Memory match: Preston North End ended home drought against Wycombe Wanderers in front of new boss

North End couldn’t have timed their return to winning ways at Deepdale any better in January 2012 when Wycombe Wanderers were their visitors.

By Dave Seddon
Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 3:00 pm

Their 3-2 victory over Wycombe came after Graham Westley had been appointed Preston boss that morning and was watching from the stand, with Graham Alexander and David Unsworth in joint caretaker charge for the last time.

Under the hawk eye of new boss Westley watching from the directors’ box, the Lilywhites won on home turf for the first time in more than three months.

Not that PNE were too convincing, with their first-half performance suggesting the home faithful were going to be in for another disappointing afternoon.

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Harry Bunn finds the net to make it 1-1

The second half was much better, even when they were handicapped by having to play the last half-hour with 10 men after Steven Smith’s red card.

PNE were dreadful for much of the first half, to the extent that they could quite easily have trailed by more than Marcello Trotta’s early opener.

They had teenager Harry Bunn to thank for bringing them back into the contest in the run-up to the interval, with a debut goal.

After half-time, the real Preston North End stood up for a spell, their other hired help Jake Jervis giving them the lead.

It was one which Paul Parry quickly stretched from the penalty spot.

But they only got the luxury of defending that 3-1 lead with a full compliment of players for roughly 60 seconds before Smith saw red.

Two fouls on nippy winger Kadeem Harris had Smith heading for an early bath, leaving North End to cope with a numerical disadvantage.

It was one which thankfully Wanderers could only exploit in the 89th minute through Trotta, although referee Phil Gibbs did his best to shred everyone’s nerves by adding on a whopping six minutes of stoppage time.

Victory meant Graham Alexander and David Unsworth ended their caretaker tenure on a high note.

They were to be applauded for holding the fort in the manner in which they did, the five games they oversaw bringing a return of eight points.

In the end it wasn’t enough to earn them the job full-time – Westley was apparently the club’s No.1 choice from the outset. But as caretaker 
spells go, two wins, two draws and a defeat was a record which shouldn’t be 
sniffed at.

Unsworth felt that the uncertainty of the last few weeks might have been a contributing factor to a lacklustre first half.

He said: “I think the lads were feeling a bit sorry for themselves, the whole occasion with the new manager coming in might have been on their minds.

“Graham met them 
before the game and maybe that slightly took their focus off.

“At half-time we let them know what we thought of the performance and they went back out and showed the true Preston.

“The players on the pitch in the second half were the ones we see day in, day out on the training ground.

“Had we kept 11 players on the pitch, I think it could have been four or five to be honest,” he added.

“We were really in the ascendency and creating chances.”