A late Joe Garner header meant Preston North End grabbed a share of the spoils after Tranmere’s Chris Atkinson put the visitors ahead in a 1-1 draw at Deepdale.
The Wirral side, who were playing their first game since midfielder Joe Thompson was diagnosed with cancer, began proceedings with a high tempo. Abdulai Bell-Baggie going close early on when the ball rebounded onto the head of the Sierra Leone international, forcing Declan Rudd to the deck with just four minutes on the clock.
Former Tranmere Rovers player Ian Hume had a lofted effort well saved by Rovers goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams before spectators initiated a minute’s applause for Tranmere’s Thompson in the seventh minute as the number seven begins to start Cancer treatment.
A curling cross from North End’s Scott Laird very nearly put the home side ahead after 10 minutes, but his cross across goal was agonizingly too far for the stretching Kevin Davies and Ian Hume.
New Lilywhite loanee signing Paul Gallagher very nearly marked his return to Deepdale with a goal, but his attempt on the edge of the area was well saved by the Tranmere number one.
Although the hosts controlled possession throughout, it was the away side that looked more threatening on the counter attack in the first-half. Bell-Baggie broke from a PNE corner to run towards the home side’s backline, but despite a number of blue shirts beside him, he blazed wide wasting a good opportunity for Ronnie Moore’s men.
Just after the half hour mark and The Lilywhites had a great chance to get themselves ahead. A through ball into Keith Keane saw the Irishman through on goal, but his toe poked attempt was easily saved by the Rovers keeper. The defensive midfielder not known for his goal scoring prowess, never looking comfortable in front of the opposition goal.
A late first-half attempt from outside the box from another former Rovers player John Welsh went well over to the amusement of the Super White Army, who were obviously still not happy after his switch to League One rivals Preston last year.
Ten minutes into the second-half however and it was the away side that went ahead. Chris Atkinson splitting the PNE defence to send a cool finish into Rudd’s left hand post.
North End responded with half decent attempts from Hume and Holmes from outside the box, but both shots hardly troubled Fon Williams who was looking for just his third league clean sheet of the season.
Tranmere very nearly doubled their lead when another clinical through ball fell to striker Ryan Lowe but his shot fired straight at Rudd to keep his side in the game.
At the other end substitute Lee Holmes somehow managed to find the ball at his feet in the Rovers penalty area but his shot was well blocked by the Tranmere defence.
Another PNE substitute Joe Garner looked a real live wire when he came on in the second-half. The 25-year-old let loose a firing effort from 25 yards, deflecting just wide.
As the final whistle loomed ever closer, a number of white shirts were beginning to lose their heads as their failure to break the Tranmere defence continued. Both Garner and Keane going into the book from needless fouls as tempers began to flare.
Almost out of nothing however, the home side snatched a late equalizer. A pin point cross from Stuart Beavon found the head of Garner, who fired past Fon Williams right hand post to deny Tranmere their second consecutive victory.