ORIENT showed great character to fight back for an excellent point at Deepdale.
David Mooney gave Orient an early lead with a fine finish from distance but the O’s were pegged back by Preston who levelled soon after through Jermaine Beckford and then grabbed the lead in the second half from the penalty spot thanks to Paul Gallagher’s conversion after Scott Cuthbert brought down Kyel Reid.
It looked as if Orient would be going home empty handed before the tireless Chris Dagnall continued his fine recent form by grabbing a late equaliser.
Manager Fabio Liverani was forced into making changes again as injury levels hit critical in E10. Romain Vincelot, Dean Cox and Elliot Omozusi are the latest to sustain injuries for the O’s forcing Fabio Liverani into several changes.
Gary Sawyer returned in place of Andrea Dossena at left back whilst captain Nathan Clarke returned at centre back to partner Shane Lowry as Scott Cuthbert shifted to right back to fill the gap left by Omozusi.
It was a diamond in midfield for the O’s with Josh Wright at the base, David Mooney at the top and Bradley Pritchard (right) and John Lundstram (left) on either side.
In attack there was a return for Super Kevin Lisbie who partnered the in-form Chris Dagnall.
The change of formation seemed to surprise the home side who failed to get to grips with the O’s early on as Orient dominated possession and got off to the perfect start. Mooney picked up possession midway inside the Preston half and had space to drive into before arrowing a shot low past Sam Johnstone into the bottom corner.
The O’s looked comfortable and knocked it about at will though were rocked by a scramble from a corner with 10 minutes gone as the ball almost fell kindly for Jermaine Beckford inside the six-yard box.
After a shaky opening 15 minutes, the home side started to look more of a threat and found their equaliser through Beckford. Sawyer was penalised for handball on the Preston right and Neil Kilkenny was the man who swung in the resulting free-kick for an unmarked Beckford to nod past Woods.
The goal gave the home side life who grew to control long periods of the first half. Chances were of a premium though as Woods was rarely called into action though dealt with a handful of crosses pumped into his box. Other than that his main job was to retrieve stray balls from the stand behind his goal following some wayward shooting from the home side.
Orient slowly found a way back into it and popped it about neatly as the half drew to a close though Mooney will have wanted to do better with an opening from 25 yards as time ticked away. The sides went in level though at the interval which was probably a fair reflection on the balance of play.
Liverani made no changes at the break but soon turned to Gianvito Plasmati early in the second half when he came on to replace Lisbie.
His strike partner Dagnall was enraged soon after as he wriggled free from his man then appeared to take a shove inside the box though no penalty was given as Orient looked a tad brighter going forwards.
Mooney looked in a ruthless mood and almost regained Orient’s lead when he brilliantly turned a loose ball towards goal before Johnstone got down well to make a save. His effort came in the midst of a frenzy of Orient pressure and Plasmati was next to go close when he tried an unorthodox yet acrobatic volley from a Cuthbert cross that was well saved.
It was midway through the half though when the home side went in front for the first time from the penalty spot. Kyel Reid wriggled past Cuthbert and when the Scotsman stuck out a leg to try and win the ball, he caught Reid and a penalty was given. There were few complaints from the O’s and Paul Gallagher was the man to step up and thump his spot-kick down the middle to give North End the lead.
It looked as if Orient would do well to keep the score down with 15 minutes to go but out of nowhere they salvaged an equaliser. Plasmati did well to nod Sawyer’s cross into the path of Dagnall who forced a way past two defenders before applying the perfect finish into the bottom corner.
The O’s shifted to a 3-5-2 formation for the final stages as Mathieu Baudry came on at right back with Mooney making way for him. The move worked well as Orient held out for a good point on the road.
ORIENT: Woods, Sawyer, Cuthbert, Lisbie (Plasmati 53), Mooney (Baudry 80), Lowry, Clarke (C), Wright, Pritchard, Dagnall, Lundstram
SUBS: Grainger, Baudry, Lee, Aygemang, Adeboyejo, Dossena
Goals: Mooney 5, Dagnall 78
Bookings: Mooney 53
PNE: Johnstone, Wiseman, Clarke (C), Humphrey (Davies 83), Kilkenny, Beckford, Buchanan (Laird 57), Reid, Huntington, Brownhill (Browne 83)
SUBS: Stuckmann, Wright, Welsh, Ebanks-Blake
Goals: Beckford 22, Gallagher pen 68
Bookings: Laird 60
Att: 8555 (134)