Preston North End memory match: Bristol City old boy is PNE’s matchwinner

Greg Cunningham scores the winner at Ashton Gate
Greg Cunningham scores the winner at Ashton Gate

Greg Cunningham could not have written the script better as his first goal in the colours of Preston North End sank former club Bristol City.

His 80th-minute diving header settled this January 2016 clash at Ashton Gate.

Finding the target came at the 27th time of asking for Cunningham, the left-back having joined PNE from the Robins six months earlier.

The clubs had come up from League One together in May 2015, City as champions and Preston via the play-offs.

Cunningham had been down the pecking order at City during the promotion campaign and so jumped at North End’s interest in him.

Perhaps that in why his eyes were firmly fixed on the home dugout as he celebrated netting the winner – he had a point prove to Robins boss Steve Cotterill.

This was to be Cotterill’s last stand as manager – he was sacked 48 hours later.

North End had ventured to the West Country for this Tuesday night fixture on the back of an FA Cup exit at the hands of Peterborough.

But they had won their previous two league games, beating Hull and Rotherham to put a disappointing loss at Huddersfield on Boxing Day behind them.

The first half of this game was pretty uneventful.

Paul Gallagher tried to find his range with a couple of shots from distance.

One flew wide while the other was comfortably dealt with by goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell.

PNE took the lead eight minutes into the second half, with a helping hand from their hosts.

Ben Pearson’s ball out of midfield found Cunningham on the left, who slipped a pass inside to Gallagher.

The midfielder played a one-two with Eoin Doyle on the edge of the box, running on to Doyle’s back heel.

He lifted a cross into the middle which Nathan Baker headed into his own net as he tried to stop Joe Garner from meeting it.

The Robins equalised just three minutes later.

Mark Little’s cross into the box was chested forwarded by Aden Flint, the ball falling to Aaron Wilbraham.

His first-time shot took a deflection off Bailey Wright and beat Sam Johnstone.

Daniel Johnson came close to restoring North End’s lead when Little misjudged the bounce of the ball as he tried to clear just inside his own half.

That presented DJ with a clear run on goal but while his shot beat O’Donnell, the ball came back off the foot of the post.

At the other end, a superb curling shot from substitute Bobby Reid was equally well clawed behind by Johnstone.

Cunningham’s moment of glory came with 10 minutes remaining.

A corner from the left was delivered deep to the far post by Gallagher.

In rushed Cunningham, getting in front of his marker Reid and launching himself horizontal to send a diving header into the net.

His celebratory run took him towards the travelling Preston fans and then off in the direction of the dug outs.

There was still work to do for North End before the three points were in the bag.

Jonathan Kodja sent a stoppage-time header against the far post after Reid’s cross had found him.

There was still time after that for Johnstone to pull off a diving save to push away a Kodja shot after the striker had found space down the right-hand side of the box.

Thankfully there were no more scares after that for the visitors, as a precious away win was recorded.