Rory McArdle’s 73rd minute header was enough to earn City a highly respectable point away at fellow promotion chasers Preston North End. James Hanson’s 5th minute header gave the visitors an early lead but North End fought back with goals from Tom Clarke and Bailey Wright but it was McArdle who had the final say with a towering header from Gary Jones’ corner to keep City in the play-off positions in the League table.
Preston were to have the first shot early on when Stuart Beavon fired a rising drive over the bar after his initial effort had been blocked but City’s first chance of the game produced a goal. Raffaele De Vita on his first league start of the season delivered a teasing cross towards the far post which was headed past the helpless Declan Rudd by James Hanson to send the near 3,000 travelling supporters into rapturous celebration.
Chris Humphrey and Beavon were trying to produce a quick response for their team and after the latter had seen a rising drive go narrowly over the bar it was the former that was causing problems down the right hand side, delivering a supply of crosses, one of which was headed straight at Jon McLaughlin by former Bolton favourite Kevin Davies.
Under a spell of pressure City counter attacked through Kyel Reid and after covering some 70 yards of the pitch he hit a shot towards goal that Rudd unconvincingly squirmed onto the post to keep the deficit at a single goal and spare his own blushes.
Just beyond the half hour mark North End equalised; Bailey Wright’s floated free kick was met at the far post by former City loanee Tom Clarke who guided a header past McLaughlin and into the far corner to bring the scores back level.
Hanson probably for a split second thought he’d scored his second goal of the game coming up to half time interval; Reid’s cross towards the far post was headed down by the big man but with Rudd about to be forced into action, Paul Huntington stepped in to hook the ball clear.
The Bantams had a couple of chances early on in the second half through Garry Thompson and Raffaele De Vita, Thompson’s shot was held by Rudd after he’d done well to break away and retain the ball under pressure from two Preston defenders and De Vita hit a first time shot over the bar from 15 yards out following some sublime link up play between James Meredith and Kyel Reid.
Kevin Davies went close for the hosts when his shot deflected narrowly wide before McLaughlin pulled off an excellent save to deny Humphrey after he diverted Beavon’s low cross towards goal from a tight angle.
Kyel Reid had looked his lively best on the night and almost got the goal he deserved when he received a pass before cutting inside and curling a fierce shot narrowly wide of the target, shortly after though, Preston went back in front. From Scott Laird’s corner Bailey Wright stole in unmarked at the far post to head the ball past a stranded McLaughlin from close range.
Five minutes later and the scores were level once again. Rory McArdle hadn’t scored since the opening day of the season but he rose highest to head the ball past Rudd from Gary Jones’ corner to send the impressive away following into eruption once again.
City could’ve won it in the final ten minutes when James Hanson headed home Jones’ free kick only to belatedly see the flag was raised on the far side for an offside decision against him. Jones had a pop himself with two minutes of the ninety remaining but his long range pot shot was tipped over the bar by Rudd.