Preston fan given three-year football ban for assaulting Chesterfield captain Ian Evatt after League One play-off match

Matthew Edwards, and apprentice mechanic, says he got 'carried away' after invading the Deepdale pitch and grabbing Evatt

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The Independent Online

An apprentice mechanic has been given a three-year football banning order after he assaulted Chesterfield captain Ian Evatt at the end of the League One play-off match at Preston earlier this month.

Matthew Edwards was said to have "got carried away" during a pitch invasion while celebrating his "beloved" Preston's semi-final second leg victory at Deepdale on May 10.

CCTV footage captured the 20-year-old weaving his way through fans and then forcefully grasping the shoulder of Evatt from behind.

When Evatt turned round, a fellow supporter stepped in to drag away Edwards, who, magistrates heard, had wanted to "take the mick" out of the defender who used to play for Preston's arch rivals Blackpool.

Edwards then appeared to shout abuse at Evatt, who had to be escorted from the pitch for his own safety.

Edwards, of Southern Avenue, Preston, was also fined £135 and ordered to pay costs of £255 after he pleaded guilty at Preston Magistrates' Court to assault by beating.

Martine Connah, prosecuting, said Evatt, 33, was assaulted "by at least two people" and verbally abused "by many more" at the conclusion of the televised match.

Footage of the incident led to Edwards being identified by a police constable and then arrested the following day.

Connah said the defendant had consumed a pint of lager at a local pub before kick-off and two further bottles of lager in the half-time break.

James Ball, defending Edwards, said: "It is fair to say that Matthew is not someone you would commonly describe as a hooligan.

"This is somebody here who got carried away while celebrating a play-off semi-final win for his beloved team."

Ball said the defendant, who had no previous convictions, had not intended to go on to the pitch but changed his mind when he saw friends beckoning him to join the thousands who had invaded.

Edwards denied setting out to assault Evatt before he left his seat in the stand and denied intending to punch him.

Ball said: "He decided to perhaps rub it in and take the mick out of him (Evatt).

"He accepts he should not have been there. He accepted acting foolishly and stupidly.

"He accepts he has brought shame upon himself, his family, Preston North End and the town of Preston itself."

His parents were in court to support Edwards, whose behaviour was summed up as "out of character" in a number of references passed to the bench.

Ball added: "In open court he wishes to apologise to the aggrieved party in the case."

Sentencing him, the chair of the bench told Edwards: "We would really like to not see you here again.

"You have been given an opportunity here. Get on with your apprenticeship."

Evatt reported to police that he had been "punched, kicked and spat on" and later said in a radio interview that he had been "terrified".

Lancashire Constabulary continue to investigate the incident, with several other people being sought.

PA

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