Preston battle back to earn draw at Birmingham
Birmingham City halted their sequence of 2-1 home defeats but had to be content with a 2-2 Sky Bet Championship draw against battling Preston.
The Blues had suffered three successive 2-1 loses to end their hopes of a play-off place and appeared to be heading for a belated success when they carved out a 2-0 lead with two goals from Clayton Donaldson to take his tally for the season to 11.
Preston, who have failed to win any of their last four games, produced a gritty performance to bounce back to earn a point. A 73rd minute Joe Garner goal put Preston back into the game and they earned a draw with Greg Cunningham's 89th-minute equaliser.
With nothing really at stake for either club the early play was not particularly noteworthy with both teams having an equal amount of attacking spells.
Diego Fabbrini was accorded plenty of space in midfield by Preston and was not slow to exploit the situation. His lively play led to Birmingham racing into a 13th-minute lead.
Paul Caddis hit a hard, low ball to the edge of the penalty area where Fabbrini collected the ball, moved to his right and fired in a shot which Anders Lindegaard could only block into the path of the unmarked Donaldson to score from close range.
Eoin Doyle put himself around and the Preston striker always appeared willing to try his luck as he demonstrated with a low drive which went just wide.
His robust play tended to upset Birmingham's defence but they eliminated a lot of the trouble with their own desire to attack at every opportunity.
Doyle was a persistent threat and he forced Tomasz Kuszczak to make a desperate save to keep out a well-directed header from a left-wing cross which was worthy of an equaliser.
Kuszczak distinguished himself again when Alan Browne let fly with a speculative long range effort which had the former Manchester United goalkeeper desperately diving to his right to block a fine effort.
The untidy nature of the game was reflected in the four first-half bookings with Preston picking up three.
Veteran goalkeeper Chris Kirkland took over in the second half from on-loan Lindegaard for a rare first-team outing.
The former England goalkeeper, however, was beaten in the 60th minute. He saved David Cotterill's free-kick but, as with the first goal, the ball bounced back to Donaldson who quickly dispatched another close-range effort into the back of the net.
Preston were generally out of luck with their own goalscoring efforts. Doyle again went close with another header only to see Kuszczak fling himself to his left to make another fine save.
They were finally rewarded in the 73rd minute when Garner was on hand at the far post to convert a right-wing cross.
Preston went in search of the equaliser and in a goalmouth melee twice hit the woodwork before Cunningham smashed home the equaliser.