Andy Boyle had a birthday to remember as he made his Preston North End debut in the  1-1 draw with Derby County, and was singled out for praise post-match by manager Simon Grayson.

Tom Barkhuizen's 95th-minute goal ensured the Lilywhites left with a point and sit in ninth place, nine points outside the play-off positions.

For former Dundalk player Boyle, it was a special night on his 26th birthday as he was selected at the heart of the defence, with Greg Cunningham and Aiden McGeady also starting at Pride Park.

His former Dundalk team-mate Daryl Horgan was introduced as a substitute in a strong Irish contingent on the night.

While Horgan has caught the eye since the pair moved earlier this season to Deepdale, Boyle has had to bide his time.

“I've waited a while but I can't have any complaints as the lads have been doing really well and it's difficult to get into the team," Boyle told the club website.

"I found out an hour and a half before kick-off so it was a late enough one but we'd done plenty of work in preparation in our shape and things like that.

"You have to be ready for these types of occasions when they're brought upon you."

Grayson said the Irishman deserved his opportunity and grasped it with both hands.

"He’s taken his opportunity and he should be a very proud lad"

“I was really pleased with him,” he told the Lancashire Evening Post. “The lad’s waited patiently and everyone saw what a composed centre half he is.

“He defends when he needs to defend and he can handle the ball as well. He’s a modern centre back. He’s taken his opportunity and he should be a very proud lad.”

Boyle admitted he was happy with how he performed on the night, slotting into the back four alongside Paul Huntington.

"I've been looking forward to this moment since I signed," he said.

"I thought I did okay - It would have been nice to keep a clean sheet but a point is the main thing and that keeps us going."

The draw does little for either side’s promotion aspirations, but Grayson said there is still a long way to go before the end of the season.

“Both of us have got our eyes on the play-offs and two points for either team would have made a real difference,” he said.

“There’s still 10 games to go and 30 points to play for with teams to play in and around us. We’ll just keep focusing on what we need to do.”