Memory match: Colchester v PNE

Tom Clarke celebrates after scoring the first goal for Preston at Colchester United in February 2014

Tom Clarke celebrates after scoring the first goal for Preston at Colchester United in February 2014

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Preston North End’s victory over Colchester in February of last year ended a long wait for success in that neck of the woods.

The 2-1 win, courtesy of Tom Clarke’s header and an own goal from home defender Brian Wilson, was their first on U’s territory since December 1986.

Victory 27 years earlier had come at Layer Road, this more recent one delivered at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

For the visit to Essex, Simon Grayson freshened the PNE side up with the inclusion of Craig Davies, Paul Gallagher and Chris Humphrey.

It was Humphrey who almost made an instant impact, his cross from the right wing nicked off Gallagher’s boot by a challenge from Tom Eastman.

Joe Garner was denied by the woodwork in the seventh minute, his header from Davies’ centre coming back off the bar.

Garner and Davies had further chances before North End took the lead in the 28th minute.

They won a corner on the left after U’s centre-half Magnus Okuonghae had headed behind with no pressure on him.

Gallagher delivered it into the near post where skipper Clarke rushed in to steer a header into the roof of the net.

Just three minutes later, Colchester were presented with a way back into the game.

During a scramble in the box, Declan Rudd whipped Marcus Bean’s legs from under him as he attempted to block at the midfielder’s feet.

Rudd made amends, the keeper diving to his left to save Jabo Ibehre’s penalty.

Garner should have doubled the lead when he scooped a Humphrey centre over the bar.

Bailey Wright put a header too high early in the second half, before North End were pegged back by a Colchester equaliser in the 55th minute.

Ibehre powered his way into the box and saw a shot blocked by Neil Kilkenny.

The ball rebounded to him and the striker drove a second effort across Rudd into the far corner of the net.

Stung by the leveller, PNE went on the front foot to step up the pressure.

Keith Keane fired over the bar, Davies went close and Garner saw a downward header saved by keeper Sam Walker at the foot of the post.

Josh Brownhill and Kevin Davies joined the action in place of Bolton loanee Davies and Kilkenny.

Brownhill was quickly in the action, forcing a diving save out of Walker with a curling shot.

North End’s pressure paid dividends when they netted their winner nine minutes from time.

A pass from Keane found its way to Humphrey on the right, the wing back taking the ball past Ryan Dickson.

He powered a low cross into the six-yard box which hit the shin of Wilson and flew into the roof of his own net.

Keane could have made it an even more comfortable finish to the game when he got clear on goal from Brownhill’s fine through ball.

But he took his time to get a shot away and Dickinson got back to tackle.

Brownhill’s stoppage-time shot was saved by Walker, PNE seeing out the remaining moments to claim victory.