Memory match: Preston North End ended Fulham’s unbeaten start at Craven Cottage
Preston North End caused a real stir when they beat Fulham 1-0 at Craven Cottage in October 2000.
The Cottagers had won their first 10 league games of the 2000/01 season, a run ended by a 0-0 draw with Wolves four days before PNE came to London.
But a mighty fall came at the hands of North End who inflicted a first defeat on Jean Tigana’s men.
The midweek contest’s only goal came directly from a corner.
Michael Appleton was the man to deliver it, his flag kick staying low and deceiving goalkeeper Maik Taylor at the near post.
Fingers were pointed in Taylor’s direction at it being an own goal but Appleton was having none of it.
Appleton said: “It was my goal, I’m claiming it.
“I curled it straight in from the corner, the keeper tried to get it but by the lads near to it said it had already crossed the line. I’m having it!”
Fulham were under the management of former France international Tigana and had assembled a strong squad ready for a promotion push.
Their flying start to the season was impressive to say the least but North End were not daunted.
David Moyes’ men were new to the section following their Second Division title win earlier in the year.
Moyes was able to recall Jonathan Macken to the PNE attack after the striker had missed seven games with a hamstring injury. Macken was paired up front with Erik Meijer who was on loan from Liverpool.
The front pair presented the Fulham defence with a real physical battle throughout the evening.
North End should have taken the lead with just 44 seconds played.
Meijer flicked on a long ball to release Mark Rankine clear on goal.
Rankine lifted a shot over Taylor but the ball dropped agonisingly wide of the post.
Fabrice Fernandes had a couple of chances for the home side, while Barry Hayles went close with a shot across the face of goal.
Louis Saha hit an effort straight at PNE goalkeeper David Lucas as Fulham looked for a way through.
The Lilywhites’ winner came in the 68th minute.
Rankine worked himself into a shooting position in the box but Sean Davies got a touch on his shot to take it behind for a corner on the left.
Appleton was on corner kick duty, delivering it right-footed into the box. It went through a crowd of legs at the near post and ended up creeping over the line despite Taylor’s efforts to scoop it out.
Not the prettiest of goals but what a significant one.
Preston set about holding on to the lead and ended up doing so without too many scares.
Sean Gregan, operating alongside Colin Murdock at the heart of the defence, was a colossus.
In midfield, Rankine and Paul McKenna never stopped working, supported by Lee Cartwright and Appleton from the flanks.
Steve Robinson came on to replace Macken for the last 18 minutes, adding another body to midfield .
North End’s win toppled Fulham from the summit, with Watford going top.
Moyes left his assistant Kelham O’Hanlon to conduct media duties afterwards.
“It was an absolutely massive win for us,” said O’Hanlon.
“The lads worked so hard and we deserved to win the game.”