PNE retro: Preston North End get a rare away win in the 1996/97 season at Shrewsbury - Sean Gregan and Simon Davey find the net

The 1996/97 campaign was a tough one on the road for Preston North End, with them winning just four away games.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 3:00 pm

They lost 17 matches on the road, the highest number in the Second Division that campaign.

A strong home record in which they won 14 times at Deepdale and lost just four, in the main helped them finish 15th – a decent effort in their first season at this level since being promoted.

The final away game was at Shrewsbury and North End gave 2,000 travelling supporters something to shout about with a 2-0 win.

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Sean Gregan celebrates with Michael Holt after giving Preston North End the lead at Shrewsbury in April 1997
Sean Gregan celebrates with Michael Holt after giving Preston North End the lead at Shrewsbury in April 1997

Sean Gregan powered home a shot from 25 yards to put the Lilywhites ahead, with Simon Davey doubling the lead in stoppage-time.

The result had serious consequences for the home side, Shrewsbury relegated to the Third Division with a game to spare.

They needed to win to have any chance of survival and had a real go in the first half, putting the North End defence under a great deal of pressure.

But helped by some fine saves from David Lucas – the teenager making his first appearance for a year – the visitors held firm and went on to snatch the win in the second half.

Michael Holt slides to try and reach a cross during PNE's win at Shrewsbury

PNE manager Gary Peters had gone into the away end before kick-off to sign autographs and apologise in person to the fans for the wretched away form.

He admitted his side had been too gung-ho going forward in some of the away games, leaving themselves open to being punished at the other end.

So for this trip to Gay Meadow, he tightened-up the side and vowed things wouldn’t be too pretty.

Peters strung a solid four across the back, Michael Jackson at right-back, David Moyes and Russ Wilcox in the middle, with Ryan Kidd at left-back.

PNE goalkeeper David Lucas in the warm-up ahead of the Shrewsbury game

Gregan patrolled the centre of midfield with Davey, Ian Bryson tucked in on the left side.

Lucas’ only league start for PNE had come on the day they clinched the Third Division title at Hartlepool exactly 12 months earlier.

He’d been on loan for part of the season at Darlington but got the nod for this one ahead of Bobby Mimms and Kelham O’Hanlon.

Lucas made three great saves from former PNE front man Ian Stevens in the first half, the best one in the 33rd minute when he turned a header up against the bar.

PNE midfielder Simon Davey in action at Shrewsbury, with the PNE fans in the background

North End in the main soaked up first-half pressure on a wet day in Shropshire before venturing forward more after the break.

Their first goal was worth the trip down the M6 and A49 alone, Gregan getting the ball in midfield, striding forward before hitting a shot from fully 25 yards into the top corner.

Davey fired home a low shot from much closer in for Preston’s second a minute into stoppage-time.

David Reeves crossed from the left, sub Michael Holt dummied and Davey did the rest at the far post.

PNE: Lucas, Jackson, Moyes, Wilcox, Kidd, Cartwright (Holt 46), Davey, Gregan, Bryson, Reeves, Ashcroft (Barrick 81). Sub (not used): McKenna.

Attendance: 5,341

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