Memory match: PNE v Reading

Michael Jackson (second left) is congratulated by Sean Gregan, Steve Basham and Jon Macken after scoring for PNE against Reading in 2000
Michael Jackson (second left) is congratulated by Sean Gregan, Steve Basham and Jon Macken after scoring for PNE against Reading in 2000
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Preston’s 2000 clash with Reading at Deepdale was probably best remembered for what happened before the game than during it.

The 2-2 draw sent North End to the top of the Second Division but things became heated before a ball was even kicked in anger.

Reading came out for the pre-match warm-up and did their loosener in the Town End half of the pitch.

That was traditionally PNE’s territory and when the visitors refused to go to the Bill Shankly Kop end, there was the bizarre sight of both teams warming up in the same half of the pitch.

Stewards tried to take the footballs away from Reading in a bid to move them, while the ground safety officer even appealed to the better nature of Royals coach Martin Allen.

That fell on deaf ears and the pantomine left a cloud hanging over the afternoon.

Eventually, a word from the police persuaded them to beat a retreat.

There was already a little bad blood doing the rounds courtesy of Nicky Forster and Martin Butler being in the Reading strikeforce.

Both had been targets for Preston earlier that season as they looked to bolster their attack, only to choose a move to Berkshire.

In Forster’s case, that had been very much at the 11th hour after agreeing terms with North End.

Forster and Butler were inevitably both on target in this game, with Jon Macken and Michael Jackson finding the net for the hosts. With Reading arriving at 
Deepdale fifth-bottom of the table, it could be argued that their pre-match antics worked.

They clearly rattled PNE and no doubt it was designed to do that.

David Moyes’ outfit went into the clash fresh from a 4-0 win at Oxford United, with their confidence high.

But they found themselves behind in the 40th minute when Forster turned Colin Murdock, dashed into the box and drove a powerful shot past keeper Tepi Moilanen.

The visitors had chances just before half-time to add to their lead, Darren Caskey wasting the first and Forster firing across goal with Butler inches away from getting a touch.

North End clearly got a flea in their ear from Moyes at half-time and started the second half the better for it.

Skipper Sean Gregan was pushed up into an attacking midfield role behind front two Macken and Kurt Nogan.

Soon after the re-start, David Eyres’ back-post header 
was saved on the line by Scott Howie. In the 53rd minute, PNE found an equaliser.

Graham Alexander chipped the ball into the box, Gregan headed it down and Macken stretched out a foot to clip a shot past Howie for his 21st goal of the season.

Three minutes later, they had turned the game on its head by taking the lead.

Eyres delivered a free-kick from the left, Macken could not get a touch on it but in slid centre-half Jackson to scoop a shot into the roof of the net.

North End’s joy was rather short-lived though, with the Royals making it 2-2 almost straight away.

A corner was not cleared properly, Forster put the ball back into the box and Butler was in space to steer a header beyond Moilanen.

Gregan almost restored the lead in the 69th minute, weaving through a couple of challenges into the box.

But with just the keeper to beat, his stabbed shot was smothered by Howie.

Later, Gregan tried his luck from 25 yards, the shot whistling inches wide of the target.