Memory match: Brighton v PNE
Eric Skora never quite lived up to his name during his four years with Preston.
The Frenchman found the net only twice in 58 games in a PNE shirt, headline writers denied a regular pun when crafting their pages.
As a forward-thinking midfielder, it was not the best of returns and was one of the reasons why Skora did not hold down a regular spot under David Moyes, Craig Brown or Billy Davies – the three managers he played under at Deepdale.
Mind you, he did suffer a serious knee ligament injury which kept him out of the game for a number of months.
The first of his two goals came in North End’s 2-0 win over Brighton in the FA Cup in January 2002.
He drove them ahead at the Withdean Stadium, with Jon Macken doubling the lead in the second half.
This midweek trip to the south coast was the second attempt to play the tie.
A frozen pitch had seen it postponed 10 days earlier.
The North End squad made the journey by plane, manager Moyes wanting to save them the long journey by road in a game sandwiched between two league matches.
Brighton were a division below North End but fancied their chances of pulling off a cup upset.
In Bobby Zamora, they had a striker who had scored in his six previous home games and had found the net 19 times already that season.
Watching him from the stand was Everton manager of the time, Walter Smith, and Crystal Palace boss Trevor Francis.
He failed to net a seventh home goal – he saw a penalty saved by David Lucas in the first half.
Skora had made his PNE debut in the previous game against Walsall, following a free transfer switch from French club Nancy.
He put North End in front after 16 minutes, controlling a chipped pass from David Healy, taking the ball down on his chest before volleying past Albion goalkeeper Will Packham.
It was Packham’s debut – he got his chance because of injuries to first-choice keeper Michel Kuipers and back-up Simon Royce.
The home side had the chance to pull level within three minutes of Skora’s goal.
Colin Murdock pushed Daniel Webb in the box, with referee Rob Harris pointing to the spot.
The prolific Zamora took the penalty but Lucas was equal to it, diving to push the effort past the post.
Skora went close again, a shot from 30 yards flashing just wide.
A good save from Packham then denied Macken, while a timely intervention from Murdock cut out Paul Brooker’s cross before it could find its way to Zamora.
Three minutes into the second half, a Macken shot tested Packham.
At the other end, Zamora volleyed well wide – in fact his shot almost hit a corner flag.
North End doubled their advantage in the 63rd minute.
Macken’s speculative shot from 25 yards should have been dealt with by Packham but the shot bounced off the young keeper’s arm and went into the net, to the delight of the hardy band of PNE fans who had made the trip.
Moyes’ men saw out the game in relative comfort, with victory setting up a home tie against Sheffield United in the fourth round.
That was a game they won 2-1, their cup run ending at the fifth-round stage when they lost 3-1 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Skora’s other goal for PNE came the following season against Macclesfield in the League Cup.
North End loaned him out to Kilmarnock for the second half of the 2003-04 season and he was to join them on a permanent basis in January 2006.