Garbutt’s sweet strike earns U’s an unlikely point
Preston North End 1 Colchester United 1
Luke Garbutt earned an unlikely point for Colchester United, at dominant Preston North End this afternoon.
The U’s were second best for most of the match, and the Lilywhites spurned chance-after-chance before eventually being undone by Garbutt’s quality finish.
The only surprise about Preston’s goal was that it took so long in arriving, in first-half stoppage time.
Joe Garner met Paul Gallagher’s precise cross with a deadly header that gave Sam Walker no chance as it flew into the top corner of the net.
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But Preston could not add to their tally, and Garbutt made them pay on 77 minutes.
Substitute Dominic Vose, on his U’s debut, set up Garbutt and the Everton loanee fired home from just outside the penalty area.
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It was certainly a point gained for the U’s, who had earlier suffered more injury anguish with both Freddie Sears and Gavin Massey hobbling with a recurrence of their respective hamstring injuries.
Preston dominated the early stages and peppered the target with headers inside the first five minutes.
There was just 45 seconds on the clock when Walker dived acrobatically to his left to palm away Garner’s goal-bound header, from Gallagher’s cross.
Garner’s strike-force partner, Kevin Davies, should really have broken the deadlock on five minutes, but the ex-Bolton man’s downward header bounced off the turf and flew over the bar.
The U’s continued to be on the rack. Davies watched as his looping header dropped over the bar and onto the top of the net, and Garner also had a snap shot blocked at point blank range by Cian Bolger.
The visitors just could not get going and Sears, starting his first game for a month following a hamstring injury, was clearly struggling.
Sears was eventually replaced by substitute Jabo Ibehre in the 27th minute.
Preston were soon threatening again and Walker smothered an overhead kick by centre-half Bailey Wright, on his goal-line, following a 28th minute free-kick.
Clinton Morrison had half-a-sight of goal on the half-hour mark, but his flick header from Ryan Dickson’s cross flashed well wide of target.
Otherwise, it was all about defending for the U’s, and twice Walker denied Gallagher with superb saves on 35 minutes.
First, he kept out the left-midfielder’s goal-bound free-kick, and then he launched himself to his right to block another 20-yard thunderbolt from Preston’s No. 12.
The visitors had one real chance before the break. Alex Gilbey intercepted John Welsh’s pass and released Ibehre. However, the U’s substitute sliced his shot well wide.
And Preston took the lead in first-half stoppage time, thanks to Garner’s deadly header from Gallagher’s cross.
There was another blow for the U’s, early in the second half, when Massey aggravated his old hamstring injury and so hobbled off, to be replaced by Tosin Olufemi.
Preston were soon in search of a second goal and Walker again showed good handling to cling onto Gallagher’s well-struck free kick in the 57th minute.
Two minutes later and a rare piece of action in the home penalty area saw Marcus Bean loop a header over the top, following good work by Gilbey.
A combination of Walker and the woodwork denied the Lilywhites that second goal in the 65th minute.
Garner charged down a free-kick by Dickson and suddenly the hosts were pouring forward in numbers. Kilkenny delivered the cross for Gallagher to head goalwards, only for Walker to divert the ball onto the bar.
The chances continued to flow and Davies was desperately close to poking home Lee Holmes’ cross-cum-shot at the far post.
But, against the run of play, Garbutt fired home a 77th minute equaliser, completely out of the blue, from just outside the box.
PRESTON NORTH END: Rudd, King, Clarke (sub Keane, 81), Wright, Laird, Holmes (sub Humphrey, 71), Welsh (sub Brownhill, 79), Kilkenny, Davies, Garner, Gallagher. Unused subs: Stuckmann, Buchanan, Hayhurst, Hume.
COLCHESTER UNITED: Walker, Wilson, Okuonghae, Bolger, Dickson (sub Vose, 69), Bean, Gilbey, Massey (sub Olufemi, 51), Sears (sub Ibehre, 27), Garbutt, Morrison. Unused subs: Cousins, David Wright, Bond, Eastman.
Referee: Scott Duncan (Northumberland)