Preston played their last league fixture before the Christmas break last Sunday against Bowdon HC, a game which proved to have a great deal more riding on it than the league table may suggest.
Bowdon Hockey Club, situated in a prosperous hub on the Cheshire border, have a strong history of Premier League hockey backed handsomely by wealthy club members and external influences.
For Preston, who have remained proud to field a first team from talent from within, this game held greater things at stake.
Despite driving winds and signs of heavy rain, the spectators turned up in their droves to watch a highly entertaining game.
Preston were dominant from the outset and looked to take the game to Bowdon. Within the opening 12 minutes Preston were twice denied goals by a deflection off the goalpost.
Firstly, an opportunity from a superb through ball from Sam Sinclair allowed Dave Greenough to pick the ball up at the top of the D and he slapped it past the Bowdon keeper only for it to hammer back off the upright.
Three minutes later and Preston were in again. This time James Sutcliffe played a defence splitting 60 yard pass which found Ross Lockwood with his back to the keeper. He turned sharply onto his reverse-stick and unleashed a shot which this time came off the inside post.
The home side continued to pile on the pressure, yet, the overload going forward was to be their downfall as Bowdon punished Preston on the counter-attack through a well taken goal on the half-turn from Ian Wilson on 21 minutes.
At the break, head coach Nicholson urged his side to remain calm and continue to play with high tempo, but not to force opportunities.
His words were delivered to perfection. A series of clever and high pressured attacks streamed Bowdon’s way, until on 40 minutes Dave Greenough was hacked by the Bowdon keeper with only a defender to knock the ball past.
The result was a Preston penalty stroke and a 5 minute side-line for the keeper William Green. Greenough levelled things up from the spot.
Bowdon held out with 10 players for the suspension period, however Preston were causing all sorts of issues and openings in and around the Bowdon D.
It took until the 62nd minute to go ahead. David Sullivan found a foot just outside the D on the left.
Quick thinking from the hit put Julian Lopez through to slide the ball to Greenough who deflected home from close range and go 2-1 to the good.
The last eight minutes were nerve-racking. Bowdon took their keeper off and played with 11 outfield players, yet despite the outfield advantage against them, Preston were resolute and unbreakable.
Preston first team manager Simon Eccleston said: “This is a landmark result, not just for the team but for the club as a whole.
“The club has come a long way over the last 10 years, and to beat an afluent club such as Bowdon just shows where our priorities lie in nurturing talent from within.
“We can look forward to a well-earned break”.