Southampton earn point at Preston after stoppage-time Evans OG25 October 2023
An unfortunate last-minute own goal from sub Ched Evans rescued a point for Southampton in a dramatic 2-2 draw at Preston.
As the end of six minutes of added time approached, Southampton goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu was sent up for Ryan Fraser's corner, and his presence led to the under-pressure Evans diverting past Freddie Woodman.
The late drama meant Southampton extend their unbeaten run to five games, while gutsy Preston were denied what had looked likely to be a first victory in six following goals from Milutin Osmajic and Brad Potts.
The first Championship meeting between these two in almost 15 years saw North End threaten first.
Recalled wide-man Liam Millar charged down the left before curling in a sweet shot which Bazunu dived full length to palm away.
It had been an encouraging start from the hosts, but the in-form Saints replied with skipper Adam Armstrong firing off target following Shea Charles' neat lay-off.
Despite their recent dip in form following a terrific start to the season, Preston were definitely up for this one and they went close again when Millar fizzed an effort wide from 22 yards, while Mads Frokjaer-Jensen also tried his luck from distance.
After that there was a period of probing as both sides tried to gain the upper hand.
It was Southampton who broke the deadlock after 33 minutes.
A soft goal from Preston's point of view as defenders stood off right-back Kyle Walker-Peters before he was allowed space to curl home left-footed from an acute angle.
The terrific travelling support from the south coast were almost on their feet again soon after when Will Smallbone's near-post cross found Armstrong, but he poked wide.
Walker-Peters then turned hero at the other end as he helped Bazunu divert Will Keane's strike off the line and onto the post, though Preston players appeared convinced that he had used his arm in doing so.
Preston levelled the scores seven minutes after the restart. Osmajic nailed the finish, with the half-time substitute drilling home on the volley after Ben Whiteman's cross into the box was not cleared.
The Deepdale roof was raised still further three minutes later when Preston scored again.
This time Potts took a pass from Osmajic before darting down the right flank and tucking underneath Bazunu from a tight angle.
Once Saints had settled again, they pushed hard for a leveller.
Subs Stuart Armstrong and Sekou Mara were both denied by Freddie Woodman, while Charles was wasteful when he blazed over with five minutes left.
Saints eventually got their reward deep into stoppage time in the most dramatic of fashion.
Preston's Ryan Lowe:
"First and foremost I'm really proud of the boys. We had to change the shape at half-time and then in the second half we've stuck to the gameplan really well. It's a sucker punch at the end, but I've no complaints about that one. We should have seen the game out by that stage. I've had to lift the lads up, they're all disappointed because we were worthy of getting the three points.
"We've got to pick ourselves up for another big game at the weekend now. The Championship is a rocky road, there's always lots of ups and downs, but I never get too frustrated any more because I know the players always give me 100 per cent effort and application. We've got a squad we can rotate and everyone knows they have to keep performing."
Southampton's Russell Martin:
"It's frustrating that we've had to pretty much rely on a late goal to get a point, but I'm really happy with the way we've performed over the 90 minutes. It's a dramatic one I know, but the two 10-minute periods either side of half-time have cost us in the end. We needed to defend our box much better, but when they scored twice pretty quickly it seemed to energise Preston and their fans and that didn't help our situation.
"I can't be unhappy with the performance overall and I won't criticise the players, because we've had to make changes again tonight and the lads who came in were great. The lads showed plenty of resilience throughout and I was proud with the way they kept going right until the end. There will be question marks about certain selections over the next few days, but considering those changes we've been having to make, we're still on a decent run."
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