Memory Match: Millwall 2 Preston North End 2 - the Lilywhites let a two-goal lead slip in London in 1999
Preston North End looked to be cruising to victory against Millwall in April 1999 only to be pegged back by two late goals.
Julian Darby and Michael Jackson had put North End into a 2-0 lead in the capital to seemingly keep alive their automatic promotion hopes.
But Millwall struck twice in the last six minutes to take a point and send David Moyes’ men back to Lancashire with the play-offs to focus on.
To let slip two points in many ways summed up the end of the 1998/99 season for the Lilywhites.
They had worked hard to get themselves into strong contention for the top two only to lose their form.
North End won only one of their last nine matches of the regular season and were then beaten by Gillingham in the play-off semi-finals.
Moyes’ boys had done the hard work against Millwall, with Julian Darby firing them in front after half-time.
Michael Jackson’s header doubled the lead but then it went horribly wrong in the closing stages.
PNE had beaten Walsall in their previous game, the side they were looking to catch in the promotion race. Having closed the gap, they let it open up again with this draw.
Moyes’ selection options for the South Bermondsey trip were limited by injuries and suspension.
Six players were on the casualty list with midfielder Michael Appleton serving a suspension.
So it was a makeshift side which took to the pitch. One of those drafted in was Darby, the experienced midfielder coming in for his 12th league game of the season having played only six the year before.
North End went 4-3-3, with Jason Harris, Jonathan Macken and Steve Basham up front.
Basham got an early sight of goal when Macken’s pass sent him through but he took a heavy touch and the chance went begging.
A shot from Harris lacked power and didn’t trouble the keeper, then Macken was just an inch away from getting on the end of Paul McKenna’s cross.
McKenna should have scored when Basham cut the ball back for him but he put his shot wide of the near post.
Millwall had chances of their own as the first half wore on, PNE keeper David Lucas making saves from Paul Shaw and Tim Cahill.
Dominic Ludden made a brave block to get in the way of a Shaw shot, then from a corner Marc Bircham sent a header against the car.
The second half was just 30 seconds old when Preston went in front.
Graham Alexander’s pass down the right channel found Harris in the box who flicked it into the path of Darby.
A quick touch brought it under control before Darby let fly with a shot which went in off the underside of the bar.
It was an advantage which PNE stretched just past the hour mark.
Alexander’s cross from the right found Jackson who rose to bullet home a header.
Game over? Sadly not. The home side pushed forward and Preston dropped off.
Millwall pulled a goal back in the 84th minute.
Cahill and Shaw both saw shots blocked in a scramble before Cahill had a second bite of the cherry with a low effort which found the net.
Their equaliser arrived a minute into stoppage-time.
Jackson’s clearance struck substitute Richard Sadlier who took the ball on and sent over a cross for Paul Ifill to pick his spot.
“We threw it away, just threw it away,” said Moyes with a sigh afterwards.