Preston had to settle with a draw against MK Dons in an enthralling and tightly contested battle between two of League 1’s top sides to make it five draws in the last five meetings between the clubs.
Scott Wiseman’s left footed strike levelled things up for the Lilywhites after Carl Baker tucked home inside the 6-yard box towards the end of the first half.
It was 3rd v 4th at Deepdale this afternoon, with both teams vying to keep the pressure on Bristol City at the top of the table.
The tension between the two teams showed early on, as they each had the opportunity to take the lead early on with PNE and the visitors both having their turn to dominate the ball.
Preston looked to get off to a flyer in the first minute – Chris Humphrey putting his blistering pace to good use straight away, creating space for himself on the right-hand side and fizzing a right-foot shot just wide.
From then on, neither team were really able to take control of the game in an end-to-end encounter.
The impressive Daniel Powell hit the game’s first shot on target through the MK Dons wide-man cutting inside and lashing a powerful strike towards goal and forcing Thorsten Stuckmann to deliver a finger-tip save and deflect it over for a corner.
After countless more turnovers of possession, North End began to start pressing forward and developed a foothold on the game with skipper Tom Clarke heading rather tamely into David Martin’s hands from a promising free-kick.
It was on 18 minutes, though that Preston had their best chance of the half. Thanks to high pressing from Laird and Beckford, the Lilywhites had themselves a lucky break. Beckford was able to tee up Kevin Davies, eight-yards out, but the veteran striker could only lash the ball miles over the crossbar.
Preston continued to press, however. Beckford, this time, running onto a Davies knockdown but didn’t connect as he would have liked, forcing a save down low from Martin.
The opener came six minutes from the end of the first period. Brilliant work, again, on MK Don’s left side by Daniel Powell and highly-rated youngster Dele Alli led to the latter driving the ball across the face of goal, leaving Carl Baker to slide-in and score within the six-yard box.
In the second half, Simon Grayson’s men were chasing the equaliser from the off, Paul Gallagher worked an early chance for himself, seeing his long-range effort saved by Martin.
The home side then continued to create chances. First, after a fine overlapping run by Scott Wiseman, they had a corner which they managed to work it to Tom Clarke who headed over. Clarke also had half a chance from a floated Gallagher free-kick but couldn’t direct it back goal-wards.
Beckford flashed a near-post header just wide from another Gallagher cross and Huntington found the keepers gloves with a header, all within a few minutes.
It was then the turn of Beckford and Davies to showcase their fine link-up play. Davies first went close after meeting a perfectly weighted Beckford cross and then Beckford had the next chance himself after, again, latching onto a Davies knock-down, only to completely miscue and fire well wide.
Only a few moments later, the equaliser finally appeared. Kevin Davies doing brilliantly to keep the ball alive in the penalty area, knocked it down to Wiseman, who volleyed it expertly home from 15-yards out.
MK Dons may have found themselves lucky to leave the field with 11 men, as shortly after the goal Kyle McFadzean wrestled Beckford to the ground with Beckford seemingly having a clear route towards goal. McFadzean escaped with only a yellow card.
Kyel Reid and Andy Little both came on towards the end, but neither could inspire Preston to find a winner. MK Dons substitute Samir Carruthers came closest to finding a late winner but could only find the stand with his left-footed effort.
Speaking after the game Preston boss Simon Grayson said: “It was the least that we deserved. I thought we played really well.
We went with 442 today and pressed high up the pitch and didn’t let them get into their routine of good, flowing football and created some good opportunities.”
And added on Davies and Beckford: ”I thought Kev[in Davies] was a real handful and Jermaine [Beckford] was looking to play off them and running down the sides of them and causing them problems. But they’re judged on their goals as well, I suppose and you can see that they’re not full of confidence at this moment in time and they both need a goal from somewhere but at least we’re creating chances and one these days a goal will go in and they’ll both go on a run of goals.”
PNE Team (442): Stuckmann, Wiseman, Laird, Kilkenny, Clarke (c), Huntington, Humphrey (Reid, 65), Welsh, K Davies, Beckford (Little, 84), Gallagher. Subs not used: Jones, Woods, King, Brownhill, Browne.
MK Dons Team (4411): Martin, Spence, Lewington (c), Alli, McFadzean, Kay, Reeves (Bowditch, 73), Potter, Powell (Carruthers, 79), Afobe (Grigg, 90), Baker. Subs not used: McLoughlin, Hodson, Green, Baldock.
Referee: Mr D Coote