Memory match: Norwich v PNE
It is not a surprise that Sean Gregan recalls Preston's visit to Norwich on March 17, 2001, with crystal-clear clarity.
The former PNE skipper managed 20 goals during his 746-game career and the one at Carrow Road was the most spectacular, to say the least.
Gregan lifted a shot over Canaries goalkeeper Andy Marshall from fully 45 yards, delivering a 2-1 victory for the Lilywhites.
It drew comparisions with the long-range strike which David Beckham had netted for Manchester United a few years earlier.
“That goal was the best of my career by a long way,” said Gregan, who writes a weekly column for the LEP.
“I intercepted a pass near the halfway line and Jon Macken started to make a run forward, expecting me to pick him out with a pass.
“But I saw the keeper was off his line so I swung my left foot at it and the ball ended up in the top bin.
“Macken had started to shout at me for not passing but he stopped when he saw the ball go in.
“I wasn’t known for my goalscoring as a player – there was a goal for Preston against Wolves which went in off my backside when I was stood next to the keeper at a corner.
“After the Norwich goal, my next best was against Shrewsbury at Gay Meadow.
“I lashed a shot from 25 yards into the corner and I remember being jumped on by all the lads.
“David Reeves celebrated by pushing pieces of turf into my mouth – I almost choked to death!”
North End had made the trip to East Anglia in good form, having lost only one of their previous eight games.
That had put them back on course to challenge for the play-offs after a wobble in form over the winter.
This was a game they came from behind to win, Norwich having taken the lead in the 32nd minute. Before their goal, Gregan had tried his luck with a shot from outside the box which only cleared the bar by a few inches.
The hosts went in front when Chris Llewellyn sent over a cross from the left wing which Iwan Roberts brought down smartly before firing past Tepi Moilanen.
It did not rattle Preston –far from it – with David Moyes’ men pulling level within two minutes.
The ball was worked across the pitch from right to left, Gregan and David Healy involved, with Healy’s pass finding Rob Edwards down the left-hand side.
Edwards delivered a fine cross on the run which Healy jumped to meet at the near post and headed into the net from eight yards.
It was Northern Ireland international Healy’s seventh goal in 13 games since a £1.8m move from Manchester United three months earlier.
Gregan’s moment of glory came three minutes into the second half. A pass just inside his own half from Darel Russell was intercepted by Gregan.
The powerful midfielder took a couple of strides before letting fly with a shot which sailed goalwards and over the back-pedalling Marshall,before nestling in the net.
The celebrations were not exactly wild, the goalscorer looking rather bemused by the whole thing.
It was Gregan’s first goal for 13 months, since a strike at Chesterfield.
The Lilywhites went on to control long spells of the second half, Norwich creating little to threaten the lead.
PNE manager Moyes was pleased to see his captain scoring. He said: “Sean’s goal was special and people will compare it to Beckham’s a little while ago.
“This was a good result and we must concentrate on getting more points to get in the play-offs.”