Memory match: Simon Whaley was Preston North End’s matchwinner at Coventry in play-off push

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Preston North End’s victory over Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena in April 2006 was a significant one.

The 1-0 win in the East Midlands sunshine effectively booked PNE their place in the play-offs.

It moved them eight points clear of fellow challengers Wolves and Cardiff who both lost as North End were collecting the three points.

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Simon Whaley delivered victory for Billy Davies’ men with his first goal for the club.

Preston players celebrate Simon Whaley’s winning goal at Coventry in April 2006Preston players celebrate Simon Whaley’s winning goal at Coventry in April 2006
Preston players celebrate Simon Whaley’s winning goal at Coventry in April 2006

Signed from Bury midway through the season, Whaley found the net in his 11th appearance. However, this was only Whaley’s second start in PNE colours.

He was played up front at Coventry in the absence of David Nugent, Danny Dichio and Brett Ormerod.

Whaley had Marcus Stewart for company up front, with Patrick Agyemang playing on the left and Chris Sedgwick on the right. It worked well, with the Lilywhites ending Coventry’s 13-match unbeaten run and probably more comfortably than the scoreline suggested.

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PNE manager Davies was without nine players for the game due to injury and a virus which had done the rounds of the club.

Coventry had Dennis Wise in their midfield and the veteran was in the thick of the action.

He clashed with Stewart early on and then a few minutes after a set-to with Paul McKenna, the North End midfielder floored Wise with a challenge which earned him a yellow card.

The referee was Mike Pike and on April Fools’ Day, his two assistants were Eric Mackrell and Bob Pollock!

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Coventry, who boasted such a good home record, couldn’t get to grips with North End.

Davies – playing winger Whaley up front and striker Agyemang on the left wing – pulled off a masterstroke.

At the other end of the pitch he gave Tyrone Mears a man-marking job to do on Sky Blues dangerman Gary McSheffrey – scorer of 15 goals from wide areas.

In the first 25 minutes of the contest, McKenna put three chances wide, including a header from just six yards.

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Agyemang was off target too with a shot, before PNE broke the deadlock with half an hour played.

The build-up was led by Agyemang who took possession just inside the Coventry half and surged forward.

He slipped the ball through to Whaley and his marker Andrew Whing slipped as he went to tackle.

That gave Whaley the room to move inside and hit a low shot from 25 yards into the bottom corner.

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It sparked delight in the away end where a large PNE following was massed.

Davies’ men chose to sit on their lead rather than go all out to add to it.

They dropped deep, defended superbly and put into practice some dark arts of time-wasting and running the clock down.

This proved to be the second of five successive wins for North End as they homed in on the play-offs.

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Reflecting on his goal, Whaley admitted it took a moment for it to register.

Whaley said: “I hit it and then I glanced away. When I looked back the ball was in the net.

“A few of the lads said it bounced just in front of the keeper, but I don’t know.

“All that counted was that it went in. The goal was massive for me personally because it was my first for the club.

“For the team it was even better because of the table.”