PNE memory Match: 'Stop copying Real Madrid' order worked wonders for Preston North End at Wycombe Wanderers

Preston North End wore an all-white kit at Wycombe in September 2011 but got told in no uncertain terms by Phil Brown to stop thinking they were Real Madrid.

By Dave Seddon
Thursday, 11th March 2021, 4:04 pm

The Lilywhites raced into a 2-0 lead inside nine minutes at Adams Park through Neil Mellor and Iain Hume.

But before the half-hour mark was reached, North End trailed 3-2 – earning them an interval ticking-off from manager Brown.

He felt the reason for the visitors throwing away their early advantage was them becoming too expansive and ‘trying to be Real Madrid’.

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Iain Hume celebrates scoring Preston North End's third goal in the 4-3 win at Wycombe in September 2011

It was a lesson learned, the tide turning back in their favour in the second half as Mellor and Hume both struck again to deliver a dramatic 4-3 victory in Buckinghamshire.

Brown said: “I told the lads to stop thinking they were Real Madrid because they thought they were in the first half.

“Paul Coutts and Barry Nicholson started running on to things and Graham Alexander began playing 30 or 40 yards further forward.

“In the first half, Wycombe had dropped off us to allow our two centre-halves to have the ball and pass it round.

Neil Mellor scores PNE's winner at Wycombe

“But you don’t hurt teams doing that, you want your midfield players to get in possession and cause problems.

“At half-time it was a simple tactical address about how I wanted us to play in the right areas and thankfully it worked.”

This was a seventh league win on the bounce for PNE as they started the 2011/12 season in style.

How fortunes reversed though, with North End not winning again in Second Division action for 10 games.

Neil Mellor celebrates with Jamie Proctor and Brian McLean after giving North End the lead at Wycombe

A better start they could not have asked for, as Mellor and Hume continued their fine start to the campaign.

They went ahead in the seventh minute, Nicholson playing a free-kick into the path of Coutts.

He lifted a cross to the back post, Clarke Carlisle climbed high to nod it back into the middle and there was Mellor to fire home.

A little over 60 seconds later the visitors had doubled the lead via a fine move on the counter attack.

Ian Hume finds the net for Preston

A Wycombe corner was headed out of the PNE box, Nicholson’s pass finding Coutts who in turn sent a fine ball across field to Mellor on the left.

Mellor slipped a pass inside to Hume who drilled a shot past keeper Nikki Bull from inside the box. Joy turned to despair as Wycombe struck twice in two minutes.

Gareth Ainsworth netted after PNE keeper Andreas Arestidou couldn’t hold Andy Sandell’s free-kick.

Conor McLaughlin’s foul on Kadeem Harris brought the hosts a penalty, Scott Donnelly netting.

If being pegged back was bad enough, North End then fell behind in the 27th minute.

Stuart Beavon – who would join PNE the following season – rose at the far post to meet a Donnelly corner.

Brown’s Madrid warning hit home in the second half as the visitors pulled back level and then pushed on to win.

They equalised in the 64th minute, Nicholson creating the opening by playing a fine ball from deep inside his own half over the home defence for Hume to chase down the inside-left channel.

Hume reached it just inside the box and lifted a shot over Bull as he advanced off his line.

The winner came in the 73rd minute, substitute David Gray’s low cross to the near post swept high into the roof of the net by Mellor inside the six-yard box.

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