Preston NE 3 Stoke City 2: Wilson crowns North End recovery

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Kelvin Wilson's first goal for Preston completed a remarkable fight back after two early goals from Stoke had threatened to blow their promotion ambitions off course. North End battled their way back to parity in the second half to set the scene for the young defender to hook the ball over his shoulder and into the net with a minute of normal time left after City had failed to clear Lewis Neal's corner.

It was a reprieve for Wilson who had been as implicated as anyone in the start that could so easily have cost Preston the game. ''I am delighted for Kelvin,'' his manager, Paul Simpson, said. "Today was a really difficult day for our back-four."

The first six minutes certainly looked difficult. Playing into a strong wind, Preston failed to clear a long cross from Carl Hoefkens to allow Liam Lawrence to drive the ball home.

As if that wasn't bad enough a mix-up between Wilson and his goalkeeper Carlo Nash, gifted Stoke a swift second goal. That hesitation allowed Mamady Sidibe to get his head to Steve Simonsen's long clearance. His first effort was blocked, but the ball broke back for him to score with his second header, Matty Hill's attempt to head clear failing to stop it crossing the line.

It was what Simpson called "an absolutely appalling start". "There was a total lack of communication at the back," he said. "We gave ourselves a mountain to climb."

It was a mountain that looked too steep for much of the match, because, for all their territorial dominance, it took North End the best part of an hour to get back into the game. The tireless Paul McKenna began their revival with a low shot that found the corner of the net and the pressure on Stoke intensified.

David Nugent had a penalty appeal turned down when his shot hit a hand, but he immediately rose to meet an inviting cross from the substitute, Simon Whaley, and score the equaliser with a fierce downward header.

From that point, all the impetus was with Preston and their 89th-minute winner was no more than they deserved.

"In the first half we played really well and caused them lots of problems," said the Stoke manager, Tony Pulis. "The worst thing that happened to us was half-time. It killed our momentum."