Following a good run of victories (and one draw), plus results for MK Dons and Swindon working in our favour, Preston North End are currently sitting at second place in the League One table. Bristol City are so far ahead at the top that it’s unlikely anyone will catch them, but if PNE can stay where they are, they are guaranteed to be playing in the Championship next season. However, yesterday’s match was against Crewe, who may be much further down in the table but have still caused PNE difficulty in recent years. Even though I’d already gone to the reverse fixture for this match, I still decided to go to this one since it was my birthday and I wanted to do something special. PNE also played on my birthday in 2009, when they beat Coventry City 2-1 – so how would this one go?
PNE had the ball in the box within the first two minutes through a free kick, and then continued to attack relentlessly. Joe Garner ambitiously tried to score from just past the centre line; Paul Gallagher managed to get one-on-one with the keeper, only to fire too low and have it stopped; and Daniel Johnson came very close only to hit the post. Ten minutes in, we finally broke through; Garner dodged the Crewe defenders, narrowly beat the keeper, and the score was 1-0!
Crewe got more into their stride at this point with a few worrying attacks, while PNE came close again with a low shot from the side that just rolled past the goal. After Crewe completely wasted a corner, the ball was carried back down the pitch and crossed into the box, where Joe Garner was in just the right place to head it in. 2-0!
“The Whites are going up! The Whites are going up!” chanted the fans in the Town End, which made me wonder: a) who comes up with these chants, and b) how do they spread them around?
After PNE almost scored again from a corner, things abruptly took a little turn downhill as Crewe slipped past our defence and Ollie Turton fired on goal. It looked like he might miss – but it hit the post and went in. 2-1.
PNE kept the ball in Crewe’s side of the pitch for most of the rest of the first half. We were showing great manouverability and skill compared to some other matches I’ve seen, but the referee was doing us no favours. Time and again, a PNE player would go down and he wouldn’t be bothered. He received a through booing at half time.
When the second half began, PNE were still the more dynamic side. Daniel Johnson had a good shot which missed, and Jermaine Beckford came close from right outside the goal. There then came a horrifying moment when, though some admittedly good crosses, Crewe scored – luckily, it was disallowed due to a foul.
Beckford, meanwhile, must have been getting frustrated. The ball was expertly crossed to him as he stood right next to the goal again – only for him to put it just wide. Soon after that, he actually did get the ball in the net, but the whistle had already been blown for a handball. Eventually, it came down to the reliable Joe Garner, who fired a curling shot into the goal and completed his hattrick, giving PNE breathing space again. 3-1!
A few minutes later, Beckford was bringing the ball into the box again, but other players blocked my view of what happened next. One moment the crowd gave a moan – and then they were cheering. Beckford’s shot had been deflected, but Garner had been there to put it in. 4-1!
But Beckford deserved a goal, and he finally did get one. After Daniel Johnson ran the ball down the pitch from the PNE end, it found its way to Beckford, who lobbed it past the keeper. 5-1!
At this point, with not long to go, the game took a more relaxed pace with no more serious attempts on goal. The Preston players got a well deserved round of applause as they left the pitch. Not a bad game to see on your birthday!