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16 January 2016

Blues held after Murphy strike cancels out Preston early opener

Town had to come from behind for the fifth successive home game to get a point thanks to Daryl Murphy’s eighth goal of the season.

Daniel Johnson gave the visitors the advantage early on but Blues were level by the break with Murphy finding the net with a left foot strike from distance.

Freddie Sears and Luke Chambers both went close to finding a winner for Town but Preston held on for the point.

Town stayed with the same side that impressed in the win over Leeds and just like on Tuesday night, Mick McCarthy’s side were behind early.

Paul Gallagher had already warmed Dean Gerken’s hands with a 25 yard free-kick as Preston got out of the blocks quickly and on seven minutes they were in front, Johnson sidefooting the ball in from six yards after his initial shot had cannoned back off Tommy Smith.

Jonas Knudsen had to be alert to cut out Gallagher’s cross, then the North End midfielder was just wide with a right foot curler after a clever free-kick.

Christophe Berra responded for Blues with a header wide but it needed more good work by Knudsen to prevent Eoin Doyle getting on the end of Joe Garner’s cross into the box.

Sam Johnstone in the Preston goal held firm from Ryan Fraser’s free-kick, Kevin Bru then seeing his diving header blocked a few yards out after Sears had weaved his way around the back.

Gallagher continued to cause problems for Town and his excellent ball released Doyle, whose driven pass was deflected goalwards by Garner straight into Gerken’s hands.

Bru was crowded out in the box as Town began to get a foothold in the game and on 37 minutes Blues were level, Murphy finding the bottom corner from 20 yards.

Murphy then lashed a speculative volley from 35 yards over the bar as Town went into the break on level terms.

Fraser had the crowd on their feet inside a minute of the restart with a jinking run at the heart of the Preston defence but the Bournemouth loanee couldn’t get enough power on his shot to trouble Johnstone.

The ‘keeper was forced into action again soon after, denying Murphy after the Town striker had robbed Ben Pearson and struck from the edge of the box.

Smith denied Garner with a timely challenge, then Pearson had the ball in the net but not before the offside flag was raised as the points hung in the balance on the hour mark.

Gerken held on to Gallagher’s strike at the nearpost, Brett Pitman replacing Bru in Town’s first change.

Murphy set up Sears with a perfectly floated pass to the back post, the volley going into the sidenetting.

Luke Hyam replaced Douglas for the final 15 minutes, Jordan Hugill on for Garner in Preston’s first change.

Bailey Wright flashed a header wide in a great chance for the visitors, Luke Varney joining the action for the final stages - Murphy making way.

Varney was immediately in the action, his shot blocked and falling for Luke Chambers, Johnstone saving superbly from the Town skipper.

Luke Hyam claimed a penalty when his shot was blocked inside the box, the midfielder testing Johnstone with a volley, then Sears’ strike was blocked on the edge of the box but Blues’ couldn’t find that elusive winner.

Town: Gerken, Chambers, Smith, Berra, Knudsen, Skuse, Douglas (Hyam 74), Fraser, Bru (Pitman 68), Sears, Murphy (Varney 82). Subs not used: Bialkowksi, Malarczyk, Oar, Maitland-Niles. Booked: Pitman.

Preston: Johnstone, Huntington, Woods, Wright, Cunningham, Pearson, Browne, Johnson, Gallagher, Doyle (Robinson 87), Garner (Hughill 79). Subs not used: Kirkland, Vermijl, Kilkenny, Welsh. Booked: Woods, Garner.

Att: 21, 106

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