John Ward’s team won 4-2 at the same ground 12 months ago, however it was North End who could have scored four this time around.
Nicky Wroe’s emphatic free-kick would have given Preston an early lead were it not for the fingertips of Cousins.
However, the hosts were fortunate to keep 11 men on the pitch after Jeffrey Monakana escaped with just yellow for a late challenge on Cousins, with the ‘keeper responding by stopping the former Arsenal midfielder’s driven shot on the stroke of half-time.
Monakana and Cousins resumed their battle after the restart, as the keeper brilliantly turned the latter’s curling effort around a post, before saving well from Scott Laird.
Colchester midfielder John-Joe O’Toole shot tamely into Thorsten Stuckmann’s hands, but it was always North End who looked the more likely to score and Cousins was once again called upon to stop David Amoo from bagging a winner late on.