Jamal Campbell-Ryce off, but Notts County now 19 unbeaten on road!
NOTTS County got a point at Preston North End last night – and they did not need to park the team bus in front of their goal to do it.
North End manager Graham Westley foolishly insulted the Magpies and their long unbeaten away record before the game.
"People talk about parking buses, they play a 4-6-0 system!" he said. The headline on the back page of the local newspaper in Preston also read: "Overtake the bus"
Westley's ill-judged words provoked a response from Notts defender Dean Leacock, who took to Twitter and said: "What a funny guy he (Westley) is. He's defo never seen us play before." And he's right. He can't have done.
It looked like it motivated the rest of the Magpies players too, because they gave their all to earn a point in a goalless draw that is so valuable to their promotion challenge.
They certainly rode their luck in the first half and it took goal-line clearances from Gary Liddle and Carl Regan and a few good saves from their No.1 Bartosz Bialkowski to deny North End, but they were far, far better in the second half and deserved to extend their unbeaten run on the road to 19 games.
The Magpies made three changes from their draw at Scunthorpe United.
Striker Lee Hughes scored twice against the Iron, but he was still named on the subs' bench at Deepdale and French forward Yoann Arquin was restored to their attack.
Defender Regan also played for the first time in five weeks, following his recovery from a foot injury, and he joined Dean Leacock, Liddle, who was named PFA fans' player of the month in League One for October before the game, and Alan Sheehan in defence, in front of goalkeeper Bialkowski.
Francois Zoko also replaced Jamal Campbell-Ryce and captain Neal Bishop, Andre Boucaud, Jeff Hughes and Alan Judge completed their line-up.
The Magpies threatened for the first time on ten minutes.
Sheehan hit a magnificent diagonal pass to Judge on the right wing, he beat Preston's left-back Scott Laird, whipped a dangerous cross into the penalty area and Bishop, Zoko and Arquin were all in there, but North End goalkeeper Steve Simonsen confidently plucked the ball out of the air to frustrate the trio.
Notts survived a big scare on 13 minutes, however, as Laird swung a cross into the box from the left for Akpo Sodje and he directed a powerful header just over the crossbar from eight yards.
Bialkowski was then forced into a good save to deny the home side, diving low to his left to hold a shot from Nicky Wroe, Preston's leading scorer this season.
Notts came under increasing pressure as the first half wore on and it took an even better save by Bialkowski to stop Wroe scoring on 18 minutes, after Stuart Beavon had headed Jeffrey Monakana's right-wing cross into his path inside the penalty area.
Wroe seized onto the ball in a split second and smashed it at goal and Bialkowski leapt to his right to parry it away. It was a super save.
Having made those two good saves, the Magpies' No.1 then made a terrible mistake on 34 minutes that so nearly led to Preston taking the lead.
Having controlled a back-pass from Regan, he tried to pass the ball back to the right-back, but hit it straight to Beavon.
He dived at the striker's feet in a desperate attempt to stop him, but he sidestepped the Pole and drove a shot at goal that looked set to break the deadlock until Liddle made the most outstanding headed clearance on the goal line.
That was not the end of the drama, though, because the subsequent corner fell to Beavon and he swept another shot at goal that Regan cleared off the line.
Notts had little reply. Arquin registered their first effort on target on 40 minutes from the edge of the penalty area, but it was all too easy for Simonsen to stop.
Bialkowski then made two more saves from Beavon in the closing minutes of the first half so it was goalless at half-time. The Magpies were very lucky to be level though and they were quickly put under pressure again at the start of the second half.
Monakana threaded a pass through the Notts defence and dangerously into the box for Jack King after less than a minute, but he had strayed offside, fortunately for the Magpies, and King then blazed over the bar from 20 yards.
Notts responded with their first attack on 52 minutes and Jeff Hughes fired a low cross across the six-yard box, Judge slid in, but just missed it.
Boucaud then hit a great pass into the Preston penalty area for Arquin on 59 minutes, but, like King, he was flagged offside, and Judge drove a low cross into the box from the right on 60 minutes that was hacked clear.
The Magpies made a double substitution two minutes later. On came Lee Hughes and Campbell-Ryce and off went Arquin and Zoko.
Lee Hughes is always a threat and Judge tried to swing a cross into the box for him on 66 minutes, but Simonsen punched clear under pressure.
Preston also made a substitution, bringing on Bailey Wright, and he tested Bialkowski with a low shot from 20 yards on 70 minutes, after beating Liddle and Bishop.
The home side were then screaming for a penalty when Sodje went down in the box in a challenge with Regan on 75 minutes, but referee Tony Harrington rightly turned down their protests.
The game was on a knife edge until the very end.
Judge blazed over for the Magpies on 85 minutes and then Bialkowski parried away a cross-cum-shot from Preston sub Lee Holmes on 86 minutes and Sheehan blocked Monakana's rebound effort.
There were four minutes of injury time and it turned nasty right at the death as Campbell-Ryce recklessly lunged in at Laird near to the corner flag and was sent off.
Campbell-Ryce exited down the tunnel, with Laird left on a stretcher and the Magpies left with a point.
PRESTON: Simonsen, Keane (Wright, 55), Huntington, Robertson, Laird, Monakana, Welsh, Wroe, Beavon, King (Holmes, 74), Sodje (Cummins, 82). Subs: Stuckmann, Amoo, Byrom, Elding.
NOTTS: Bialkowski, Regan, Leacock, Liddle, Sheehan, Bishop, Boucaud, J Hughes, Judge (Labadie, 88), Zoko (Campbell-Ryce, 62), Arquin (L Hughes, 62). Subs: Mitchell, Kelly, Mahon, Showunmi.
REFEREE: Tony Harrington (Cleveland).