Keeper hero­ics sal­vage a point

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Colin Hen­rys

LEAGUE lead­ers Bris­tol City took a step closer to pro­mo­tion with a draw at Pre­ston, but boss Steve Cot­ter­ill be­lieves it could have been bet­ter but for Li­ly­whites keeper Sam Johnstone.

Manch­ester United were the last team to beat Pre­ston and it took a star per­for­mance from the Reds Devils’ young goal­keeper, on loan at Deep­dale, to stop Cot­ter­ill’s side end­ing Pre­ston’s un­beaten run.

And while the league lead­ers took an­other step closer to pro­mo­tion thanks to Aaron Wil­bra­ham’s equaliser, af­ter Jer­maine Beck­ford’s opener, Cot­ter­ill could only ad­mire Johnstone’s hero­ics af­ter sev­eral saves de­nied his side all three points.

With nei­ther side hav­ing been beaten since Fe­bru­ary, a draw was al­most an in­evitable re­sult but Cot­ter­ill felt his side de­served more – re­serv­ing added praise for vet­eran striker Wil­bra­ham.

He said: “I think we de­served to win the game in the end. Their goal­keeper got man of the match and that tells its own tale.

“He’s pulled off some mag­nif­i­cent saves from Aaron Wil­bra­ham and Kieran Agard. How he’s kept those out I’ll never know and I thought he was mag­nif­i­cent.

“We wanted to win, as we have set up to do so ev­ery game this sea­son. You can get caught out be­ing too cav- alier but that’s how we’ve played all sea­son and we’re not go­ing to change now. It’s Aaron Wil­bra­ham’s 20th goal of the sea­son in all com­pe­ti­tions and we’re re­ally pleased for him. It’s a re­ally big achieve­ment af­ter the games he missed in­jured.”

The vis­it­ing fans thought Mar­lon Pack had bro­ken the dead­lock on 13 min­utes but – to the amuse­ment of the Pre­ston faith­ful – he had ac­tu­ally curled low into the side-netting from a well­worked free-kick.

It took a re­flex save from Johnstone to keep the scores level five min­utes later, read­just­ing well when Wil­bra­ham got a faint touch to Joe Bryan’s cross. Pre­ston took longer to set­tle, but Frank Field­ing was called into ac­tion on 24 min­utes when Joe Gar­ner headed Chris Humphrey’s deep cross goal­wards.

Beck­ford then pounced when James Tav­ernier failed to clear Scott Laird’s long pass on 31 min­utes, but his spec­tac­u­lar over­head kick missed the tar­get.

Johnstone was then called into ac­tion again af­ter the break, tip­ping Wil­bra­ham’s header onto the un­der­side of the bar and clear on 49 min­utes.

Agard then failed to con­vert from close range on 58 min­utes when Aden Flint headed into his path from Pack’s cor­ner.

And within a minute Pre­ston were in front, Beck­ford turn­ing Paul Gal­lagher’s low shot in af­ter the for­mer Black­burn man got free in the area.

The lead lasted just four min­utes, how­ever, be­fore Flint headed across goal for Wil­bra­ham to nod in from close-range when Pre­ston failed to clear Luke Free­man’s free-kick.

Johnstone turned Agard’s low shot wide on 76 min­utes, the goal­keeper scram­bling across goal to turn his low ef­fort away.

Nei­ther side could find a win­ner, how­ever, and Pre­ston boss Simon Grayson ad­mit­ted he had hoped for more.

“Four points off the league lead­ers is a good re­turn but we’d have loved to have taken six,” he said.

“Over the course of the game it was prob­a­bly a fair re­sult. There were chances in both boxes and, while they’ve cre­ated the bet­ter ones with the saves Sam’s had to make, we did have chances of our own.

“It was dis­ap­point­ing not to push on af­ter tak­ing the lead. It was a soft free-kick and we didn’t deal with it, un­for­tu­nately.

“But our play­ers have stood up and been counted against a phys­i­cal and cer­tainly very en­er­getic team who are top of the league for a rea­son.

“We’ve said to the play­ers we can only in­flu­ence our own games, but it’s an­other point to our tally and an­other game chalked off.”

LEV­ELLER: Aaron Wil­bra­ham scores for Bris­tol City to make it 1-1


TONE Pre­ston

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