By Rich Brown
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City drew with Preston yesterday to make it four games unbeaten thanks to a combination of Preston’s profligacy in front of goal and a leveller courtesy of Preston’s Billy Jones heading into his own net from a teasing McAllister free kick. Iain Hume had given the visitors the lead early on before missed chances allowed City to share the points at Ashton Gate.
City started with the same side which had won at Middlesbrough, with Haynes and Stead continuing up front in a 4-4-2 formation.
City started sluggishly, with Preston taking full advantage when after just two minutes Hume profited from a Parkin knock-down after St Ledger was allowed time and space to deliver an accurate ball to the far post.
City struggled to impose themselves on the opposition, with the ball being lost all too often in possession. City lacked invention in the early stages, although Elliott nearly equalised from a Rose cross, nodding just wide.
At the other end, the imposing Parking was causing problems, and he nearly doubled the lead when his lob went inches over the top. With both defences uneasy, Carey made a rare dash down the wing before crossing well for Haynes, but the former Ipswich forward headed wide when he should have hit the target.
Moments later, Preston missed the first of three gilt-edged opportunities to increase their lead. Indecision in the City box led to a centre from Treacy leaving Parkin unmarked inside the six yard box, but City were let off when the striker shot wide when he really should have scored.
City did better as the half came to a close, with the ever impressive Adomah embarking on a now familiar direct run at the defence, beating Davidson with ease before seeing his left footed shot go just wide of the post.
City, who have experienced defensive problems at the start of the second half on more than one occasion this season, were again slow out of the blocks in the opening minutes of the period. Coutts played in Hume, but the Canadian saw his powerful shot smash against the underside of the bar before being headed to safety.
With the home team struggling to get going in the half, it was again left to Adomah to offer an attacking threat, and when he saw his run down the wing cut short by a cynical and dangerous ‘tackle’ by Treacy, the winger was lucky to only receive a yellow for a foul that many could argue warranted a red card.
City were again thanking the woodwork on the hour mark when Parkin struck a powerful shot on goal that James did superbly to tip on to the bar as the former England keeper’ kept City in the game with a top class save.
It was perhaps fortunate then, with Preston’s missed chances, when McAllister’s curling free kick was diverted into the Preston net by Billy Jones to make the score 1-1. Elliott, who had another good game in midfield, forced the mistake by competing for the ball in the air as the home crowd celebrated a much-needed leveller.
The goal gave City confidence, and for the first time in the match, we surged forward looking for all three points. Adomah nearly grabbed a winner when his mis-hit cross eluded everyone but rebounded off the post with Lonergan stranded.
Adomah was again in the action when his brilliant run and pass allowed substitute Pitman the chance to open his account for City, but the young striker saw his shot well saved by Lonergan.
City were inches away in the closing minutes when McAllister’s free kick needed just a touch from Stead, but he was millimetres away from connecting and the ball went safely out of play for the relieved Preston defence.
Although City can take heart from the performance after the equaliser, it will worry Millen that the opposition were afforded so many excellent chances to extend their lead. The defence was unorganised, with Caulker and Fontaine often left exposed by poor defending from the rest of the side. McAllister was better in his final ball, but was too often caught out of position, and had little defensive help from Danny Rose, who needs to do more to cover an ageing full back with little pace.
Preston were lucky to receive just four yellow cards, with their cynicism being allowed by a weak referee. What is particularly frustrating is to see teams target Adomah, and simply use the rules to their advantage by taking it in turns to impede his attacking movements, and the referee was simply too lenient with a side that regularly committed professional fouls with no intent to play the ball.
City will need to shore up the defence for the trip to Swansea; it is unlikely that the in-form Welsh side will spurn chances as regularly as both Middlesbrough and Preston have in the last two games. The unbeaten run should breed confidence, but with two tough away trips to come, City will need to be on top of their game in all areas to come out with positive results from either fixture.
City: James, Carey, Fontaine, Caulker, McAllister, Adomah, Johnson, Elliott, Rose, Haynes (Pitman, 56), Stead
Goals: Jones (og) 71
Preston: Lonergan, Jones, St Ledger, Morgan, Davidson, Coutts (Barton, 76), Russell, James, Treacy (Gray, 86), Parkin, Hume
Goals: Hume 2
Referee: D Whitestone
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