Crystal Palace 0 Preston NE 2: Nugent to the fore as Preston enjoy action replay

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Managers may change at Selhurst Park but there was some consistency of Cup outcomes when, before a crowd of only 8,422, Palace were dismissed by Preston for the second successive season.

Peter Taylor's decision to quit as the England Under-21 manager to concentrate on his duties at Crystal Palace was no surprise. Palace could not have been happy about his divided time. And Taylor himself knew that the club might have been better placed in the Championship if he had not occasionally left them for international duty.

His undivided attention since December had led to Palace's seven-match unbeaten League and Cup run that sent them into this tie with confidence. That self-assurance seemed to manifest itself in their approach to an occasion that apparently held little interest for their fans. Three-quarters of the ground was empty but Palace began as if somehow spurred by their solitude. They rode some luck. The burly but much slimmed Michael Ricketts, making his first full appearance for Preston, thrashed a shot close. He also headed off his own line from a good header by Mark Hudson.

Palace then more or less took squatter's rights in the Preston half. Not that they made a lot of it. Ricketts, with a lot to prove after a prematurely descending career following his one cap for England, was energetic, coming back into defence when Preston were under pressure.

Defensive incompetence by Palace negated all of their first-half superiority. Taylor said: "Maybe I said 'well done' at half-time too often." In the first minute of the second half Darren Ward failed to chase a loose ball, allowing David Nugent to gather it. Without doubt Nugent's pace as he moved in was impressive, but Hudson was easily avoided and none of the other defenders backed up quickly enough. Nugent - ironically, one of Taylor's Under-21 squad - finished with a superb drive inside the far post. Preston's manager, Paul Simpson, said: "That gave us a huge lift after a horrible first half."

That goal brought some Cup atmosphere. Palace's Carl Fletcher struck a 20-yard drive that Andy Lonergan eased round the post, but it was Preston who had come alive, with more purpose and a higher work rate.

Taylor sent on Dougie Freedman in the hope of changing his team's fortunes. His midfielders had to get forward as well. But that left the side vulnerable to the counter-attack. Preston liked that. Another defensive error, in the 83rd minute, ended Palace's Cup journey for another season. Lewis Neal's corner was badly mishandled by the Palace goalkeeper, Scott Flinders. The ball fell to Kelvin Wilson whose shot from six yards was deflected in off Hudson's leg.

Comments