Dave Seddon’s FA Cup memories

Scott Laird shoots Preston in front against Manchester United at Deepdale in February last year
Scott Laird shoots Preston in front against Manchester United at Deepdale in February last year
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Preston North End hit the FA Cup trail when they venture to London Road on Saturday to take on Peterborough United.

wice winners, five times runners-up, the Lilywhites and the FA Cup go back along way.

From the joy of Wembley in 1938 when George Mutch’s penalty went in off the underside of the bar, to the despair of defeat to Whitley Bay at Hillheads Park in 1989, North End have gone through the full range of emotions in the world-famous competition.

My experiences of watching PNE in the FA Cup only date back to the late 1970s.

The furthest they have got in my lifetime is the fifth round, last year’s clash with Manchester United being one of those occasions.

In other seasons, I have seen them stumble at the first hurdle, any thought of cup glory disappearing for another year.

Picking through some of the memories – good and bad – I’ll start with last season’s exploits.

Havant and Waterlooville, Shrewsbury and Norwich had all been dispatched by the time North End and Sheffield United came out of the hat together.

Just nipping back to the tie at Havant, that was the only time I had flown to a football game and it certainly beat long journeys on board Mercers coaches, which many moons ago was my usual method of travelling to Preston games.

The first game with Sheffield United ended in a 1-1 draw at Deepdale, so it was off to Bramall Lane for a replay.

What made that somewhat tastier was that the winners of the Manchester United and Cambridge United replay awaited in the next round.

The thought of Cambridge under the Deepdale lights was the stuff the dreams are made of but we had to make do with Manchester United instead!

North End arguably turned their season around that February night in South Yorkshire as they put the Blades to the sword, winning 3-1. Just four days earlier, Simon Grayson’s men had been dreadful at Crawley.

Based on that performance, few gave them a cat in hell’s chance of beating Sheffield United who had an excellent cup pedigree.

After dominating for the opening half-hour, yet still finding themselves 1-0 
down at the interval, their chance of victory looked slim indeed.

Step forward the two Pauls, Gallagher and Huntington, to twist the game in Preston’s favour.

Gallagher fired an equaliser with a free-kick from just outside the box, Huntington then powering home a header to give them 
the lead.

It was Gallagher who finished the job off, the reward a home tie with the Red Devils, who had dispatched of Cambridge at the second time of asking.

We got the usual ticket frenzy with queues, sob stories, South Africans selling kidneys and even a bloke sleeping on a an abandoned mattress outside the ticket office – rumour has it, the lad in question was guaranteed a ticket anyway after attending an earlier game.

On the night, North End matched their Premier League opponents in the first half and then sent three sides of Deepdale into orbit less then two minutes after the break, as Scott Laird’s shot was deflected past David de Gea.

For 18 minutes they led, before United clawed their way back and went on to win 3-1, a consolation for Laird being the 50p his grandma paid him for scoring.

That was last season, so about a few other decent memories?

Arsenal’s visit in January 1999 was a similar hard luck story, on the back of Preston having been in the lead.

They were 2-0 up in that one, a game also played on a Monday night in front of a full house.

Scorer of both goals was Kurt Nogan, Deepdale Duck buried under an avalanche of PNE players when they celebrated the second goal in front of the Bill Shankly Kop.

The Gunners chipped away at their lead with a deflected goal just before the interval and went on to win 4-2, North End playing much of the second half with 10 men after David Eyres was red carded for a foul on Marc Overmars with the score at 2-1.

“They played a game of poker,” remarked Arsene Wenger later.

“Preston gave everything in the first 20 minutes and if they had scored a third, they might have hung on.”

Just over four years earlier, Deepdale had hosted another Monday night game in the FA Cup in front of the cameras.

Blackpool were the visitors, Tony Ellis back in town wearing Tangerine and given the bird by the North End fans from first whistle to last.

It was Ellis’s former strike partner, Mike Conroy, who wrote his name in PNE folklore that night.

