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Matches of Yesteryear - PNE v U's 6/8/11
Written by wessex_exile on Friday, 11th Oct 2019 21:26

Preston North End v Colchester United

Saturday 6th August 2011

NPower Football League 1 (Tier 3)

Attendance 11,451

Match #18 of the series, and we are at Deepdale for the first league match of the 2011/12 season against Preston North End. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but I always try and do first and last game each season, so I wasn’t exactly grateful for the fixture computer landing me with a 450-mile round trip. Still, stout heart and all that, and a ridiculously early train departure saw me on my way for the 5-hour journey to the frozen north. Not quite the furthest I’ve travelled following the U’s, but certainly the furthest I’ve attempted relying on our railway network – a perilous reliance at the best of times. At one point I had the idea of popping in to the National Football Museum at Deepdale, but it turned out lack of funding had closed it a year earlier, and it wasn’t to reopen (in Manchester) until a year later.

The U’s lined up:

12..Mark Cousins

3….Michael Rose

4….Magnus Okuonghae

6….Matt Heath

20..Brian Wilson

8….John-Joe O’Toole

10..Kem Izzet (c)

22..Anthony Wordsworth (John White 83’)

7….Ashley Vincent (Lloyd James 73’)

15..Kayode Odejayi

16..Ian Henderson

Preston North End were managed by Phil “perma-tan” Brown, who had arrived in January that year, though too late to steer PNE away from Championship relegation. Nevertheless, PNE were (and are) a big club, and one of the top tips for an immediate return to the Championship in 2011/12. There are few player connections between the two sides, but there was one significant name starting for PNE that day, the return of Graham Alexander after a four-year stint at rivals Burnley – and to a tumultuous welcome too. For the U’s, this was also Michael Rose’s debut. I think this was the first match between the U’s and Preston since they hammered us 7-0 in the FA Cup 3rd round back in January 2010, so we really did have something to prove – and prove it we did.

Preston started brightly, roared on by a decent crowd, and Cousins was kept on his toes, fumbling and then recovering a Coutts 25-yarder, and then keeping out a shot from Alexander. However, it wasn’t all one-way traffic, and a decent free-kick from Rose was only just saved by Turner in the PNE goal. Two minutes later, Turner wasn’t as fortunate, as JJ heading into the path of Wordsworth who drove a ferocious shot into the net to send the travelling faithful delirious. Even though Preston continued to press, the score stayed 1-0 up to the U's at half-time, and for Brown, ominous cracks were beginning to show in his PNE defence.

These cracks were exploited excellently virtually straight from kick-off in the second half, when a delightful flick-on by Wordsworth saw Henderson running through clear, rounding Turner to roll the ball into the empty net – and we were in dreamland! However, the pressure was mounting, and not long after Cousins again had to struggle to keep out another decent free-kick, PNE pulled one back. On the hour, and with the crowd baying for Alexander to let fly from 30 yards out, he instead rolled a perfect pass through to Mellor in the box, who turned and shot past Cousins. However, the U’s were made of sterner stuff on that day, and instead of parking the bus and trying to hold on, went for the defensive jugular. A long ball forward leaving the Preston defence flat-footed put Odejayi and Turner in a one-on-one foot race, which Odejayi won, flicking the ball sideways into the path of Henderson, who calmly drove home to restore our two goal lead.

However, Preston were far from beaten, and a fantastic solo goal from Coutts, weaving past several U’s players, and finishing with a stunning shot past Cousins, brought them back into it in the 70th minute. By now, still not content to try and hold on, the match became a gripping end-to-end contest, with both sides going close, until Odejayi settled it. A good effort from Heath at point-blank range was brilliantly kept out by Turner, but there was Odejayi to stab home the rebound, and score a fourth for the U’s.

Forget Dreamland, we had now arrived in Utterly Mentalville…

Rarely have I witnessed such a complete performance by the U’s away from home, and against such illustrious opponents as well – perhaps only matched by our 3-0 victory at Hillsborough? Preston did what they could damage-limitation wise, but to now avail, and the match finished 4-2 to the U’s. I’m not certain, but there must have been about 300 U’s fans there that day, and the celebrations at the final whistle were truly something to behold!

Preston North End 2 (Mellor 60’, Coutts 70’) Colchester United 4 (Wordsworth 12’, Henderson 49’ 65’, Odejayi 76’)

After the match, Ward commented “We've beaten a very good team. I don't think very many will score four or win here. A major problem last year was scoring goals away from home. The finishing was a lot better, we've worked very hard at it.

Phil Brown did turn things around for a while, going on a winning streak to lift Preston to second in the table, but injuries to key players started to take their toll. In December, having slipped back to 10th place, Preston dispensed with Brown’s services, and he remained clubless until signed by our dear friends Southend in 2013 (his first match losing the Football League Trophy final at Wembley 2-0 to Crewe, after Paul Sturrock had done all the hard work getting them there).

As for the U’s, our opening day victory propelled us to 3rd in the league, but we quickly settled back to a fairly consistent upper mid-table slot, finishing the 2011/12 season in 10th place, five places and five points ahead of Preston North End. This was John Ward’s second season in charge, and his second consecutive 10th place finish, which honestly was no mean achievement. He wasn’t so fortunate in 2012/13, and after starting nine games without a win was sacked in September of that season.

As it is of the era, I will leave you with the August image from my Xmas present calendar that year…

Up the U’s!

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