Memory Match: Preston North End 4 Wigan 4, September 1996

PNE midfielder Neil McDonald (No.13) turns to celebrate after making it 4-4 against Wigan in September 1996 and Andy Saville sets off to congratulate him
PNE midfielder Neil McDonald (No.13) turns to celebrate after making it 4-4 against Wigan in September 1996 and Andy Saville sets off to congratulate him

Neil McDonald’s long-range special saw Preston finally see off Wigan in the League Cup in September 1996.

McDonald’s goal came deep into stoppage time at the end of extra time of this first-round tie at Deepdale.

It made it 4-4 on the night and 7-6 on aggregate, North End having won the first leg 3-2 at Springfield Park two weeks earlier.

A division above Wigan at the time, having won the Third Division title a few months earlier, PNE were pushed all the way.

McDonald, introduced as a substitute, struck from 25 yards just as it looked like the hosts would bow out on the away goal rule.

Two North End old boys had put their League Cup place in peril, with Graham Lancashire netting a hat-trick and Colin Greenall scoring.

It was a Steve Wilkinson hat-trick in the first leg which had brought PNE victory.

That should have meant the return leg being a lot more comfortable than it was.

But Wigan pulled level on aggregate just 98 seconds into this game.

Greenall’s long ball sailed over the top of the North End defence to let Lancashire in on goal.

The striker who’d had a short and not too successful stay at PNE, ran through and fired past David Lucas who was making only his second senior appearance.

PNE levelled things up on the night and pulled ahead on aggregate again in the 18th minute.

Ian Bryson’s cross from the left was headed out by Graeme Jones only as far as Simon Davey, who rifled home from penalty-spot range.

Wilkinson then put PNE 2-1 up in the game and 5-3 on aggregate with 35 minutes played.

Kevin Kilbane beat two Wigan players down the left and delivered a cross which Wilkinson expertly volleyed past keeper Lee Butler.

The visitors made it 2-2 in the 63rd minute – a header from Greenall was cleared off the line by PNE right-back John Kay but in the scramble which ensued, Greenall had a second bite at the cherry and scored.

Preston went back in front in the 74th minute and surely this was the tie in the bag.

A lovely flowing 10-pass move saw Andy Saville lay the ball into the path of Graeme Atkinson who hammered a shot from 25 yards into the top corner.

But two goals from Wigan in the final six minutes of the regulation 90 were to take the game into extra time.

In the 84th minute, a cross into the box was headed back across goal by Wayne Biggins for Lancashire to nod home.

Then with 90 minutes up, Lancashire’s glancing header beat Lucas to make it 4-3 to Wigan on the night and all square on aggregate.

Much of extra time saw Preston doing the attacking with Wigan sitting deep to protect their advantage of the away goal.

The hosts struggled to find a way through. However that changed in dramatic fashion with more than three minutes of stoppage time played.

Much of that additional time was due to the Latics’ time-wasting tactics.

Wilkinson got the ball with his back to goal outside the box and laid it off into the path of McDonald who had joined the action as part of a triple substitution in the 67th minute.

McDonald let fly with a left-foot shot which flew into the top corner past Butler who was rooted to the spot.

There was hardly time for the game to restart, North End through to the next round after making it so hard work for themselves.