Swansea City, of the Third Division, went some way towards expunging a painful memory for their manager, Brian Flynn, by bringing off one of the upsets of the fourth round yesterday.
Two goals in the space of two minutes in the final 10 enabled Swansea to turn the match upside down, winning a place in the fifth round for the first time in 24 years. Preston had gone in front and appeared to have their measure but top scorer Lee Trundle's 20th goal of the season dealt the killer blow to Craig Brown's First Division promotion hopefuls.
It was sweet revenge of sorts for Flynn, who had been a Swansea-supporting schoolboy left shattered after Preston had denied his heroes a trip to Wembley by winning at Villa Park 40 years ago. Trundle, too, had a score to settle, having been rejected by Preston as a teenager.
Swansea and Preston had both been in the old Second Division when they met in the semi-finals in 1964 but 50 League places divide them now, which made yesterday's result all the more satisfying for Flynn. "I can't really call it revenge after all these years but I do remember how everyone thought we were going to be the first Welsh team to go to Wembley since Cardiff in 1927," he said. "We wanted to make it a great Cup tie today and we have had a fairytale ending."
Swansea had early chances but Preston responded well. Roger Freestone, in the Swansea goal, tipped David Healy's volley over the bar, then Brad Maylett headed off the line from Dickson Etuhu.
Preston missed the inspirational qualities of their captain, Chris Lucketti, and the striker Richard Cresswell, who had felt unwell during the warm-up, but took the lead nonetheless 13 minutes into the second half. Having had one escape when Ricardo Fuller fired over, Swansea were not spared when Preston won a corner on the left, paying the price for slack defending as Healy crossed to the near post and Etuhu headed home virtually unchallenged.
It seemed within Preston's capacity to absorb all that Swansea threw at them but they were hit with two goals in as many minutes as the Welsh side, who had not been able seriously to threaten an equaliser in 20 minutes of trying, dramatically turned the tie on its head.
First, Andy Robinson found the top left-hand corner with a beautifully flighted free-kick from 25 yards and scarcely had celebrations for that goal died in the throats of the home crowd when they were in full voice again as Trundle, by that time nursing a fractured cheekbone from a first-half collision, snatched the winner.
This time it was Preston whose marking was poor, Trundle having time to chest the ball down before firing past Jonathan Gould after the substitute James Thomas had headed down Michael Howard's cross.
"Swansea deserve all the credit but the defenders gave Trundle so much time I could have run on from the dug-out and scored," a disappointed Craig Brown lamented.
Swansea City 2
Robinson 80, Trundle 82
Preseton North End 1
Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 10,200Reuse content