Fleetwood Town 1-1 Preston North EndA David Ball wonder goal in front of the Sky Sports cameras secured Fleetwood a deserved point in the Lancashire derby at Highbury against Preston North End.
Ball’s fifth goal of the season, an audacious chip from 25 yards, came with five minutes of the 90 left to play though there were 12 added on following a serious injury to Preston’s Paul Huntington, who was later confirmed to be ok.
The 25-year-old’s goal cancelled out Daniel Johnson’s first half goal for the visitors, who despite spells of heavy pressure where kept largely at bay by Nathan Pond and co.
Heading into the game, Graham Alexander made three changes with Stephen Jordan, Antoni Sarcevic and Nick Haughton starting in place of Conor McLaughlin, Stewart Murdoch and Steven Dobbie.
It was the visitors who took the lead in the ninth minute as a Paul Gallagher free-kick was headed out of a crowded penalty area only to land at the feet of Johnson.
The former Aston Villa midfielder took one touch to steady himself before curling it past the reach of Chris Maxwell.
Maxwell ensured Fleetwood didn't go down by two goals minutes later with a wonder save from a Scott Laird volley, arguably one of the saves of the season.
Town’s best chance of the opening 45 fell to Haughton, who was returning after a spell on the sidelines. The former Runcorn man latched onto a long ball over the top of the Lilywhites defence but could only volley wide from a tight angle after heavy pressure from the yellow shirts.
In the closing stages of the first half, Preston could and should have doubled their lead as Jermaine Beckford was stopped with a stunning goal line save from Maxwell but the Bolton loanee will have felt he should have scored.
With the Cod Army behind at the break Alexander made a change bringing Ashley Hunter on for Adam Chicksen changing the formation from 5-4-1 to 3-4-3.
It was the visitors’ though who looked most likely to score again with Maxwell clawing away a Gallagher free-kick after 52 minutes.
After the hour mark Town had their second penalty shout turned down as Haughton flicked the ball only for it to hit what looked like the arm of John Welsh but referee Andy Madley to wave the claims away.
As the second period grew older, Fleetwood were starting to look the more threatening. Simon Grayson responded by making his first change, Beckford coming off for former England international Kevin Davies.
Fleetwood made a change of their own as Ball came on for skipper Roberts as the Cod Army pushed more attack minded players upfield in search of an equaliser.
Soon after Ball’s arrival, Preston defender Huntington clattered into his own goalkeeper Johnstone as he came out to retrieve a high ball into the box.
He remained on the ground for over eight minutes before leaving the field on a stretcher in a neck brace, being replaced by Calum Woods.
Once play got back underway, Town set about getting back into the game and did so with five to play, plus stoppage time.
Ball received the ball 25-yards from goal, checked back to beat two North End defenders before finishing exquisitely to level with a cheeky lob.
Moments later ex-Preston duo Tyler Forbes and Jamie Proctor combined with the latter stabbing an effort narrowly wide.
Grayson’s final change saw Gallagher replaced by Josh Brownhill eight minutes into the 12 added on.
There was time left for one last Town attack as Haughton released Proctor who was tackled by North End captain Clarke. The ball found its way to Hunter who saw his drilled attempt saved by Johnstone.
The point keeps Town 12th ahead of Good Friday’s trip to Gillingham.