A third successive home draw for Rovers who were frustrated by Preston North End in a bitty affair at Ewood Park.

Adam Armstrong's eighth of the season had Rovers ahead in the third minute, but Josh Harrop's strike nine minutes later ensured a share of the spoils.

Rovers enjoyed the better of the chances and went closest to winning in a match that was devoid of clear-cut opportunities.

Declan Rudd made a flying save in injury time to deny Tosin Adarabioyo and were angered by a refereeing decision not to award a penalty for a foul on Sam Gallagher. 

Rovers made five changes, handing recalls to Christian Walton and Lewis Travis, while Corry Evans, Ryan Nyambe and Lewis Holtby overcame injuries to start.

Preston were first to strike at goal, Seani Maguire running across the Rovers defence before hitting a left foot shot which required Walton to move away to his left to save.

But the masters of the early goal struck again, just three minutes on the watch when Armstrong put Rovers ahead. Downing played him in down the left, and despite looking like he’d lost the ball to Patrick Bauer, persisted to find himself free from six yards to side-foot in to the corner.

Evans had only just returned from injury, but a concerning moment just five minutes in saw him receive extensive treatment before being carried off on a stretcher. He bravely won the ball in midfield, but took a boot in the face from Preston captain Tom Clarke which brought his afternoon to an end.

Bradley Johnson was on in his place, and Rovers almost made it 2-0 shortly after the re-start, Armstrong’s snap-shot flying just wide after Downing’s free kick dropped his way.

But Rovers’ inability to clear a free kick allowed Josh Harrop to thump home an equaliser from the edge of the box, his drive giving Walton no chance.

Rovers had failed to react to the loss of Evans, as Preston became to take control, with Tosin Adarabioyo having a couple of unconvincing moments at the back.

Looking a yard off, Rovers needed to get Holtby in to the game more, and his growing influence helped them end the half on top.

A nice reverse pass from Downing found the German whose curling shot looked destined for the top corner, but for a fine Declan Rudd save.

A well-worked corner presented Holtby with another decent shooting opportunity, this one well hit, but always rising over the bar.

The opening 45 minutes had been littered with Preston fouls, but quick thinking from Bell after Holtby was tripped saw Armstrong clean through, but on his left foot, he snatched at his shot that was dragged wide.

The second half continued to be a competitive affair, but lacking clear-cut chances, with Maguire at one end, and Bell at other, lacking composure with goalbound efforts before the hour mark.

And like the first half, injury forced Rovers in to an early change, Nyambe, just back from a hamstring problem, hobbled off to be replaced by Bennett, himself having been struggling with an Achilles problem.

Travis followed Darragh Lenihan in to the book for a crunching challenge, but there remained a real shortage of quality on display from both sides.

One long boot up field from substitute Jayden Stockley threatened to play Maguire in, after Bell looked to have slipped, but the retreating Rovers full back did well to regain his footing and block the eventual shot.

The referee had become centre stage, with decisions irritating both sets of players and fans, but none moreso than giving a foul against Sam Gallagher in the box when he looked to have been impeded by a combination of Bauer and Davies.

The search for a late winner for both saw Armstrong’s cross from the left drift beyond Graham, only to come back off the post before a grateful Rudd gathered the rebound.

And at the other end, Bell did well to block a Gallagher shot after Scott Sinclair’s cross ran all the way across the Rovers box.

Rudd may have almost been embarrassed just before, but gathered a low shot from Travis as the game ticked in to four added minutes.

There Adarabioyo was denied by a flying Rudd save, while Travis from distance, blasted wide of the target. 

Rovers: Walton, Nyambe (Bennett, 51), Lenihan, Adarabioyo, Bell, Travis, Evans (Johnson, 12), Armstrong, Holtby (Graham, 69), Downing, Gallagher

Subs: Leutwiler, Williams, Rothwell, Chapman

Preston North End: Rudd, Pearson, Clarke, Davies, Browne, Harrop (Sinclair, 81), Gallagher (Potts, 88), Rafferty, Bauer, Maguire, Barkhuizen (Stockley, 62)

Subs: Ripley, Fisher, Huntington, Nugent