Preston North End

Ground No. 18 (return visit)
Visited - Saturday 20th September 2008
Result - Preston North End 1-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Competition - Coca-Cola Championship
Attendance - 17,567

On my first visit to Deepdale, then I had thoroughly enjoyed visiting the ground. It had been a great trip, nice ground, a visit to the football museum and the rare occurrence of a Wolves win away wrapped up with a wonder goal from George ‘chicken legs’ Ndah! Despite all that though, the main thought in my mind was one that most people seemed to share, the ground really would look great when the fourth side was finally completed, and during 2008, the club had finally got round to doing it, replacing the former Pavilion Stand with the brand new Invincibles Stand, so I was looking forward to making another trip there and from when the fixtures were released in June, our game with them in September was circled as one to go to.

As it turned out, I did end up getting a bit of a sneak preview one month early. Coming home from Barrow I had a bit of time to spare whilst changing trains at Preston, so had popped along to Deepdale and had a look around, being fairly impressed, even though it was still a bit of a building site, so when the day of the game eventually came round I was in a good mood, looking forward to both the match and seeing what it looked like finished.

As usual, we caught the train northwards, leaving Wolverhampton just after 10am and arriving in Preston with no trouble, having had to go via Manchester due to no direct services, but arriving just after midday. Having seen the ground and museum before, then I was in no rush to get back, so we found a nice little pub called the Stanley Arms in the city centre, having a few drinks before it was eventually time to walk up to the ground.

After going in, then we found out that the match had actually been delayed due to traffic problems, so we waited and at 3:15pm it eventually kicked off, both sets of fans having worked themselves up for it. With Wolves sitting top of the league and Preston just two points behind in third place, both sides still unbeaten, then it was a big game with all to play for. The hosts were the ones who started the brightest, and early on it looked like they might have won a penalty when Stearman handled on the line, but the referee adjudged it to have been ball to hand, despite the protests of Neil Mellor. It was bad news for Preston, and they were made to pay for it in the 35th minute after an effort from a corner had been smashed against the bar and played out, the ball back in to the far post found Chris Iwelumo who in spectacular style hit an overhead kick straight into the net to make it 1-0. Following that, Wolves looked like they could have gone further in front, but in the minutes leading up to half time then  it was Mellor again who was left appealing as he had two efforts ruled out, the first whilst he was clearly offside and the second more harshly as the ref blew for an earlier foul.

If the first half had been fairly even, perhaps more dominated by the home side, then it was Wolves who utterly dominated after the break. A second goal was added in the 66th minute, Iwelumo again who tapped home a low cross from the right on the break. He bagged his hat-trick five minutes later, Kightly having been scythed down in the box by Billy Jones, which resulted in the big man stepping up to make it 3-0 and effectively game over. His day wasn’t finished there though, and the rest of the game fell into controversy, starting in the 75th minute when he turned from hero to villain, getting sent off after an innocuous clash of heads with Sean St Ledger who was at lengths to tell the referee he’d made a mistake and with the game in stoppage time, Wolves went down to 9 men when Wayne Hennessey came out to stop Mellor breaking into the box only to take him down. Whilst no doubt a penalty, it wasn’t a malicious foul, but the referee still saw it necessary to show the red card and Mellor stepped up to score from the spot before the game ended.

Throughout the match there had been a great atmosphere, particularly in the away end where Wolves had travelled in impressive numbers, 3300 making the journey north, and after having been kept in for a good 15 minutes after the game, everyone eventually left in high spirits, the journey home seeming to go a lot quicker than it usually does!

Overall, it had been a great day out, mainly down to not just the result, but the style of the win, however it was also good to return to the ground and see it finally completed. The new stand has been built to a different design to the rest, still single tiered, but smaller with two rows of executive boxes above (only one row in use at present), but it still looks good, and the clock and ‘Deepdale Preston’ writing is a nice touch. One thing I did think was a shame to see go was the old ivy covered offices from the Pavilion Stand. Sadly they were demolished, and I’m not a great fan of the exterior of the ground, which looks a little bland in my opinion, but the inside is great and at present it easily ranks as one of the best grounds in the Championship, and a fine example of a redevelopment.

Welcome to Deepdale

Rear of the Tom Finney Stand

Main Reception

The Club Shop

Rear of the Alan Kelly Town End

Rear of the Invincibles Stand

Rear of the Bill Shankly Kop

The National Football Museum

The Tom Finney Statue

Looking across the Bill Shankly Kop

The Invincibles Stand

The Alan Kelly Town End

The Tom Finney Stand

The Tom Finney Stand

The Alan Kelly Town End

The Invincibles Stand

Deepdale Panoramic 1

Deepdale Panoramic 2

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