Gareth Ainsworth gave blood in Preston’s cause on many occasions during his three spells at Deepdale, one of those times being in the Lilywhites’ 4-0 victory over Coventry City in April 2002.
The whole-hearted winger was back at North End on loan from Wimbledon at the time, caretaker manager Kelham O’Hanlon having brought him in to give their flagging play-off hopes a boost.
This was Ainsworth’s 300th game in senior football and he got a goal – and three stitches – to mark it.
He was on target with PNE’s third goal in a game which was very much a stroll in the spring sunshine.
Fellow loanee Cylde Winjhard had fired the home side into an early lead, one which Dickson Etuhu added to during the first half.
Ainsworth, nicknamed ‘Wild Thing’, struck in the 87th minute, with Richard Cresswell netting just after to finish off the Sky Blues.
This was O’Hanlon’s sixth game in temporary charge after the departure of David Moyes to Everton.
A crowd of more than 15,500 were there as North End looked to bounce back from an Easter Monday defeat at Barnsley.
Dutch striker Wijnhard, on loan from Huddersfield, set the ball rolling in the fifth minute.
Rob Edwards curled over a beauty of a corner from the right which Winjhard met at the near post to head into the roof of the net, despite City keeper Magnus Hedman getting a glove to it.
A carbon-copy of that opener saw Preston double their advantage with 27 minutes played.
Edwards again delivered a corner from the right and this time, midfielder Etuhu nodded home.
Ainsworth was left bleeding after putting his head among the boots, the cut later requiring three stitches.
He got patched up to carry on, playing much of the second period with a bandaged head and blood down the front of his Lilywhite shirt.
Graham Alexander saw a free-kick blocked by Hedman’s out-stretched boot, the keeper then pulling off a good save to block an Etuhu header.
A cut head was not going to deny Ainsworth getting on the scoresheet, with the clock showing 87 minutes when he found the net.
Cresswell’s pass played in Michael Keane down the right wing, the Irishman putting over a curling cross moments before Colin Healy’s crunching tackle laid him out. The cross was met close in by Ainsworth, who knocked the ball past Hedman.
A little more than sixty seconds later, North End netted a fourth goal.
Wijnhard turned supplier, his centre from the right finding Cresswell, who planted a header across the keeper into the far corner.
Ainsworth got a standing ovation when he was substituted, disappearing down the tunnel to face the doctor’s needle and thread.
He said: “I put my head in again – it was a boot and the lad caught me with a stud. It’s happened before!”
North End were ultimately to miss out on the play-offs, finishing eighth.