PNE managed to burst Hammers’ bubble

Ricardo Fuller heads home at Upton Park in January 2004
Ricardo Fuller heads home at Upton Park in January 2004
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Unless contact with the outside world has been ceased in recent weeks, you will be aware that West Ham are leaving Upton Park and moving in as tenants at the Olympic Stadium.

It is more than a decade since Preston visited that corner of East London and a good trip it was too as they beat the Hammers 2-1 in March 2005.

The season before, PNE had won there by the same scoreline, as it briefly became a happy hunting ground.

Prior to that, visits to Upton Park had produced nothing but heartache for the Lilywhites.

Between 1950 and 1986, they lost eight and drew one of their nine matches there.

There were some heavy losses among that lot, including a 5-0 defeat in January 1981 and a 4-1 reverse in the League Cup early in the 1986/87 promotion campaign.

That was the second leg of a second-round tie, the sides having drawn 1-1 at Deepdale a fortnight earlier – PNE’s goal that night came from Sam Allardyce, who would go on to manage West Ham.

Until January 2004, you had to go back to October 1949 to trace a North End victory on Hammers soil.

That was a 3-0 win with Sir Tom Finney in the side, Andy Beattie and Angus Morrison on target, together with an own goal.

Morrison’s goal was one of seven he scored in six successive games – after that run, he did not find the net again all season.

North End broke their Upton Park hoodoo on January 10, 2004 when Craig Brown was in charge.

They travelled to the capital unbeaten in seven games, Brown adventurous in his approach by starting with Ricardo Fuller, David Healy and Richard Cresswell.

The early pressure was all from the visitors before they were undone on the break by West Ham, David Connolly turning home a cross from Matthew Etherington.

George Koumantarakis was introduced as a fourth striker before the hour mark, replacing Michael Keane.

North End equalised in the 64th minute, benefiting when Marlon Harewood failed to retreat 10 yards at a free-kick.

Back in those days, referees could move the free-kick forward as punishment and Mark Warren did just that.

Graham Alexander lifted the free-kick into the box, Chris Lucketti headed it back across goal and Fuller nodded home from close range.

Three minutes later, North End went ahead, Alexander’s corner finding Healy, who poked home a shot through a crowd of players.

Twice in the closing stages, Cresswell struck the woodwork for PNE.

Fourteen months later, Preston returned to Upton Park with Billy Davies now at the helm – Brown having departed earlier in the season.

North End’s 1,208 travelling supporters were on their feet in the 17th minute as David Nugent gave them the lead.

Nugent charged down an attempted clearance by keeper Stephen Bywater and steered the ball into an empty net from 10 yards.

The Hammers went down to 10 men just before half-time, Tomas Repka red carded for pushing Brian O’Neil to the ground.

In the aftermath, Chris Sedgwick and Harewood were both booked.

Early in the second half, Paul McKenna had the ball in the net, only for the linesman to flag him offside, while Youl Mawene sent a header from Eddie Lewis’ corner too high.

Nugent saw a shot saved by Bywater, then missed a sitter when through on goal, shooting wide.

Patrick Agyemang replaced Nugent in the 80th minute and the substitute scored with his first contribution within 60 seconds.

Agyemang was sent through on goal, running clear and keeping a calm head before sliding a shot past Bywater.

Bobby Zamora reduced the arrears in the 88th minute, volleying home a cross from Harewood at the back post.

A tense finish to the game saw PNE boss Davies ordered from the dugout.

After the final whistle, there was a reported bust-up in the tunnel involving several players and staff from both sides.

Victory completed a league double for PNE over the Hammers – they had won 2-1 at Deepdale thanks to goals from O’Neil and Lewis.

Unfortunately, a third game that season – the play-off final at the Millennium Stadium – saw West Ham win 1-0 to gain promotion to the Premier League.

The Hammers now have the keys to the Olympic Stadium and have sold 52,000 season tickets for the 2016/17 campaign.

The stadium’s capacity is 60,000, compared to 35,000 at Upton Park – their home for 112 years.

It will have the third-highest capacity in the Premier League.

The Hammers have contributed £15m towards the conversion from an athletics stadium and will pay £2.5m a season in rent.