PNE retro: Preston North End take a step closer to promotion after victory at Bristol Rovers in April 2000
Preston North End took a huge stride towards promotion, and the Second Division title, with victory over Bristol Rovers in April 2000.
It was another away win against a side up there near the top of the table, North End having beaten Burnley, Wigan, Gillingham and Millwall in their own back yards.
David Moyes’ men were the best travellers in all four divisions at the time, and this win at the Memorial Ground was done with the minimum of fuss.
Jonathan Macken and Bjarki Gunnlaugsson scored in either half, with the clean sheet being a club record 21st in a league season.
PNE had 1,200 travelling fans packed into the small away section, while another 4,000 watched the action on a big screen at Deepdale.
Victory left them with an eight-point lead at the top of the table with just four more matches remaining. It was almost time to start putting the champagne on ice.
After a spell getting the measure of their hosts, Preston were soon showing the quality that has put them way out in front of the pack.
Rovers were without their 23-goal striker Jason Roberts on a one-match suspension for 14 bookings.
Partner Jamie Cureton, also on 23 for the season, was a handful, but central defenders Michael Jackson and Ryan Kidd kept a stranglehold on him and stand-in Nathan Ellington.
Rob Edwards, pilloried all afternoon for his connections with rivals Bristol City, had the last laugh with a solid performance.
Gunnlaugsson caught the eye up front and he played a part in North End’s opening goal four minutes before the interval.
Macken cleverly flicked the ball off to him on the right and the Icelander skipped over a defender’s lunge before darting across field.
He laid it into the path of McKenna, surging forward unmarked in the inside left channel, his low left-foot shot beat keeper Lee Jones but crashed against the foot of the right post. And the rebound came out for Macken to stab into the net from seven yards.
Rovers were unfortunate not to drag themselves level after 55 minutes when ex-Liverpool winger Mark Walters jinked his way to the byline on the right of goal and then hammered in a shot which appeared to crash against both Moilanen and the near post before dropping into the goalmouth, Jackson getting back to clear the danger.
North End scored their second goal in the 67th to end the game as a contest.
Iain Anderson flicked the ball out to Macken on the left wing who curled over a cross at the perfect height for Gunnlaugson to connect first time with his left boot on the edge of the six-yard box, nutmegging keeper Jones on the line.
PNE: Moilanen, Alexander, Jackson, Kidd, Edwards, Anderson (Cartwright 71) Rankine, McKenna, Appleton, Gunnlaugsson (Angel 85), Macken (Eyres 87). Subs (not used): Lucas, Murdock.
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