Memory match: Fulham v PNE

Michael Appleton celebrates scoring directly from a corner to give Preston victory at Fulham in October 2000
Michael Appleton celebrates scoring directly from a corner to give Preston victory at Fulham in October 2000
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Preston halted the Fulham juggernaut when they made the trip to Craven Cottage in October 2000.

The Cottagers had started the 2000/01 campaign with 11 league wins and a draw.

Jean Tigana’s side looked unbeatable – that was until North End paid them a visit.

They had a bit of fortune with the winner, a corner from Michael Appleton going straight in at the near post.

But there was nothing lucky about the victory, PNE putting in a strong display.

Rather than sit back in a bid to soak up pressure, they put Fulham on the back foot for spells and had a real go.

This was an eighth win in 13 games since returning to the First Division and made the rest of the league sit up.

Fulham had started the season as favourites having assembled a strong squad that summer.

Louis Saha, Barry Hayles, Lee Clark, Chris Coleman, Fabrice Fernandes and John Collins were just some of the faces in the hosts’ squad.

They were certainly living up to the favourites tag, with 11 straight wins followed by a goalless draw with Wolves three days before PNE arrived in London.

North End, with striker Jon Macken back in the team after a seven-game absence with a hamstring strain, got off to a bright start and could have taken the lead with 44 seconds on the clock.

A flick from on-loan front man Eric Meijer put Mark Rankine clear on goal.

The midfielder lifted a shot over goalkeeper Maik Taylor but wide of the target. At the other end there were chances for Fulham, with Fernandes shooting wide and Saha forcing a save from David Lucas.

In general, Lucas was very well protected by the defence, marshalled superbly by Sean Gregan. As times, the defending fell into the no-thrills category but was effective all the same.

North End began to pose a threat themselves and scored the winner in the 68th minute.

Like they had done in the opening seconds, Meijer and Rankine linked up.

Meijer’s pass put Rankine clear, only for Sean Davis to get across and put the ball out for a corner.

Appleton trotted over to take it in front of the famous Cottage.

The midfielder delivered it right-footed from the left, the ball flying over the head of Colin Murdock at the near post and dropping in.

It was a case of North End battening down the hatches in the closing minutes to protect the lead. Rob Edwards was booked for retaliating to an arm in the face from Louis Boa Morte – becoming the fifth PNE player to be shown yellow by ref Paul Danson.

They held out, much to the delight of a strong away following which had made the Tuesday night trip.

Left-back Edwards said: “Fulham was a great night and we went into the game not really knowing what to expect.

“We had read all the hype about them but the gaffer told us to have great self-belief because he thinks we can win every game.

“He said that if we played well we would be able to match them and we ended up doing more than that.

“Beforehand, most teams in the division would have seen a draw as a fair result, but to actually win the game was brilliant.

“It was all a bit anxious at the end though, and I asked the referee how long there was to go when we scored.

“He said 22 minutes,which seemed ages off. There was also a big clock behind one goal and I must have looked at it 20 times before the whistle.”