Memory match: WATCH Beckham score for PNE v Fulham
It was more than 21 years ago that David Beckham showed the football public that he could take a decent free-kick.
Making his first start in a Preston shirt during a short loan spell from Manchester United, the then-teenager curled home a superb finish from 25 yards against Fulham at Deepdale.
That was PNE’s third goal in a 3-2 victory – one which nudged them into the play-off positions.
Beckham had made his North End debut the week before as a substitute in a 2-2 draw with Doncaster.
He had found the net in that game too, scoring direct from a corner.
For the visit of Fulham, Beckham got the nod over Lee Cartwright to start in the Lilywhites midfield.
Preston made the early running in the game and had an early shout for a penalty when winger Kevin Magee went down in the box under a challenge from Duncan Jupp.
Referee Kevin Lynch was to wave play on, judging it to have been a fair challenge by the Fulham man.
North End went ahead in the 23rd minute, Ian Bryson winning the ball and setting off on a run down the left channel.
He fed a pass outside him to the overlapping Magee, whose low cross into the box was guided home by Mickey Conroy.
Simon Davey went close to a second goal, his shot saved well by Jim Stannard.
The Cottagers levelled in stoppage time at the end of the first half.
David Moyes was pulled up for a foul on Nick Cussak just outside the box.
The free-kick was rolled short by Terry Horlock into the path of Jupp who hammered home a shot via the underside of the bar.
North End restored their lead three minutes into the second half.
Beckham started the move in midfield, nodding the ball down on to his thigh before hooking a pass over his shoulder to find Conroy in space.
Conroy in turn slipped a pass through to release Paul Raynor who ran clear and steered a low shot beyond the reach of keeper Stannard.
Quickly, PNE made it 3-1, and it was Beckham’s moment in the spotlight.
Raynor was fouled by Mark Blake, earning Preston a free-kick.
The visitors lined-up a four-man wall, Beckham whipping it up and over the last man and into the net, the ball touching the far post on the way in.
He walked to celebrate in front of the Town End.
North End went a whisker away from a fourth goal just past the hour as Beckham turned supplier.
His pass found right-back Andy Fensome who drilled a daisy-cutter goalwards, one which Stannard dived to touch on to the post.
At the other end, Preston goalkeeper John Vaughan saved with his legs from a John Marshall shot.
Fulham cut the deficit from the penalty spot, PNE left-back Ray Sharp having pulled the shirt of Marshall.
Mark Blake stepped up to beat Vaughan from the spot.
North End hung on to their lead to maintain a strong run of form.
Since the appointment of Gary Peters, they had lost only two of 15 league games.
Peters was pleased with the win but felt the level of performance had not been the best.
“We only played well for 20 minutes against Fulham,” said Peters.
“The rest of the time we were struggling to break them down.
“But you are going to get that with so much at stake, teams will come here and be determined not to give you an inch of space.”
PNE made the play-offs and were beaten by Bury, but Beckham had returned to United by then.