Sometimes they just don’t go in

If I had merely read the result in the newspaper – Preston North End 0 Nottingham Forest 2 – I would have put it down to the fact that Preston had enjoyed a pretty good run in getting to a fourth round FA Cup replay before being cut down by an in-form outfit from the division above them. I was at the City Ground on January 24 when the Whites could well have won the first leg which ended in a scoreless draw.

But I watched the latest game on Foxtel and know the result didn’t reflect what really happened. I had been tipped off in England that the replay between the clubs would be televised live on Sky in Britain, which meant that Fox Sports would probably pick it up in Australia. It proved to be on the money. It was the first time in a couple of years that a match involving Preston would appear on TV over here.

The game was played early on Thursday morning Australian time. I recorded it and insisted to my wife that she join me to watch it in the evening. I was delighted to see images of the stadium where I had been only a few days before.

Opposing players line up alongside each other in the passage leading from their respective dressing rooms.

“I was right there!” I exclaim. “I saw both dressing rooms on my tour of Deepdale!”

Preston’s mascot, Deepdale Duck, races around the sidelines urging the home fans to get behind their team.

“That’s Simon Nash inside the costume! He led the tour and gave us two and a half hours of his own time! He offered to drive me back to my hotel!”

The camera dwells for a few moments on a Preston-supporting Sikh gentleman wearing an orange turban and sporting a long grey beard.

“I saw that bloke! I remember sitting a few rows behind him against Port Vale! And there’s the Tom Finney Stand where I watched the games!”

The truth is I would have been yelling all these things even I had been alone and my wife hadn’t been sitting next to me.

Does victory follow as a natural consequence if your team is in possession 63% of the time and unleashes 28 shots on goal as compared to six for the opposition?

Funny game, soccer.

In the eighteenth minute Preston goalkeeper Declan Rudd punches the ball away after a corner kick. It is gathered by Nottingham’s Scottish representative Jamie Mackie, who expertly curls the ball through heavy traffic into the top left hand corner of the net. Fair enough. Good goal.

Then Preston proceeds to dominate every facet of the game. Kevin Davies heads it home but is deemed to have fouled opposing goalie Dorus De Vries. Another attempt by Davies is stopped by a defender on the line with De Vries sprawled on the turf and out of the contest. Two possible penalties, where Nottingham players seemingly deflect two shots at goal with their arms are ignored by referee Jon Moss. The tempo increases when Preston throws attacking substitutes Joe Garner and Paul Gallagher into the fray in the 66th minute.

“How long can Forest keep them out? Surely Preston is about to break through,” offers one of the commentators.

With a few minutes remaining Garner outwits three defenders, regains his footing after slipping over and somehow wriggles free from his pursuers. His attempt at goal beats De Vries but cannons into the post. Preston’s attacks become increasingly frantic, causing the visitors to batten down the hatches and retreat to the six-yard box to defend their fragile one-goal advantage.

The North Enders do everything but deposit the ball into the back of the damn net.

After four minutes of extra time Forest lands the sucker punch.  A Preston defender relinquishes the ball under pressure and is left without assistance, because his teammates have thrown caution to the wind and run forward in an attempt to set up the equaliser. Darius Henderson pounces on the loose ball and fires it past a diving Declan Rudd for the sealer.

It’s hard to kick goals in a soccer match. The target is small, the keepers are tall and the offside rule prevents players from running ahead of the contest and taking on the custodian in one-on-one duels. There will always be cases where teams control the game but come off second best because they are unable to convert their opportunities into goals.

That’s another FA Cup campaign over for Preston. It might be a while before they repeat the heroics of 1938, or of getting all the way to the final as they did against West Ham in 1964.For the Lilywhites there is the more pressing concern of winning promotion this year and climbing back into the Championship.

Come to think of it, a few years ago I watched on TV as Preston fluked a 1-0 win at Milton Keynes after accidentally scoring the only goal of the match. Then, I thought it was funny. Tonight, I’m fuming at the injustice of it all.



  1. Dennis Gedling says

    Well you may get David Moyes back the way things are going for him. It must be frustrating to be a fan of PNE seeing them finish in the play off positions in the old Division 2 over a number of years not so long ago to now languishing in the third.

  2. PNE are nothing without your support on the terraces JG. Be surprised if they aren’t relegated now that they are without their spiritual leader.
    You are the ‘George Bailey’ of the Lilywhites.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great report as always John as a QPR supporter I really rated Mackie when he was at
    Loftus Rd . Soccer the beauty of it and the frustration of it when you dominate but can’t score and then get punished . Did your wife enjoy and share your excitement about your experiences at Deepdale ? Thanks John

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