Ground #: 30
Competition: English Championship
Kick Off: 7:45pm
Cost: £15 (Young Adult ticket)
Preston North End 1
Parkin (pen) 85’
Church 34’, Kebe 43’
So now back up North for what looks to be my last year at uni (*sob*) and I decided to try and get to grounds that were in the local area and there was one that stood out from the rest. Preston. Why I had waited till now to go see the largest team in the area (sorry fans from Burnley, Blackpool, Blackburn, etc) until now I don’t really know. However with it being Freshers Week and final years having not much to do, me and 3 uni mates made the short journey down the M6 to a midweek Championship clash. Preston is a city in Lancashire and was England’s 50th City as it was granted city status in 2002. During the Industrial Revolution Preston became a boom-town due to its large textiles trade. Recently the city has suffered from the effects of de-industrialization, but recent developments have seen the city improve and become more popular.
Preston is a footballing city and has always been by heart. The major club in the town, Preston North End were founding members of the Football League way back in 1888 and won the subsequent championship that season. That season they also went undefeated in the league, one of only two teams to be ‘invincible’ through a top-flight season (Arsenal were the others in 2004) and were the first team to do the double. Sadly though, the Twentieth Century brought very little success and even had the Lilywhites playing in the bottom tier. Yet, this has now allowed the club to become one of the few teams to have won all four professional leagues in England showing their true rise and fall throughout the seasons. Preston has also been home to a famous ladies team – Dirk, Kerr’s Ladies FC who became so popular, that the FA banned woman’s football at its members grounds until 1971 (50 years after they had banned it). With Preston clearly being an important part of English footballing history, it was this reason that the National Football Museum was opened at Deepdale in 2001. We went round before the match and I was extremely impressed with the place, and the exhibitions and items that they have at the museum. It was also free (although we did all donate) and had a good cafe/shop too that had the Champions League game between Rubin Kazin and Inter Milan on at the time.
We also saw fans of another team in the museum too, who had made the long journey up from Berkshire for the evening’s game and that was Reading. Many fans who have only become interested in football recently (i.e – the plastics) may see Reading and think of them as a permanent fixture of the top two tiers in England. However, the club had only achieved promotion to the Premiership for the first time in their history three years ago and while their two season stay was brief, they had impressed at times and nearly qualified for the UEFA Cup in their first season. Since then, nearly every player who played for the Royals in their Premiership days have gone, as only 3 remain; Ivar Ingimarsson, Marek Matejovsky and Kalfia Cisse. Their long serving manager Steve Coppell also left in the close season and so it was up to Irishman Brendan Rodgers to oversee this season of “consolidation and change.” It hadn’t started well as Reading went into this game in 21st position, only 1 place outside the drop zone. A slow start or a team destined to struggle? Preston on the other hand were in 3rd place going into this game and looking good for another crack at promotion. The 4 of us, got into the ground fairly late (for me) after spending so long in the museum, but we still had time to buy a famous Chicken Balti Pie (which is full of win) and place a £1 bet on Neil Mellor to be first scorer. We were sat in the biggest stand, the Sir Tom Finney Stand in a fairly decent position. Behind one goal was where a small band of Reading fans were and a section of the home support in the Bill Shankley Stand, the other stand behind the goal was all home fans which was Alan Kelly Stand. The newest stand which was only built recently is the small Invincibles Pavilion which is a nice looking stand although fairly small. Preston also played UB40’s “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” just before the teams came out which I think is a great song to play before a game.
Preston made the better start to the game with some great crosses being whipped in that troubled the Reading defence, but after the early stages the game began to get more even with both teams having a decent amount of possession but Reading creating the better chances with Andy Lonergan saving well from Jobe McAnuff. Brian Howard was next to have a crack at the Preston goal when he controlled a ball in well but fired just over the crossbar. Reading then continued to trouble Preston, especially right winger Jimmy Kebe who clearly the fastest and most skilful player on the pitch. Preston now needed to get firmly on the ‘control’ button otherwise they could well lose this game, sadly for Preston boss Alan Irvine his team firmly pressed the ‘suicide’ button as they threw the match away in 9 minutes. Firstly Richard Chaplow lost the ball in midfield to Brynjar Gunnarsson after 34 minutes who then put through Simon Church who thanked Chaplow for his gift and skipped away from the last defender and easily slotted the ball past Lonergan. Preston now needed to respond well and it looked like they would when they won a series of corners, however a poor ball was cleared away to Jimmy Kebe who sprinted away from two Preston defenders and scored the 2nd easily. The fan right in front of me went ballistic at his side’s defending for the second as he shouted, “THATS UTTER GARBAGE!!” Before making his way to the half-time queue. The HT whistle went to the sound of a chorus of boos from the home end. A big 45 minutes were ahead for Preston and their unbeaten home record.
For most of the 2nd half, not really much happened after Chris Brown had a goal, correctly, ruled out for offside on 55 minutes. Reading nearly had a 3rd goal and all 3 points on 60 minutes when a ball came over from the right hand side. McAnuff managed to miss still from 5 yards out with a fluke save from Lonergan and Preston scrambled the ball clear with no damage done. The final 20 minutes was when Preston started to actually play fairly well and for the most part, Reading had no answer except in the form of their Australian goalkeeper Adam Federici. Firstly Ross Wallace brought a great save from Federici that he managed to push onto the bar. Then Preston hit the post twice through Mellor and Wallace, both of these shots I managed to miss as I played the role of annoying fan who went to the toilet. Preston were handed a lifeline with 5 minutes to go when Matt Mills stupidly brought down Jon Parkin in the box who himself took the penalty and scored with ease. Game on! Preston then battered the Reading goal and nearly had their equalizer when Parkin hit a half volley from well inside the area which brought a brilliant save from Federici. Preston’s corners after this suffered from the problem that had hindered them all night as they failed to beat the first defender and Reading had managed to hang on.
A surprising result then at Deepdale, and a decent night out in Lancashire watching this. A few final things about the game, firstly I was surprised at the low attendance on the night – only 10,987. Hearts get more than that for every league game, so its a surprise to see a team challenging for promotion to the Premiership getting crowds of this for a league game. Secondly, is the quality of the football. I hear stuff like “The Championship plays some of the best football outside the top tier in Europe”, I’ve now seen two games in this league and the quality has been dire. Even some of the stuff I’ve seen in the SPL has been better. Maybe I should go to some of the top teams in the league such as Newcastle or West Brom before I’ll come back to that statement. It was still a decent night out during a week where I have very little to do. No idea where or what my next match will be, I have a few options so we’ll see what happens in the next coming days. Its nice to be back in t’north again.
- Match: 5/10 (never got going)
- Value for money: 6.5/10 (thankfully nabbed a Young Adult ticket for £15)
- Ground: 8/10 (really liked Deepdale, also a great museum)
- Atmosphere: 5/10 (was up and down throughout the night)
- Food: 7/10 (Chicken Balti pie was superb – shame it was £2.40 though)
- Programme: 9/10 (great effort)
- Referee: Andy Penn – 6/10 (not much to do really – penalty decision was right)