FORMER Barnsley striker Paul Hayes grabbed a late equaliser to rescue a point for Preston North End at the Keepmoat Stadium last night.
Hayes’ strike cancelled out Brian Stock’s 77th minute opener and the battling Lilywhites held on for a share of the spoils in a nail-biting finale.
Rovers made two changes to their starting line-up.
James O’Connor, who has missed two months with a broken metatarsal, came in at right-back for Mustapha Dumbuya.
Matthew Kilgallon, who came on as a first-half substitute for left-back Joseph Mills (hamstring) in Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat by Cardiff City, retained his place in the side while George Friend started at left-back.
Preston again lacked skipper Sean St Leger, but welcomed back striker Chris Brown.
Rovers were the first to threaten and Preston keeper Iain Turner did well to tip Friend’s close-range shot over for a third-minute corner. Midfielder Simon Gillett shot well wide of the near post two minutes later.
Woods did well to deny Brown in a one-on-one situation on nine minutes.
Oster shot high and wide from the edge of the area on 11 minutes after Turner could only parry Frank Moussa’s byline cross into the box.
Then American Eddie Johnson won Preston a corner with a 20 yard shot which Woods couldn’t hold onto at the far post.
Little had been seen at this stage of Preston striker Iain Hume, who had scored six goals in his last six games.
Shelton Martis kept a cool head to clear the danger when Brown sensed a chance on 26 minutes.
Martis had a powerful header from a corner blocked by a defender a minute later.
Moussa, whose first shot struck team-mate James Hayter, shot wide of the right-hand post with a second bite of the cherry from the edge of the area.
Hume got a shot on target from the edge of the area, but Woods had it covered all the way.
Gillett’s 20 yard shot came back off Preston defender Bongani Khumalo. Coppinger then shot over with an angled effort after jinking past a couple of defenders after cutting in from the right.
Johnson fired into the side netting from close range after Woods had failed to hold on to Keith Treacy’s shot at the near post on 37 minutes.
O’Connor was booked for diving in the box on 40 minutes.
Turner produced another fine save to thwart Hayter three minutes later while Preston skipper Billy Jones fired wide of the near post.Moussa, playing his last home game before returning to Leicester, beat several defenders in and around the box before giving the ball away.
Woods did well to cut out the danger from Treacy’s cross into the box with Hume waiting to pounce while Ian Ashbee shot well wide on the edge of the box on 48 minutes.
Moussa did well down the left, but his cross meant for Gillett at the far post was headed clear by Jones.
Gillett poked the ball wide from close range at the far post after getting on the end of Oster’s right wing cross.
Treacy and Hume both went close for Preston just after the hour mark during a good spell of pressure by the visitors.
Oster continued to get though a lot of work for Rovers and was proving the main driving force in midfield for Rovers.
Turner denied Rovers the lead when palming Gillett’s close range header away for a corner on 70 minutes.
Moussa hit the crossbar just outside the area on 75 minutes after being set up by Coppinger.
Rovers took the lead on 77 minutes when Gillett laid the ball off to Stock for him to rifle home from the edge of the area.
Killgallon produced a goal saving block from substitute Hayes. But, from the resulting corner, Bongani Khumalo shot against the crossbar and Hayes was on hand to bravely nod home the rebound from a tight angle to seal a draw for the visitors.
Rovers: G Woods 7 O’Connor 7 Martis 8 Kilgallon 7 Friend 7 Coppinger **7 Gillett 8 Oster *8 Stock 7 Moussa *** 7 Hayter7 Subs: Sullivan Hird Wilson Mason Thomas *82 Euell ***90 Shiels **86
Preston: Turner 8 Nicholson 7 Morgan 7 Khumalo 7 Jones 8 Johnson *7 Ashbee 7 Carter 7 Treacy 8 Hume ***7 Brown 7 Subs: Lonergan Coutts Hayes *78 Barton Ellington **89 Proctor ***90 Wright.
Goals: Rovers: Stock (77), Preston: Hayes (79).
Referee: Scott Mathieson
Booking: Rovers: O’Connor