Bristol City boss Lee Johnson hailed his side’s second-half recovery to earn a “brilliant point” against Preston and was delighted with the impact of his substitutes.
The high-flying Robins, who are firmly in the Championship promotion mix, trailed at half-time following Daniel Johnson’s 42nd-minute goal for fellow play-off hopefuls North End.
Preston were bottom of the league at the start of October, but a run of just four defeats in 25 matches since has taken them to within six points of the top six – and they showed just why against City.
The Robins were finally rewarded when Famara Diedhiou pounced on a loose ball from a corner in the 69th minute, and it could have been even better for the visitors but for a brilliant save from Declan Rudd to keep out Antoine Semenyo with nine minutes to go.
Semenyo was one of the players brought on in the second half, along with Jay Dasilva and Max O’Leary, and head coach Johnson was delighted with their contributions.
He said: “It’s a brilliant point, I’m chuffed for the players but obviously we have to do our jobs better in the first half. The players are aware that the free-kick [for Preston’s goal] is a regular routine of theirs.
“To get a point from that position at half-time was brilliant. I thought the subs who came on were excellent and dealt with the situation.
“It was our third game in a week and the boys had to really dig deep energy levels wise and they did. That showed the spirit of the players and the travelling fans.
“Antoine Semenyo came on in the second half and was only denied a goal by a great save.
“I just wanted a bit of that young, raw, hungry energy. He is the best at our club in terms of holding the ball up and wriggling and rolling.
“The fans were great, and we really appreciate their support. This is a big stage of the season and we are going to need as many people as possible to travel with us.”
North End’s pressure finally paid off three minutes before half-time with a free-kick routine that looked to be straight off the training ground.
City appeared to be expecting Alan Browne to float in another cross from a free-kick on the left, but instead he pulled the ball back for Johnson to side-foot into the top corner from 15 yards.
In injury time City threatened an equaliser but Adam Webster’s overhead kick was easily held by goalkeeper Rudd – his first meaningful save of the half.
The visitors did manage to draw level with 21 minutes left, though, when Diedhiou fired home.
Rudd then brilliantly kept out Semenyo in the 81st minute after reading his powerful shot correctly.
Browne headed inches wide in stoppage time as both sides were left with a point.
Preston boss Alex Neil said: “I can’t take any credit for our goal, that’s something the lads conjured up, but it worked.
“We are still in the hunt and I’ve told the lads that, and we hope we are still in that position with three or four games to go.
“A lot of the players are disappointed because they really wanted the three points.
“It was a tight game, both teams were trying to control the middle of the pitch, so it made it tight. We went with a tight midfield and went quite narrow, I thought it worked well and contained them well.
“Whoever was going to get the first goal would be a big factor I felt, and it is disappointing for us that we did not get the win.”