We go back to a celebratory New Year at Deepdale in a promotion season for the Lilywhites as we remember a previous clash with the Bluebirds.
The year was 1996 and the Welsh side came to PR1 on New Year’s Day, but went away with nothing, as Gary Peters’ men brought in the new calendar in style with a 5-0 win.
The latest success meant that the team were now 21 games unbeaten as they put in this latest ‘hangover-busting’ display to blow away the visitors, with David Williams in the City goal putting in a display that meant the country’s top scorers didn’t make it even more than the five they got!
Twice North End hit the woodwork and on four occasions Williams produced wonderful agile stops to prevent the score getting close to the heights of the famous 9-0 success over the Welshmen back in 1966.
Two of the reflex stops were to deny Andy Saville, to rob him of his third hat-trick in six home games, and fellow Welshman, but former Swansea City man, Simon Davey, but the best probably came to deny the game’s star man, Neil McDonald, with a finger-tip arching effort to push dipping volley from the man of the match over the bar.
Peters had brough McDonald in to take his team ‘to a higher level’ and the five across the middle formation allowed him to show off his talents, with the option of two wide-men to choose from with his range of passing – it was tailor-made for his skills, even on the treacherous under-foot conditions.
It was a surprise switch in formations, with 4-5-1 in operation; Steve Wilkinson left on the bench, Dean Barrick on the left-wing and skipper Ian Bryson switched to the right.
Despite the scoreline and the dominance, the goals weren’t immediate, in fact, they were only 1-0 up at half-time, that goal coming after 17 minutes when David Moyes, Graeme Atkinson and Bryson all linked up, with the skipper crossing from the right, finding opposite wingman Barrick, unmarked 15 yards out, who controlled and as he was about to shoot Lee Jarman scythed him down, but with cries for a penalty ringing around Deepdale, Davey pounced to rifle home the loose ball into the roof of the net.
Micky Brown replaced Russ Wilcox – who had been booked in the first half – at the interval and his first touch of the ball, 33 seconds after the break, ghosting in at the far post to fire home Bryson’s right-wing cross.
And less than five minutes later it was 3-0 as Atkinson’s corner from the right was aimed into the near post and Saville challenged with PNE old boy Tony Philliskirk and the ball flew home.
Atkinson himself saw an effort against the bar after a wonderful chip on 57 minutes, but on the hour it was four as McDonald collected the ball on the right and picked out Atkinson with a pin-point 50-yard pass and the striker took it on and lifted a ball into the middle for Saville to bury a diving header.
The already 18-goal frontman was, as previously mentioned, to be denied another treble by Williams’ superb efforts between the sticks, but with a minute left it became a five star showing when Ryan Kidd sent a terrific ball up to Saville on the left and he turned it inside for Atkinson to run onto before drawing Williams out of his goal and sliding the ball under him.
It was now 48 goals in 22 games for the league leaders and just 20 conceded, with ten clean sheets – it really was the start of a Happy New Year!
PNE line-up: Vaughan, Fensome, Moyes, Wilcox (Brown, 46), Barrick, Bryson, Davey, McDonald, Atkinson, Kidd, Saville. Subs not used: Moilanen, Wilkinson.
Cardiff City line-up: Williams, Fleming, Jarman, Young, Searle, Rogerson, Harper, Harding (Ingram, 28 (Baddeley, 35)), Gardner. Sub not used: Haworth.
Referee: Mr T West (Hull)