Memory match: PNE v Derby County

David Nugent celebrates his goal which opened the scoring against Derby in the first leg of the play-off semi-final
David Nugent celebrates his goal which opened the scoring against Derby in the first leg of the play-off semi-final
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Preston North End did one half of the job of reaching the 2005 Championship play-off final thanks to a touch of skill and a stroke of luck in their victory over Derby County.

They played host to the Rams in the semi-final first leg, with goals in either half from David Nugent and Richard Cresswell seeing them record a 2-0 win.

It was an advantage which North End held on to in the return leg at Pride Park four days later, a game which finished 0-0 and bookedthem a visit to the Millennium Stadium.

More than 20,000 were inside Deepdale to see PNE control large parts of the tie against George Burley’s men.

They carved out plenty of chances, in comparison to only three attempts on goal by the visitors all match.

North End were without Graham Alexander, the influential right-back having failed a fitness test on a pulled hamstring.

It meant a reshuffle at the back, Youl Mawene moving across to take Alexander’s place with Claude Davis coming in to partner Chris Lucketti in the middle.

There was a return on the left wing for Eddie Lewis, just three weeks after he had undergone surgery to remove his appendix.

Preston were dominant in the first half, Cresswell forcing an early save from Rams keeper Lee Camp.

A mazy run from Lewis took him past two tackles, his chipped cross into the box inches too high for Nugent to get on the end of.

Cresswell curled a shot round Camp but just wide of the target as PNE kept their foot on the gas. Then Camp had to react quickly to dive at the feet of Chris Sedgwick after the winger got free in the box.

They took a deserved lead seven minutes before the interval. Lucketti knocked a long ball down the inside-right channel which Cresswell rose to flick into the path of Sedgwick.

In turn, Sedgwick turned a pass into the path of Nugent who powered between two defenders, flicked the ball past a third, before lifting a shot with the outside of his boot over Camp into the net.

Derby were better after the interval, Mo Konjic meeting a Jeff Kenna free-kick and putting a header just wide.

North End were still trying to sniff out another goal though, with Nugent volleying over from close range.

Nugent also turned a shot across the face of the six-yard box which no one in a white shirt could apply a finishing touch to.

The all-important second goal, which gave PNE a bigger cushion for the second leg, came in the last minute.

If Nugent’s opener had been all about pace, skill and a deft finish, this one from Cresswell owed more to some good fortune.

Paul McKenna lifted a free-kick into the box, Konjic’s attempted clearance hitting Cresswell on the foot.

Camp came to claim it but somehow let the ball bobble between his arms and saw it roll over the line in front of the Alan Kelly Town End.

“The crowd must have sucked that one into the net,” said Cresswell as he reflected on his slice of luck.

There were nothing lucky about the win though, with the job finished later that week.