Memory match: PNE v Barnsley, November 2001

A certain Alex Neil celebrates scoring for Barnsley at Deepdale
A certain Alex Neil celebrates scoring for Barnsley at Deepdale

The midfielder who scored Barnsley’s second goal in their draw with Preston at Deepdale in November 2001 would have barely registered on the radar of PNE fans at the time.

One of the smallest men on the pitch got the better of the North End defence to head the Tykes into the lead for the second time.

That player was Alex Neil who, nearly 16 years later, is managing the Lilywhites.

The Scotsman scored only four goals in his four seasons in South Yorkshire.

So the one at Deepdale on the night Preston officially opened the Alan Kelly Town End, could be regarded as something of a collector’s item.

“I didn’t score many goals, especially with my head, so it is one I remember well,” said Neil.

This clash was a Thursday night affair, the game shown live during the short-lived era of ITVDigital, a broadcast deal which promised so much but ultimately left a big hole in the finances of many clubs.

More than 19,000 were in the ground to watch it, PNE having slashed ticket prices for the opening of the Town End – the third stage of the ground’s redevelopment.

Barnsley threatened to spoil the party, twice taking the lead.

It needed equalisers, both of them headers, from Mark Rankine and sub Richard Cresswell to peg the visitors back.

For Cresswell, it was his fourth goal from the bench in three games.

Signed from Leicester for £500,000, this was his 14th match on the bench so far that season.

Overall, PNE served up a poor performance, very much in contrast to the one produced five days earlier when they had put six goals without reply past Stockport.

They fell behind in the 44th minute, Chris Barker’s ball into the box headed down by Kevin Gallen into the path of Darren Barnard who shot home from close range.

North End levelled nine minutes after the interval, Jon Macken’s cross finding Rankine, who steered a neat header across Tykes keeper Kevin Miller.

With parity restored, it was expected that Preston would take the game by the scruff of the neck and push on to claim victory.

But just four minutes after Raknine’s equaliser, Barnsley regained the lead.

Chris Lumsdon got space down the right wing and sent over a cross into the box.

Neil held off a challenge to guide a header across keeper David Lucas.

After North End had been refused a penalty on the hour when a shot appeared to hit a Barnsley hand, the visitors almost scored again.

This time, Neil sent a low drive against the base of the post – very much a let-off for the home side.

Cresswell came off the bench in the 66th minute as part of a double change, he and Iain Anderson replacing David Healy and winger Lee Cartwright.

Barnsley had the ball in the net in the 83rd minute, Lloyd Dyer’s effort ruled out for offside.

PNE upped the ante in the closing stages, a shot from Rankine blocked on the line while Miller saved well from Graham Alexander.

They finally got level again in the 88th minute, a foul on Cresswell earning a free-kick down the right channel.

Paul McKenna knocked it short to Alexander, his cross finding Cresswell who sent a header past Miller.

The goal came in front of the Town End, appropriate on the night it was officially in use for the first time.