SAVIOUR TO DENY ROBINS
Keeper heroics salvage a point
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
STAR MAN SAM JOHNS