Preston North End’s 3-1 victory over Ipswich Town at Deepdale on a wet Tuesday night in March 2006 saw the Lilywhites move into the Championship play-off positions.
The fine win was met with much glee by the North End faithful at the time with dreams of promotion to the Premier League firmly fixed in their minds.
Although the result went a long way to ultimately securing a play-off berth for Billy Davies’ men – they were to eventually finish fourth – on reflection there is an argument to suggest that North End’s Premier League dream suffered a terminal blow that night.
While the victory was thoroughly welcomed, it came at a price.
Ace striker David Nugent suffered a fractured metatarsal during the game and was subsequently ruled out for the season.
He managed to recover quickly and was brought back into the squad for the penultimate game of the season – coming on as a late substitute against Leeds United as PNE won 2-0 at home.
Ironically, it was Leeds who North End faced in the play-off semi-finals the following week.
Keen to have his top striker in the team, Davies gambled on Nugent’s fitness for the first leg and it appeared to be the right call as he scored in a 1-1 draw at Elland Road.
But it was clear Nugent was struggling for match fitness and Leeds shocked North End in the return leg – winning 2-0 at Deepdale.
Against Ipswich, Nugent had shown his importance to the team by hauling North End back into the game after a nervy opening period which had seen the visitors reduced to 10 men, but take the lead through Jason de Vos in the 38th minute.
Town defender Richard Naylor was red-carded for pulling down Brett Ormerod, who was through on goal, in the 11th minute.
From the resulting free-kick, Paul McKenna frustratingly smacked a shot against the woodwork and as the half wore on, it appeared it was going to be one of those nights for the home side.
However, Nugent – who at the time was an England Under-21s international and went on to score in his only appearance for England against Andorraa year later – turned the match on its head with two goals in nine minutes.
First he confidently side-footed home from 15 yards in the 53rd minute to bring the scores leveland then flicked McKenna’s cross past the keeper Shane Supple just after the hour mark.
The net looked set to bulge for Nugent’s hat-trick goal six minutes later when he raced in at the back post to convert Chris Sedgewick’s cross.
However, he stumbled as he was about to turn the ball home, getting his studs caught in the slippery surface.
He immediately went down clutching his foot in pain and X-rays taken the day after revealed he had broken it.
Patrick Agyemang – who had earlier come on for Nugent – sealed North End’s win on the night with the third goal in the 71st minute.