Preston North End match winner Alan Browne admits he owes a huge debt of gratitude to club kitman Russ Rigby.
The Irishman was at risk of missing North End’s Championship home clash with Huddersfield after a flat tyre left him stranded on the hard shoulder of the M61 motorway just a couple of hours before kick-off.
With no spare tyre to hand, the young midfielder made a desperate phone call to Rigby, who rushed to his aid.
Rigby handed Brown the keys to his van so the 20-year-old could continue his journey to Deepdale and waited with the player’s black Range Rover while it was fixed.
Despite missing the 1.30pm team meeting, Browne was handed a spot in the starting XI and repaid manager Simon Grayson’s faith by popping up in the 92nd minute to head home the winner as PNE came back from behind to win 2-1.
Browne – whose lateness leaves him at risk of being hit with a club fine – feared the worst when he was stranded on the hard shoulder.
He said: “I had a bit of an extreme morning but it was good to get on the scoresheet and get the win.
“Thankfully the kit man Russ came to help me.
“I didn’t have a spare tyre on me so I just had to sit and wait for Russ to come.
“I was fearing the worst but thankfully I was able to drive his van and I got to Deepdale in the end.
“I missed the team meeting, got in a bit late and the gaffer said get ready you are starting.
“I didn’t really expect to start. I was thinking all sorts in my head when it happened, but thankfully he did pick me and it paid off.
“I had the setback, but I still felt like I was going to come out and score.”
Browne hailed right back Calum Woods for the sensational cross that allowed him to nod home.
He said: “It was a great ball in by Calum. He said he was putting them in on his left all game and it wasn’t going for him so he put it on his right.
“I knew the second that it left his foot that it was going to be planted on my head and it just shows what he can do.
“We know he can do with both feet and it was a terrific cross. I think I’m quite good in the air hopefully I can keep doing that.”
In truth Huddersfield dominated in the first half and deservedly took the lead in the 80th minute when Nahki Wells slipped the ball under Anders Lindegaard.
But luck was on Preston’s side as Paul Gallagher’s strike took a wicked deflection off Joel Lynch to level the scores leaving the stage set for Browne to have the last word.
“Huddersfield were terrific in the first half but fortunately we kept them at bay,” said Republic of Ireland Under -21 international Browne.
“When they did score late on it was a downer but I don’t think anyone really panicked. I think we might have in the past but we are confident that there are goals in this team.
“To come back like that just shows the team spirit we have.”