Preston North End 1Ipswich Town 1TOMMY Miller delivered on his prophecy and in doing so gave the Blues a vital Championship point against a plucky Preston at Deepdale last night.
Preston North End 1
Ipswich Town 1
TOMMY Miller delivered on his prophecy and in doing so gave the Blues a vital Championship point against a plucky Preston at Deepdale last night.
The Town midfielder has a wonderful scoring record against the Lilywhites, this was his third game in a row he has netted and he also scored vital goals for Hartlepool against them.
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His pre-match wish, that he could get back to scoring for Blues after not netting in the league since November, was answered and his run continued when he equalised for Town in a match they looked like they were going to lose.
A David Nugent debut goal had given Preston a deserved lead in a half where they put Town to the sword - but this Ipswich team are not top for nothing.
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For the 11th time this season, the Blues clawed back from a deficit to record a result, and it could prove the most vital as they got to grips with the game in the second half after an inspired double substitution.
Riding high on the back of five straight league wins, Ipswich were bolstered by the debut of latest signing James Scowcroft up front alongside Darren Bent, in place of the injured Shefki Kuqi.
Kevin Horlock started instead of skipper Jim Magilton after recovering earlier in the week from a shoulder injury.
They were up against a Preston side who were unbeaten in their last nine Championship outings, with seven wins in among that run.
They looked to get at North End and a clever Ipswich move started with a short goal-kick by Kelvin Davis to Fabian Wilnis, who carried up the right flank and laid it off for Miller, who put in a good cross which Gavin Ward plucked out before Scowcroft could mark his return with an early goal.
Although they pressed, Ipswich never really tested Ward, who was standing in for England Under-21 keeper Andy Lonergan, who damaged knee ligaments in training and is expected to be out for the rest of the season.
Ipswich more than met their match in the first half with the pace of Preston strike duo Richard Cresswell and Nugent causing all sorts of problems with their movement and directness.
The 20-year-old Nugent was making his full home debut and made a marked impression with an early header from a Chris Sedgwick cross and, although it lacked accuracy, it served as a warning.
Jason De Vos got back to thwart Cresswell and then did well to block a Paul McKenna shot after good work from Nugent.
Ipswich survived another scare when Sedgwick swung and missed with a fresh-air kick from a Cresswell ball.
Ipswich looked to be coping as Davis saved a Brian O'Neil 25-yarder and Richard Naylor blocked a Cresswell snap-shot.
But Preston's goal came nine minutes before the break, when O'Neil played the ball out of defence to split Ipswich and found Nugent.
The £100,000 recent signing from Bury ran on and calmly beat Davis with low angled shot, with Naylor trailing in his wake.
Davis denied him a second with a terrific one-handed diving save to his left, with half-time looming.
Jim Magilton replaced Kevin Horlock at the break, while Dean Bowditch went on for Darren Currie.
The Lilywhites had a penalty claim turned down after a collision in the area and Ipswich were looking edgy.
Preston boss Billy Davies was also adament the referee missed another cast-iron penalty for the home side later in the game when Richard Naylor appeared to flick a cross, which had gone over his head, away with an outstretched arm.
The Town keeper was forced to make another top save when he tipped a dipping 30-yard volley from O'Neil around a post.
Town looked uninspired and devoid of ideas and the second half bumbled along until Magilton superbly switched the direction of play with a long pass from the left to the opposite flank and Wilnis played a purposeful ball forward.
Miller hit a powerful right-foot shot which Ward did well to get down to but the Blues No. 8 reacted quickly and stabbed in the rebound with his left foot for his eighth goal of the season.
That raised Town's spirits and another good ball by Wilnis picked out Bowditch but his looping header deflected away off Graham Alexander.
Preston's goalkeeping woes continued when Ward was stretchered off after an accidental collision with Ian Westlake as both went for a loose ball.
Teenager substitute Chris Neal came on to make his debut for the Lilywhites, after recently returning on loan from Tamworth, and made an instant impact, saving with his legs from a close-range Darren Bent shot.
The game intensified in the final five minutes, plus time added on, with substitute Patrick Agyemang going close for Preston but then giving away a free-kick in a dangerous position.
Magilton won a corner which came to nothing and Preston's counter was dealt with.