Nottingham Forest put in a great performance against Preston North End to come away with a point from Deepdale this afternoon.
Britt Assombalonga fired home his tenth goal of the season for Forest in the first half before Aiden McGeady struck early in the second half to level the scores and The Reds can take a lot of heart from a performance in which they were the dominant side against a North End team trying to make a push for the play-offs.
Mark Warburton made one change to the side which claimed a draw with Derby County last time out, with Eric Lichaj returning to the side at right back in place of Michael Mancienne who dropped to the bench.
The home side started the match on the front foot and had a few early sighters of goal. Paul Gallagher's effort deflected over in the first minute and Jordan Smith gathered well from a low cross from Jordan Hugill on five minutes.
Smith was called into action again just a minute later as Tom Barkhuizen raced clear down the right-hand side, shrugged off the challenge of Fox and hit a low shot across the Forest keeper, who got down well to save. Hugill curled an effort just over the bar moments later before The Reds started to dominate.
Forest showed some excellent passing play and were in control of the ball, moving it around confidently and looking a threat going forward. Ben Osborn flicked a header over and he also had a shot blocked as The Reds looked like they were going to break the deadlock.
On 22 minutes they did just that as Assombalonga struck after a flowing move. Zach Clough, who was picking up excellent positions in between the Preston defence and midfield, turned on the ball halfway inside the Preston half and fired a pass through for Assombalonga who controlled and charged at goal. His pace got him in front of the Preston defender and he fired low past Chris Maxwell at his near post.
The good work was nearly undone on 31 minutes as an error from Smith was nearly punished. Hugill stood a cross up into the box and Smith looked like he would claim easily, but he dropped the ball with Ben Pearson lurking nearby but thankfully Lichaj was there first to clear.
Ben Brereton had an excellent chance to make it 2-0 right on the stroke of half time. The 17-year-old, fresh from international duty with England Under 19s, controlled a clearance from Smith on his chest inside the centre circle and charged at the North End defence. His pace took him past two defenders and he was one-on-one with Maxwell who saved his low effort.
Simon Grayson made a double change at the break with Callum Robinson and Alex Baptiste replacing Andy Boyle and Daryl Horgan and it added a fresh impetus to the North End attack. The home side pressed higher up the pitch and it nearly paid dividends on 49 as Barkhuizen hit a dipping half-volley following a corner which flew just over.
McGeady, at the centre of everything for North End, played in Hugill on 52 who was denied by a superb last-ditch challenge by Joe Worrall but the Republic of Ireland international found the equaliser moments later as he picked the ball up on the edge of the box and placed an effort into the corner.
Similarly to the first half, after a strong start to the half from the home side Forest came back into it and had good control of the ball. Clough almost rounded Maxwell on 54 with only some good goalkeeping from Maxwell preventing him from tapping into an unguarded net and Osborn hit a delicious curling effort from 25 yards which drifted just wide of the post on 62 minutes.
The introduction of Jamie Ward, Apostolos Vellios and Matty Cash added fresh legs to the Forest attack and Vellios got his first sighter of goal on 81 as he hit a fierce left-footed shot on the turn but Maxwell held well.
Preston had a couple of half chances from set pieces, with Paul Huntington and captain Tom Clarke heading at Smith and over the bar respectively, but it was The Reds who looked most likely to find the winner as they pressed forward in the closing stages.
A corner into the box by Ben Osborn as the game entered four minutes of added time caused an almighty scramble in the Preston penalty area. Vellios nicked the ball in front of Maxwell then Cash went over a challenge, with nothing given, and Preston were able to clear their lines.
Vellios and Cash linked up again in the final minute of stoppage time, with the striker playing a neat flick to set Cash free and, with Osborn free to his left, he was cynically hauled down by Ben Pearson on the edge of the box, A yellow card followed for the North End man and Ward couldn't capitalise as he fired his free kick over the bar and into the Forest fans behind the goal.
The Reds had to settle for a point in the end against a side pushing for the top six and it could prove to be a vital point in the quest for Championship safety.
Forest: Smith, Lichaj, Worrall, Fox, Pinillos, Clough (Cash 73'), Cohen (c), Vaughan, Osborn, Brereton (Ward 63'), Assombalonga (Vellios 73')
Unused subs: Evtimov, Mancienne, Tshibola, Carayol
Goal: Assombalonga 22'
Bookings: Lichaj 34', Pinillos 71', Fox 90'
: PrestonMaxwell, Clarke (c), Huntington, Boyle (Baptiste 46'), Cunningham, Horgan (Robinson 46'), Gallagher (Browne 84'), Pearson, McGeady, Barkhuizen, Hugill
Unused subs: Lindegaard, Spurr, Beckford, May
Goal: McGeady 53'
Bookings: Boyle 37', Robinson 54', Pearson 90'
Attendance: 12,459 (1,539 away)
Referee: Darren Bond