fourth goal in as many games.
It was the loanee combination of Gallagher and Kilkenny that was next up to try and find the U’s net. A bursting run from Kilkenny, who’s through ball found Gallagher, but his well-driven shot was stopped by the U’s keeper.
Just before the Referee blew his whistle to put an end to a frustrating first-half for the hosts, they took the lead right on the edge of half-time. A whipped in cross falling to Garner to nod home his fourth in five games.
The second-half started as bright as the first for North End. A right footed drive from Garner was heading towards Walkers goal, only for the ball to rebound off a Colchester player and out for a corner. The resulting corner bouncing on to the head of Tom Clarke but his headed attempt narrowed wide.
Just before the hour mark, Colchester were given a rare opportunity to test goalkeeper Declan Rudd. A high ball into the box found the sprinting Marcus Bean whose late run into the PNE box troubled the Preston defence, but his header navigated past Rudd’s left hand post.
A Preston counter between Gallagher and Kilkenny again nearly gave North End some much needed breathing space. Gallagher playing a through ball into Kilkenny, who returned the favour with a neat pin-point cross towards the head of Gallagher. His header however striking Walker before rebounding off the bar and over.
Simon Grayson’s side must have been cursing their luck that they couldn’t add a second, especially when Colchester equalised on 76 minutes almost out of nothing. A sweet effort from outside the area from Garbutt drilled into Rudd’s left hand corner, to give the travelling Colchester fans finally something to shout about.
A back to the walls job for the remaining 15 minutes for Colchester eventually saw them through to give themselves a hard earned away point. But not before a cracking ball into the box from substitute Chris Humphrey found the stretching Gallagher, but his volley smashed into the ground and over.
Despite the deflated point, PNE are unbeaten in six, and they now have the chance to get back to winning ways against Port Vale on Tuesday.