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Report: Rovers 1-1 Preston North End

Adam Armstrong's early opener isn't enough as both teams earn a point at a drizzly Ewood Park.

11 January 2020

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Adam Armstrong's early strike wasn't enough for Rovers who were forced to share the spoils with Preston North End at a drizzly Ewood Park.

Armstrong struck after only three minutes played to give the hosts a dream start in front of almost 20,000 supporters in East Lancashire.

But, Josh Harrop equalised to take a point back down the M65 for the visitors that maybe was a little undeserved on the balance of play.

A glut of chances arrived late on for the hosts, but Tom Clarke showed brave instincts to deny Danny Graham before Declan Rudd produced an outstanding stop to deny Tosin Adarabioyo from nicking a dramatic late winner.

Jayson Leutwiler, Elliott Bennett, Bradley Johnson, Joe Rothwell and Ben Brereton all dropped out from the team that began at Birmingham City in the Emirates FA Cup a week earlier, which allowed recalls for Christian Walton, Ryan Nyambe, Lewis Travis, Corry Evans and Lewis Holtby.

Like Rovers, Preston also made a number of changes, with the visitors making eight alternations to the side that suffered a cup defeat to Norwich last weekend.

The first opportunity of the game arrived after just two minutes, but Sean Maguire's low effort was comfortable for Walton to hold.

But with Rovers first chance came the first goal of the afternoon and it was Armstrong who bagged it for his eighth of the campaign.

After dribbling at Patrick Bauer, the German looked to have done enough, but countryman Holtby kept things alive, Armstrong kept running and the ball broke kindly for the frontman to slot home from 10 yard out.

Despite going a goal up, Rovers were dealt an early blow when Evans' 200th game for the club was ended prematurely through a head injury after a collision with PNE skipper Clarke.

That saw Johnson enter the action in place of the Northern Ireland international, in a straight swap in the centre of midfield.

Armstrong almost made it 2-0 on 15 minutes, but his strike on the turn flew an inch or two past Rudd's right-hand post.

It was a lively start at Ewood and the leveller arrived just a moment later. A Paul Gallagher free kick was tossed into the box and headed down to the lurking Harrop on the edge of the box. The former Manchester United trainee hit it first time and thumped the ball beyond Walton and into the back of the net.

Rovers responded well and Rudd was forced to produce an excellent tip over to stop Holtby's curling effort from finding the top corner.

Holtby went close again in added time of the first half, but this time his drive went just over Rudd's upright.

There was still time for Armstrong to have a go for goal, but he fired wide with his left foot from an acute angle after a quick free kick fell his way.

The second half didn't start the way Rovers would have wanted, with the dangerous Nyambe forced off through injury, which meant Bennett came on in place of the Namibian.

It was a half of few chances, with Maguire firing wide early after the break but there was little else of note before Armstrong's cross-shot missed everyone and clipped the post with five minutes of normal time remaining.

That chance led to one at the other end, with Bennett inadvertently playing the ball to Preston's Gallagher, but Bell was in the right place to block from the experienced ex-Rover.

Travis had a late opportunity, but his left-footed strike was tame and easy for Rudd to gather as the derby ticket into the final minute.

Rudd produced an outstanding save in the dying embers to stop Adarabioyo from winning it, before Travis drove wide in what was an entertaining finale but without a late winner.

Rovers: Walton, Nyambe (Bennett, 51), Lenihan (c), Adarabioyo, Bell, Travis, Evans (Johnson, 12), Armstrong, Holtby (Graham, 69), Downing, Gallagher.

Unused substitutes: Leutwiler, Williams, Rothwell, Chapman, Bennett.

Goal: Armstrong, 3

Booked: Lenihan, 52, Travis, 67

Preston North End: Rudd, Pearson, Clarke (c), Davies, Browne, Harrop (Sinclair, 80), Gallagher (Potts, 88), Rafferty, Bauer, Maguire, Barkhuizen (Stockley, 62).

Unused substitutes: Ripley, Fisher, Huntington, Nugent.

Goal: Harrop, 17

Referee: James Linnington.

Attendance: 19,963 (6,276 away)

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