PNE Easter retro: Preston's victory at Doncaster reignites their play-off push in April 2009

A striker swap paid dividends for Preston North End when they made the trip to the Keepmoat Stadium to face Doncaster Rovers in April 2009.

By Dave Seddon
Saturday, 11th April 2020, 11:45 am
Preston North End striker Neil Mellor celebrates scoring against Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium in April 2009
Preston North End striker Neil Mellor celebrates scoring against Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium in April 2009

This 2-0 victory on Easter Monday gave PNE’s fading play-off hopes a shot in the arm and came courtesy of goals from Chris Brown and Neil Mellor.

Both strikers had been restored to the attack by Lilywhites manager Alan Irvine, taking the places of Jon Parkin and Stephen Elliott.

The latter pair had started the 1-0 Deepdale defeat to Blackpool 48 hours earlier, a loss which many thought had ended any chance of making the top six.

PNE striker Chris Brown is congratulated by Lee Williamson after giving his side the elad against Doncaster

Losing to the Seasiders was part of a real dip in form which had seen North End win only once in seven games.

However, victory over Donny in South Yorkshire sparked fresh belief.

More than 1,500 Preston fans in the away end sang their hearts out throughout the game and were rewarded with a first away victory since January.

Brown and Mellor being restored to the starting XI were the only changes made by Irvine as he went in search of an Easter boost.

PNE players celebrate Neil Mellor's goal at Doncaster

Fortune favoured PNE as they survived a scare at one end and then went straight down the other to take the lead in the 26th minute.

Doncaster striker James Hayter had managed to kick the far post rather than the ball as he tried to make contact with a flick across goal from Martin Woods.

It was a let-off which the visitors took firmly in their stride as they pushed up the pitch soon after and scored.

Eddie Nolan took the ball down the left side of the pitch and put over a fine cross on the run which Brown jumped to meet and head past Rovers goalkeeper Neil Sullivan.

Preston goalkeeper Andrew Lonergan catches a cross in front of the PNE fans at Doncaster in April 2009

Not since January had Brown found the net and it was a welcome return to the scoresheet.

Mellor had the ball in the net in the 55th minute but was adjudged to have pushed defender Jos Van Nieuwstadt in the build-up.

He wasn’t to be denied with 19 minutes to go though, scoring PNE’s second goal.

Moments after coming on as a substitute, Parkin got the ball on the edge of the box and tried a shot.

PNE defender Youl Mawene challenges in the air against Doncaster

He rather miscued it but the ball rolled into the path of Mellor who guided a low left-foot finish into the net.

Mellor, like Brown, had not scored since January, a double hernia having restricted him to just a handful of sub appearances in the meantime.

North End saw out the closing stages comfortably, leaving manager Irvine in optimistic mood afterwards.

Irvine said: “The play-offs are still on. Obviously we are relying on other teams to slip up quite badly.

“We just have to do our own job, hopefully finish the season on a high and see where we get to.”

Irvine’s men won their remaining three games after this to make the top six.

PNE: Lonergan, Jones, Mawene, St Ledger, Nolan, Sedgwick (Carter 89), Williamson, McKenna, Wallace, Brown (Parkin 71), Mellor (Elliott 75). Subs (not used): Chilvers, Neal.