Blues twice came from behind to earn a draw against visiting Preston in an action-packed encounter at St. Andrew’s.
Gary Rowett’s side produced an unusually lacklustre first-half display and went in 2-1 down at the break, strikes from Alex Baptiste and Daniel Johnson separated by Ryan Shotton’s equaliser, the centre-half’s first goal of the season.
Che Adams was introduced off the bench and helped spark a much-improved display in the second period, the 20-year-old grabbing his second goal for the Club with a clinical finish on 68 minutes to rescue a point.
Rowett sprung a few surprises in his team selection, Greg Stewart drafted in for his first Blues start as one of three changes from the side that drew at QPR. Young midfielder Reece Brown was also given his first start since February 2014, whilst David Cotterill came back into the 11. Making way were Stephen Gleeson, David Davis and Adams.
Brown was clearly eager to make an impact and lit up the game in the seventh minute, latching onto Lukas Jutkiewicz’s lay-off and sprinting into the box before letting fly with a fierce drive that would have stung the palms of Chris Maxwell as he parried it away. Cotterill brought another save out of the Preston keeper moments later, but the Welshman’s effort from wide on the left was easily collected by the visiting custodian.
Preston were gifted their first real opportunity on 14 minutes when Callum Robinson raced onto a misplaced back pass by Jacques Maghoma for a one-on-one opportunity on the left side of the area. Adam Legzdins was sharply off his line to narrow the angle and, as Robinson attempted to go around him, the former Aston Villa striker could only send his shot into the side-netting.
But Simon Grayson’s side weren’t to be denied five minutes later, as the visitors went ahead after a crazy goalmouth scramble. The ball was eventually stabbed over the line by defender Baptiste for his first North End goal since arriving on loan from Middlesbrough.
Blues looked to respond and came close on 29 minutes. Maghoma retained possession on the edge of the box before teeing up Jonathan Grounds, the left-back firing in a low effort that flashed narrowly wide of the far post. Jutkiewicz had looked to divert the ball in but was standing in an offside position anyway.
Moments later, a Spector cross just evaded Jutkiewicz before Preston cleared the danger, in the short-term at least, for a corner. But from the resultant set-piece Blues went ahead, Shotton rising like the proverbial salmon to power a header into the top corner.
Preston almost regained the lead soon afterwards, Greg Cunningham’s cross flicked goalwards by Robinson, but the crossbar came to Blues’ rescue. Shotton was first to the rebound to ensure the visitors didn’t have a second opportunity.
But this topsy-turvy encounter did take another twist on 35 minutes, Johnson’s 25-yard free-kick getting a slight deflection off the Blues wall and beating Legzdins, who was moving the other way.
The action was quickly back at the other end, Stewart looked to have been fouled on the edge of the box but the referee allowed play to continue, Jonathan Grounds crossed to an unmarked Jutkiewicz, but the loanee’s shot was saved by Maxwell. The assistant’s flag again brought the attack to a close anyway.
Preston had the last opportunity of the half – and it was good one. Johnson’s defence-splitting pass setting up Jordan Hugill inside the area but fortunately the striker failed to make a decent connection on his shot and the ball dribbled harmlessly into the arms of Legzdins.
The visitors came straight out on the attack after the break, Legzdins’ fingertips diverting Cunningham’s blistering 20-yard drive over the bar within the opening minute.
On 50 minutes it was Blues’ turn to be denied by the woodwork. Cotterill’s corner was cleared, but only straight back to the winger, who crashed in a shot that brushed the crossbar before returning into play, the hosts unable to turn it home.
Preston countered and Ben Pearson careered into the area from wide on the right and fired in a shot that veered away from Legzdins’ right-hand post.
Blues made a double change on 56 minutes, Brown and Stewart replaced by Davis and Adams. It worked as the home side suddenly began to pose more of an attacking threat.
Maxwell was forced to push Spector’s cross-shot behind for a corner, which resulted in two more chances coming Blues’ way. Jutkiewicz’s goalbound header unluckily struck Adams and when Cotterill put the ball back into the box, Michael Morrison’s far-post close-range header flew narrowly wide.
Blues kept up the momentum and from another threatening foray, Cotterill saw his shot deflected into the ground and over by Bailey Wright. But exactly midway through the half, the hosts’ persistence paid off.
Grounds delivered a delightful out-swinging cross that dropped perfectly at the feet of Adams, who had peeled away cleverly at the far post. The super sub took aim and stroked the ball powerfully but accurately into the bottom corner.
Blues were back on level terms and on the hunt for a winner. But Preston reinforced their backline with some changes off the bench and stood firm. In fact the visitors could have regained the lead for a third time, Hugill wasting a great shooting opportunity by instead choosing to square the ball and Spector dived in to toe-poke the ball clear. Robinson fired wide from 20 yards as Grayson’s team briefly pressed again.
In stoppage-time, Viv Solomon-Otabor, a late Blues substitute, flashed a shot a couple of yards over after cutting in from the left and Legzdins showed a good pair of hands to cling onto Cunningham’s 20-yard shot with other Preston players lurking.
A draw was probably a fair result, the point extending Blues' unbeaten run to six games and keeping the team in sixth place in the Sky Bet Championship table.