Conroy ran clear to head a wind-assisted through ball over the stranded Blackpool keeper, which proved enough to give Preston a 1-0 win.

Sky co-commentator Andy Gray was particularly taken with the performance of Steve Holmes in the centre of North End’s defence.

“There is a future £1m player there,” Gray told the television audience.

Less than a year later, PNE flogged Holmes for £30,000 to Lincoln City where John Beck had taken up residence.

The run which carried North End to the fourth round in the 1986/87 season was a memorable one.

A hat-trick from John Thomas helped see off Bury 5-1 in the first round.

They were then paired with Chorley, who beat Wolves after two replays.

The tie was moved from the Magpies’ Victory Park to Ewood Park, with a crowd of more than 15,000 justifying that decision.

Outside the ground, before and after the game, it was ‘lively’ to say the least, as folk from Chorley, Preston and Blackburn mixed.

Gary Swann had a goal disallowed, Chorley went close, but the game ended in a goalless draw.

The replay on Deepdale’s plastic carpet saw North End ease to a 5-0 victory, that man Thomas hitting another treble.

Middlesbrough away was the reward, with around 2,000 PNE fans braving the chill of Ayresome Park and some rather excitable locals.

Step forward Ronnie Hildersley to adopt hero status, hitting the winner from 25 yards on a frosty pitch.

The travelling numbers reached 5,500 for the next round at Newcastle, a 2-0 win for the Magpies bringing PNE’s run to an end.

Who remembers a team called Shepshed Charterhouse? They were non-league opponents for Gordon Lee’s Preston in 1982.

Curiosity raised the attendance above 6,000, almost double what it had been for the previous game.

Those inside Deepdale saw a 5-1 victory for North End.

In the next round, the crowd was up to 14,148 for the visit of Blackpool, goals from Gordon Coleman and Don O’Riordan delivering a 2-1 PNE win.

Looking further back, Ipswich came to Deepdale in January 1980 under the management of Bobby Robson and impressively won a third round tie 3-0. The following season, they won the UEFA Cup.

In January 1979, Preston were restricted to just one game that month by the cold weather. A crowd of 19,901 at Deepdale saw Preston beat First Division Derby County 3-0, with Alex Bruce (2) and Francis Burns scoring.

Those were some of the good memories, just a few personal highlights.

Others will remember more recent clashes with Liverpool, Chelsea (twice), Manchester City and Portsmouth in the year Pompey won the competition.

North End really gave Chelsea a run for their money in the fifth round at Stamford Bridge in 2002, taking an early lead through Richard Cresswell, before slipping to a 3-1 defeat.

So what about the FA Cup games which stick out for the wrong reasons?

I mentioned Whitley Bay earlier and that December afternoon on the North East coast was one to forget.

PNE were beaten 2-0 by the non-league outfit and to make things worse, the BBC cameras were there to capture the whole thing for Match of the Day later that night.

John Motson was there in his best sheepskin coat to commentate, having to walk across the muddy pitch to reach his vantage point.

Mike Flynn, a new signing from Norwich, missed a sitter near the end which had it gone in, might have sparked a late Preston rally.

The journey home for more than 1,000 PNE supporters was quiet one.

Match of the Day showed another FA Cup defeat for North End in 1994, Kidderminster beating them 1-0 at Aggborough.

A decade before, the dreadful 1984/85 season which ended in relegation from the old Third Division, had seen a 4-1 home defeat to Telford in the second round.

Who scored PNE’s goal? Chris Hunter did, on as a substitute for Graham Houston.

Hunter only played two more games before leaving.

You might argue that North End surpassed that humiliation the following season.

Their opponents Walsall were in the division above, but to conjure up a 7-3 defeat in the first round was some going.

Thomas, Gary Brazil and Mick Martin scored that sorry afternoon at Fellows Park.

A year later, Thomas and Brazil were leading rejuvenated Preston’s promotion charge under John McGrath.