ORIENT scrapped their way to a hard fought point at a freezing Deepdale to move up to ninth in the League One table and still within touching distance of the play-off places.
It was a game that will not live long in the memory as the O’s battled the elements and a well drilled Preston side to make it seven games unbeaten.
The O’s were below par going forwards but resilient at the back as the back four and goalkeeper Jamie Jones in particular worked tirelessly to repel the Lilywhites.
Manager Russell Slade made one change as the injured Martin Rowlands missed the trip meaning Lloyd James returned to the starting line-up whilst youth team midfielder Harry Lee took a place on the bench.
It was a quiet opening ten minutes with both sides working hard but creating little and it was James who had the first effort on goal in the 11th minute when he blazed a volley over the bar.
The first real incident came six minutes later when skipper Nathan Clarke clashed heads with Preston forward Stuart Beavon. The striker came off worse and left the ground on a stretcher after extensive treatment and from the resulting free-kick was the first clear-cut chance.
Nicky Wroe whipped a ball in from the left that was headed down to Bailey Wright who made good contact with a volley but Jones reacted brilliantly to push it over.
It jolted the home side into the life and with 37 minutes gone Lee Holmes cut the ball back to Jack King but twice Orient defenders threw themselves in the way of his efforts to deny him and then seconds later Will Hayhurst went through one on one with Jones and beat the O’s keeper with his shot but Clarke scampered back to clear it off the line.
With the half drawing to a close, King again caused problems when his effort from 16 yards looked destined for the top corner but Jones pulled off a magnificent save to push it onto the bar and somehow Orient cleared the rebound to keep the scores level going into the interval.
Orient suffered a blow just five minutes into the second half when Scott Cuthbert hobbled off with an injury and Elliot Omozusi came on to replace him.
It was to prove to be a scrappy second period with chances few and far between as Orient were resilient in defending their own penalty box as the lively Lee Holmes put several balls into the O’s penalty area but time and time again they were met with the fist of Jones or the head of Clarke, whilst Omozusi coped well with the threat of King.
Home keeper Declan Rudd was rarely called into action but did well to dive at the feet of Kevin Lisbie after James played him in on 70 minutes.
It was to be the last involvement Lisbie would have as he made way for David Mooney almost straight after but it was the goalkeeper Jones who continued to keep the O’s in it when he palmed away a bending from Wroe that was heading for the top corner.
The introduction of Mooney and Charlie MacDonald gave the O’s impetus in the final stages but again they failed to test the home goalkeeper as the game fizzled out into a stalemate.
PRESTON: Rudd, Keane, Huntington, Wroe, Holmes, Buchanan, Mousinho (c), King (Cummins – 79), Hayhurst (Monakana – 68), Wright, Beavon (Garner – 20)
SUBS: Stuckmann (GK), Robertson, Gardner, Procter, Davies
ORIENT: Jones, McSweeney, Vincelot, Cuthbert (Omozusi – 50), Cox, Lisbie (Mooney – 72), Clarke (c), Odubajo, Cook, James, Batt (MacDonald – 79)
SUBS: Sawyer, Smith, Grainger, Lee
BOOKINGS: McSweeney (45), Omozusi (62), Mooney (90)
REFEREE: S Martin
ATTENDANCE: 8450 (212)