When Lee Ashcroft’s hat-trick saw Preston North End overcome Kevin Keegan’s Fulham

Preston North End’s clash with Fulham at Deepdale in November 1997 was a special one for Lee Ashcroft.

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 3:00 pm

At the time the Cottagers were in the early days of being owned by Mohamed Al-Fayed who was started to pump money into them.

But for all their riches, they had no answer to Preston boy Ashcroft who netted a hat-trick as PNE ran out 3-1 winners in this Second Division clash.

North End even gave their visitors from the capital a goal start, roaring back through Ashcroft’s treble to halt a run of four successive home defeats in the league.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

North End Manager Gary Peters congratulates hat-trick hero Lee Ashcroft

Post-match, Preston boss Gary Peters described it as a victory for ‘passion over money’.

Peters was delighted to finally put points on the board from a home game – it had been nearly two months since that had happened.

Things didn’t go to plan to start with, North End falling behind in the sixth minute.

Mark Blake’s pass down the right wing was collected by Paul Peschisolido who took the ball beyond left-back Dean Barrick.

Kevin Keegan signing autographs for the Preston fans at Deepdale

Peschisolido sent over a low cross into the box which PNE centre-half Michael Jackson stretched to cut out.

But he succeeded only in directing the ball into the path of Rob Scott who found the net at the near post.

The Lilywhites were level by the 11th minute and what a cracker it was too.

Barrick won possession and fed the ball to Michael Appleton who played a neat one-two with Rankine before finding Ashcroft with a pass.

Ashcroft spun just inside the box and curled a superb finish into the top corner past keeper Maik Taylor.

With their tails up, PNE went on the attack with Appleton seeing a shot saved by Taylor.

Tony Lormor put a header wide, while Gary Parkinson was off target with a shot.

North End went 2-1 ahead in the 69th minute.

Ashcroft got possession in the box and was clipped by Neil Smith as he attempted to turn past the Fulham man.

Referee Eddie Lomas pointed to the spot, Ashcroft picking himself up to beat Taylor with the penalty.

The striker’s hat-trick was completed seven minutes from time.

Barrick’s pass found Rankine down the left hand side of the box.

Rankine pulled the ball back to Ashcroft who took it across the face of the box before drilling a shot into the bottom corner.

Ashcroft was to admit that his hat-trick almost didn’t happen as he had started to feel his hamstring tighten.

He had delayed signalling to the bench, though, and was glad to have kept quiet.

When his third goal hit the back of the net, Ashcroft did alert the bench and got a big hug from Peters as he left the pitch for a well-earned rest, Michael Holt replacing him up front.

Ashcroft’s treble had taken his goal tally to five in the last five games, all of them when he had Lormor partnering him up front.

It was his first hat-trick in PNE colours, this his second spell at the club.

Another treble had come earlier playing for West Bromwich Albion.

Even at 3-1 and with Ashcroft’s feet up in the dugout, North End pushed on looking to increase their lead.

Sean Gregan, who had been outstanding in midfield, saw a shot in stoppage time take a coat of paint off the bar as it travelled inches too high.

The players left the pitch to a tremendous ovation from the Deepdale faithful, a job well done.