Preston North End retro game - When the Second Division title was won at Cambridge in April 2000

Preston North End clinched the Second Division title on Easter Monday 2000 in somewhat strange circumstances but that didn’t stop joyous scenes  for the travelling supporters at Cambridge United’s Abbey Stadium.

Wednesday, 17th April 2019, 8:54 am
Updated Wednesday, 17th April 2019, 9:59 am
Preston manager David Moyes celebrates his side's Second Division title-win at Cambridge in April 2000

The Lilywhites lost 2-0 to United and finished the game with 10 men after a red card for Michael Jackson.

But draws elsewhere for nearest challengers Wigan and Gillingham meant PNE would finish top of the pile.

At the final whistle, there was a tense wait for the other results to come through.

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The PNE Second Division title-winning squad

In the days before social media, it was all ears on the radio and eyes on ‘Final Score’ on the television.

The confirmation which North End fans needed was the sight of manager David Moyes running from the dressing room and out on to the pitch spraying a bottle of champagne.

That got the party started both in Cambridge and later that night back in Preston as players and supporters alike partied into the small wee hours of the morning.

If the truth be told, few of the 2,000 North End fans who made the trip probably remember the actually 90 minutes of football.

PNE midfielder Paul McKenna takes a free-kick against Cambridge watched by Rob Edwards and Graham Alexander

But to recap, Cambridge scored twice in the first half to dampen spirits in the away end to start with.

Thankfully, the mood after the final whistle was so much more buoyant.

North End had beaten Scunthorpe 1-0 at Deepdale 48 hours earlier to get to within touching distance of the title.

They were without Sean Gregan for this game through injury, so too top scorer Jonathan Macken and winger Iain Anderson.

Preston fans celebrate PNE being crowned Second Division champions at Cambridge

Whether it was those key absences or something else, but the Moyes’ boys never got to grips with Cambridge who needed the points in their fight to avoid relegation.

The home side took the lead in the eighth minute.

James Hunt delivered a free-kick from the left into the box which James Hansen met on the volley and lashed into the roof of the net.

Their second goal came in the 44th minute, catching Preston unawares just before they headed inside for their half-time cuppa.

PNE players celebrate in front of the away fans at Cambridge

Jason Kavanagh knocked a long ball forward, which John Taylor knocked down.

It fell to Trevor Benjamin who knocked a low shot past Teuvo Moilanen.

The Finnish goalkeeper ran over to the linesman to protest about an offside in the build-up.

His protests as the teams left the pitch at half-time saw him booked.

Bjarki Gunnlaugsson went close to reducing the arrears in the 56th minute.

His low shot rolled under United keeper Lionel Perez and across the face of the goal before going out of play.

David Moyes celebrates PNE winning the Second Division title at Cambridge's Abbey Stadium

Moyes sent his side more and more on the attack in a bid to get back into it.

By the end he had four players up front, including defender Colin Murdock playing as an extra striker.

However, the results soon became secondary as PNE’s title celebrations started.

PNE: Moilanen, Alexander (Eyres 65), Jackson, Kidd, Edwards, Cartwright (Murdock 83), Rankine, McKenna, Appleton (Basham 65), Angell, Gunnlaugsson.

Preston supporters at Cambridge in April 2000