Memory match: When Louis Moult hit Preston North End's winner at Nottingham Forest in December 2018

Preston North End’s victory over Nottingham Forest at the City Ground in December 2018 seems almost a lifetime ago and an event currently beyond the reach of fans.

A packed away end, a few beers and a Louis Moult winner celebrated with much gusto, makes you yearn for the return of supporters to sports stadiums.

It shouldn’t be long now, however PNE’s visit to the East Midlands on Saturday will be a behind closed doors encounter.

The 2018 trip came as the Lilywhites were settling into their stride after a poor start to the 2018/19 season.

Preston North End players and fans celebrate Louis Moutl's winner at Nottingham Forest in December 2018

A week before they had seen a nine-game unbeaten run ended by a 3-0 defeat at Birmingham City.

The first half was one played very much in the Preston half, with Forest moving the ball well on the front foot.

Joe Lolley sent an early shot straight at Declan Rudd, while one-time PNE target Tendayi Darikwa fired a low shot across the face of goal and wide after a tidy passing sequence had played him in down the side of the box.

North End’s first sight of goal came in the 16th minute, a Tom Barkhuizen long throw-in from the right flicked on by Paul Huntington and falling towards Tom Clarke in the six-yard box.

Louis Moult scores for PNE at the City Ground

As the ball spun up, Clarke couldn’t quite meet it and the danger was cleared.

Clarke was wearing a specially made plastic mask to protect a badly broken nose he had suffered 10 days earlier in a collision with former North End striker Jordan Hugill.

PNE should have taken the lead with 21 minutes of the clock when a slip by Jack Robinson gave Barkhuizen a clear run into the box from the right channel.

Barkhuizen’s low shot was blocked by Costel Pantilimon, the ball spinning up off the keeper and towards goal but Darikwa got back to head it behind.

Louis Moult with a textbook knee slide celebration

Lukas Nmecha joined the action from the bench in the 25th minute, replacing fellow Manchester City loanee Brandon Barker who pulled up with a hamstring strain.

The Preston goal lived a charmed life as Forest fashioned two good chances in the space of four minutes.

Matt Cash met a cross from Lewis Grabban and volleyed just wide, then Grabban escaped the attentions of Ben Davies, cut in along the byline but saw his ball into the middle roll across the six-yard box.

North End stunned Forest 11 minutes into the second half by scoring the contest’s only goal. Paul Gallagher’s corner from the right hit Nmecha at the near post and bounced down towards the byline.

PNE skipper Tom Clarke, wearing a protective mask, in action against Nottingham Forest

Nmecha chased it and pulled the ball back low from the byline into the middle where Moult slid in among the boots to knock the ball over the line from close range.

It happened in front of the travelling PNE fans, a handful of who got over the advertising boards to celebrate, with a blue smoke flare thrown on to the pitch.

Moult slid on his knees to celebrate in front of the away section, the goal his fifth of the season.

In the 78th minute, substitute Ryan Ledson tried his luck with a drive from 25 yards which Pantilimon dived to palm past the far post.

It was a substitute at the other end who almost brought Forest an equaliser moments later, the home side counter-attacking down the right-wing.

Grabban’s cross found Daryl Murphy in the box, the big striker’s header superbly clawed behind by Rudd.

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