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PRESTON 3 MILLWALL 5
These teams met for the third time on the lively plastic pitch
at the Sports Arena, and the final result was identical to the
North End took to the field without a number of key players. Mike
Gostelow was injured due to an accident involving a litter bin
and a skinful of ale, whilst new signing Anton Cwaczko was sidelined
pending the arrival of his work permit. The imposing Andy Cooper
was missing from the defence, whilst Iain Baggley was absent after
failing to pay his mobile phone bill and getting cut off from
the English speaking world.
Assistant manager Stewart Black led his team in an extravagant
warm-up routine, which entailed eating a sausage butty and cracking
open his packet of fags.
Millwall's settled side were clear favourites to win, and got
off to a bright start, forcing Terry 'The Cat' Quinn into a couple
of reflex saves, tipping one over the bar and then getting down
smartly at his near post to claw a long-range effort away.
It was somewhat against the run of play that Preston took the
lead on 25 minutes. Speed merchant Steve BRENNAN latched
onto a Neil Higham through-ball, and after a mix-up in the visitor's
defence he rounded the keeper and slotted into an empty net.
But it was at the other end where the many press photographers
had gathered in search of goals. And five minutes later they were
rewarded when due to a similar mix-up between keeper and defenders,
the Lions equalised through a simple tap-in. Millwall were pressing
frantically at this point and took the lead shortly afterwards
when slack marking on the right and a sharp shot from the edge
of the box left The Cat exposed.
North End's attacking options had been severely limited, with
Chris Brennan making a couple of probing runs and a Mark Cassidy
effort testing the keeper.
The Cat has to leave at half-time to tend to his litter, with
right-winger Rob Cick taking over the custodian's duties.
Millwall began strongly again, and roared forward at every opportunity.
Their third goal was a well-worked move down the right and resulted
in a close-range effort being budled past the keeper.
North End looked stunned by the setback, but in a shock move they
actually won a corner. The ball was half-cleared, and from the
resulting scramble Big Gay Alan McCORMICK toe-poked the
ball into the net for his first goal since he was a cub scout.
The comeback was shortlived, as Millwall scored again with a long-range
shot wrongfooting Cick. Craig Worthington, so often the twinkle-toed
midfield maestro and darling of the Deepdale terraces, decided
he'd had enough of kicking the ball and decided to kick one of
the visitors, who decided on retribution of his own. Referee Pete
Knowles sent Worthington to the sin-bin. I am happy to report
that both players made it up afterwards.
Millwall went 5-2 up, and wasted a host of other chances during
the second half. New signing John Hunt rather foolishly decided
to put his head in front of a volleyed shot, and was that dazed
he stumbled off the pitch and was last seen wandering round Asda,
still in his football kit shouting "my ball!".
A defence-splitting pass from Andy Watt (who was showing off his
new slimline figure and a huge spot on his cheek), gave Steve
BRENNAN the opportunity to claim his second, despite looking
suspiciously offside. As the Millwall players appealed to the
linesmen, they realised that he wasn't there and had disappeared
for a dump.
In the end the Londoners fully deserved the win, and 5-3 probably
flattered the home side. But the match has shaken off the early-season
cobwebs, and the possibility of a game away to Crewe next month
has rejuvenated the team.
Man of the match: Steve Brennan