Memory match: Preston North End’s long-overdue triumph at Blackburn Rovers
Preston’s win over Blackburn at Ewood Park in April 2016 had been a long time in the making.
Not since April 1979 had PNE won a competitive game on Rovers’ home patch, a wait of more than 37 years finally over.
It took a comeback to do so, the home side taking an early lead through one-time Preston loanee Elliott Ward.
North End were in front by half-time and a man to the good, Rovers skipper Shane Duffy sent off for handling a goalbound shot on the line.
Joe Garner and Jordan Hugill found the net to give their side this precious win.
Nearly 7,000 Preston fans filled the Darwen End for the lunchtime kick-off.
Right from the start the game was played at a high tempo, an early shot from Tony Ward blocked by PNE skipper Tom Clarke.
Rovers took a 13th-minute lead, the build-up to the goal starting with Elliott Bennett’s corner from the left which Hope Akpan met in the air.
Akpan’s header was tipped against the bar by North End keeper Anders Lindegaard, the ball falling to Ward who netted with a first-time shot from 10 yards.
Bailey Wright had to block a shot from Ben Marshall as the home side sought to build on their lead.
However, the game was to swing Preston’s way in the 23rd minute.
Alan Browne hit a shot from the edge of the box which Blackburn goalkeeper Jason Steele parried.
Hugill was straight on to the rebound and struck a shot past Steele, only for Duffy to dive full length on the line and push out with his hand.
Referee Eddie Ilderton checked with his assistant before pointing to the spot.
Mr Ilderton then reached for his pocket and showed Duffy the red card.
Garner stepped up to take the penalty, driving it into the net and celebrating by doing a ‘chicken dance’.
It got better for Preston when they took the lead in the 43rd minute.
Garner took possession just outside the box but got crowded out by the Rovers defence.
The ball bounced out to Paul Gallagher, like Garner playing against his old club.
Gallagher lifted a superb chipped cross over to the far post which Hugill met on the stretch and volleyed into the roof of the net.
The interval was but a brief respite, the action soon getting going in the second half.
Lindegaard dived to hold a curling shot from Akpan in the early stages.
Ben Pearson should have extended PNE’s advantage in the 54th minute when they caught Rovers on the break.
Adam Reach attacked down the left and pulled an inviting pass into the path of Pearson.
Unfortunately he steered a first-time shot inches the wrong side of the target.
Rovers substitute Chris Brown, facing his former club, went down in the box under a challenge from Wright but was cautioned for simulation.
There were chances for North End to extend their lead as the game got stretched in the final stages.
Daniel Johnson, on as a sub for Pearson, met a cross from Calum Woods but saw his shot blocked by Ward.
Then in the 90th minute, Gallagher’s long ball sailed over the Rovers defence to free Jermaine Beckford down the left channel.
The substitute cut inside and hit a low shot which went across goal and just wide of the far post.
The final whistle was met with a huge roar from the PNE fans – this one long overdue.