Preston North End vs Millwall Memory Match: When Paul McKenna’s goal meant the end for Mark McGhee

Paul McKenna celebrates his goal for Preston North End with team mates over Millwall.
Paul McKenna celebrates his goal for Preston North End with team mates over Millwall.

Preston’s 1-0 victory at Millwall in October 2003 had some far reaching consequences.

It was the Lions’ first home defeat that season and left them just two points outside the play-off places.

Richard Cresswell for Preston North End clashes with the Millwall goalkeeper.

Richard Cresswell for Preston North End clashes with the Millwall goalkeeper.

However, the Londoners chose to part company there and then with manager Mark McGhee and his No.2 Archie Knox.

Paul McKenna’s goal six minutes into the second half was enough to give North End the win.

It could – and should – have been more comfortable though, with them bossing proceedings at the New Den.

They had seven shots on target while the hosts did not muster one effort to trouble PNE keeper Jonathan Gould.

Ricardo Fuller for Preston North End in their match against Millwall.

Ricardo Fuller for Preston North End in their match against Millwall.

Despite this being a first home defeat for the Lions, there was clearly trouble at the mill.

McGhee was booed by the home fans throughout and later that night met with the board who handed him his cards.

One thing which did not seem to go down well with the Millwall fans was McGhee choosing to change system to match Preston up.

Craig Brown’s men went to the capital with a 3-5-2 formation and found their hosts playing the same way.

It was fair to say that PNE looked far more comfortable playing that way.

Two five-man midfields led to some congestion in the middle of the park but often it was North End who found space to play and pulled off the victory.

Before his visit upstairs to the boardroom, McGhee had told reporters: “If I hadn’t swapped the system to match Preston, then I’m convinced we would have lost a lot more heavily.”

North End had to see off a spell of early pressure from their hosts, Paul Ifill firing high and then wide with two chances.

It needed a timely tackle from Marlon Broomes to halt a run from Lions top scorer Neil Harris.

Steadily Preston settled into the game, with chances falling the way of Chris Lucketti, Brian O’Neil and Richard Cresswell.

Their winner came in the 51st minute, with the move started and finished by local lad McKenna.

He pushed a pass down the left channel for Ricardo Fuller to chase.

Fuller held off his marker, got to the byline and then cut into the box.

The Jamaica international then pulled the ball back to McKenna who swept a shot high into the net from 12 yards.

North End were pretty comfortable from then on, never looking like letting their lead slip.

In fact they could have doubled it late on, with a bit of a helping hand from Kevin Muscat.

The Millwall player sliced a Cresswell cross against his own woodwork.

Boos from the three home stands greeted the sound of the final whistle.

There was nothing but joy from the North End fans who had made the midweek trip to Bermondsey.

Post-match, PNE boss Brown jumped to the defence of fellow Scotsman McGhee.

Brown said: “Millwall were seventh before kick-off and hadn’t lost a league game at home before this one.

“So for the Millwall fans to demand he should be fired was a disgrace.”

Those words obviously fell on deaf ears.

For Brown’s team this was a sixth win in eight games and a third 1-0 victory on the spin.

That run had lifted them from third-bottom up to ninth place.