A fine free-kick from Ross McCormack rescued a point for Fulham against Preston North End this afternoon following an improved second half showing from the Whites.

North End were scenting only a fourth win of the season after Joe Garner gave them an early lead with a far post header from Paul Gallagher’s ball in following a clever short corner routine. The visitors made the stronger start with Eoin Doyle drawing a sharp save from Joe Lewis and fully merited an eleven-minute lead when Garner punished poor marking with a downward header. The striker nearly added a sensational second from distance as Preston appeared able to attack at will.

The Fulham faithful, promised that Kit Symons’ sacking would be catalyst for an upturn in league form, were vociferous in their condemnation of the home side’s passive performance. Scott Parker was a late replacement for the injured Sakari Matilla but the Whites struggled to put together anything of note in attacking sense bar a snapshot from Moussa Dembele that was tipped over the bar by Jordan Pickford. They had a huge let off just before the break when Doyle ghosted in behind a sleeping back line but headed Doyle’s flick on wide from two yards.

It was only once the Whites switched to back three, allowing Tom Cairney to pull the strings from behind the strikers, that Fulham began to build any momentum. They benefited from a lucky escape when referee Graham Howard waved away strong Preston shouts for a penalty when Daniel Johnson was caught in the box, although the official was similarly non-plussed at the other end when Fredericks was tripped by both Adam Reach and Paul Gallagher. Indeed, the referee’s loss of control caused a fracas when he missed James Husband being wrestled to the floor by Tom Clarke, with the Fulham full back booked for retaliation after not being given a spot-kick.

Football did break out again after a succession of bookings for hefty challenges and a frustrated Fredericks being cautioned for sarcastically applauding Horwood’s decision for finally awarding Fulham a free-kick. Cairney took aim from the set play and the deflection off the wall almost dropped into the top corner. Parker, in his final act before being replaced by Matt Smith, fired wide before Pickford kept out a 30-yarder from McCormack, who roared at the heavens in frustration.

The mercurial Scottish striker did produce a moment of magic with thirteen minutes to play, curling in a fabulous free-kick from twenty yards to register his twelve goal of the season – and a fifth strike in his last six appearances. Where Fulham would be without their talisman isn’t worth contemplating. Both sides poured forward in search of the winner. Preston produced the better chances with John Welsh lashing over when well placed, Fredericks scrambling off the line after Will Keane’s cross prompted chaos in the home defence before Garner headed a corner straight at Joe Lewis.

There was a horrible incident right at the death when a robust challenge from Richard Stearman caused a serious injury to Preston’s Stevie May, only just introduced from the bench as Simon Grayson’s side sought a winner. The Scottish striker had to be stretchered off and the visitors completed the contest with ten men having made all their allotted changes.

FULHAM (4-4-2): Lewis; Fredericks, Husband (Pringle 89), Stearman, Ream; Parker (Smith 76), O’Hara, Cairney, Kavanagh (Hutchinson 45); McCormack, Dembele. Subs (not used): Rodak, Voser, Garbutt, Woodrow.

BOOKED: Husband, Hutchinson, Fredericks.

GOAL: McCormack (77).

PRESTON NORTH END (4-4-2): Pickford; Vermijl, Cunningham, Clarke, Huntingdon; Browne, Gallagher (Welsh 74), Johnson, Reach (May 90+1); Doyle (Keane 74), Garner. Subs (not used): Kirkland, Davies, Kilkenny, Hugill.

BOOKED: Gallagher, Browne.

GOAL: Garner (11).

REFEREE: Graham Horwood (Luton).