Roy Keane has suffered knocks before in the FA Cup. As a novice in the competition with Nottingham Forest in 1991, it was his misfortune to strike a misguided back-pass that led to John Salako stealing a late equaliser for Crystal Palace in a third-round replay at the City Ground. When Keane stepped into the dressing room he was floored by an admonishing punch from his manager, Brian Clough.
As a player of no little fortitude, he bounced back from his bruising introduction to help Forest to the final that season and lifted the FA Cup four times with Manchester United. On his baptism in the competition as a manager yesterday, though, there was no recovering from the double blow his side suffered before half-time at Deepdale.
Conceding a goal to Brett Ormerod and then losing Liam Miller for a second bookable offence was a cruel one-two for Sunderland to take after dominating for half an hour. It added up to a third-round knockout for the Black Cats and their fledgling manager.
"That's football," Keane said. "It can be a cruel game and it's been cruel to us today." It was kind to Paul Simpson and to Preston. A semi-finalist as a Wolves player in 1998, the North End manager enjoyed a third win of the season against Keane's side - Preston's first in eight FA Cup encounters with Sunderland.
In both Championship fixtures - a 4-1 win at Deepdale in October and a 1-0 success at the Stadium of Light eight days ago - Simpson's settled line-up had the better of the game. It was different yesterday, even though Keane continued to tinker with his ever-changing team-sheet, one of three alterations bringing Jonny Evans into the centre of defence for his debut on loan from Manchester United.
Sunderland dictated the opening quarter with some crisp, high-tempo play. The problem for Keane's Black Cats was getting their claws dug in where it mattered most. For all their enterprise, they forced just the one save - and that from a tame Miller shot - before Preston sparked to attacking life in the 24th minute.
Ormerod chipped woefully wide on that occasion but the one-time Saint atoned for his sin seven minutes later. Put clear by Callum Davidson, he rounded Darren Ward before curling a low shot into the net.
Worse was to follow for Sunderland when David Nugent got his first run at the Sunderland defence. Miller managed to stop the in-form striker but only with the use of his arms. Having already been booked, the midfielder was shown red.
Still, with Dwight Yorke and the debutant Carlos Edwards summoned from the bench, Keane's depleted side fought valiantly against the odds in the second half. Ward did make a fine save from Nugent, and Ormerod spurned another clear opportunity, but Sunderland again forced the play.
The industrious David Connolly led the fightback from the front, having three shots deflected wide and twice forcing saves. Ultimately, however, Keane's first experience of the FA Cup as a manager was no different to his last as a player. The losing captain in the penalty shoot-out that decided the 2005 final, he was a beaten man again.Reuse content