I uhmmed and ahhed over writing about this game, played just before the international break, but decided that ahead of North End's game against Newcastle tonight I'd drop a quick word about it.
I first started taking an interest in Preston North End in 1996 while at University in the town (it has since been made a city) for a year I was actually living in spitting distance of Deepdale in the lattice of terraced houses next to Moor Park which all had street names after saints.
What appealed to me was that the ground still boasted a healthy terraced stand, which made it far easier to enjoy the footballing experience regardless of the quality of the football being played. But it was pretty good football at the time - they had just been promoted to the third tier and within a couple of season would be promoted again. But I'm sure most Fulham fans remember North End around this time as they were doing much the same thing. In fact I remember a bunch of my friends going watching PNE at Craven Cottage in the second tier and celebrating stealing a win with a goal direct from the corner. Despite this setback, Fulham cruised to the title with 101 points while North End went to the play-off final against Bolton, which has the odd distinction of being the first match to reduce me to tears. North End lost 3-0 that day, although it was an incredibly harsh scoreline. I still marvel how Bolton are still in the Premier league to this day. A few years later and West Ham would do the same, with Bobby 'bastard' Zamora of all people scoring the winner.
Anyway Preston are an unusual side in that I've now seen them away from home more often than at Deepdale. I was totting it up at this game and I've seen at least 25 'away' matches for Preston, mainly London matches but incorporating Brighton, Reading and Colchester. And of course Cardiff. Twice. Every time I count I remember more.
This game has to be up there with the worst though. North End have never been good travellers, but this was a clueless, insipid performance and Watford could have humiliated the team if they had continued. Both goals came from laughable defensive efforts from PNE who were badly lacking the leadership shown by Sean St Ledger (off to Boro) and previous captain Paul McKenna (gone to Forest).
I was also surprised to hear the fans slagging off manager Alan Irvine, who I thought had done a sterling job in turning North End away from relegation and then reaching the play-offs. It's not as if PNE are doing poorly. They are in the top half, just three points from the play off from the play offs. Irvine's problem is that his team started the season strongly and have now dropped away. Switch that around and the fans tend to be much happier. If you can keep hold of your job for the downturn.