Preston always seems to come in a tough week

Kevin Ball - a rare goal in the 3-0 win in 2001
For the first four seasons we met in the old Second Division and Preston had the upper hand at the Turf with three wins and a draw in the league games but there has been a turnaround since we both won promotion in 2000.

In March of that promotion season they came and beat us 3-0 and that was their last victory at Burnley. Since then we have won four and drawn one of the home games in this division against them.

The first of those encounters came at what was something of a bad time for us. Preston were riding high in the league but we were still smarting from a heavy defeat five days earlier at a ground situated around half way between Turf Moor and Deepdale.

There was little confidence going into the ground although Kevin Ball had promised to win it for the fans. Bally was right and we turned in one of our best performances of the season to quieten the visiting fans who had discovered a new word ‘Dingle’ which they aimed at us throughout the evening.

“3-0 to the Dingles” was the headline for my first ever home report for Clarets Mad. Within three minutes we had gone in front against the small town near Blackpool as Glen Little went on a superb run and crossed for Ian Moore to turn in.

It was just the start we needed and Preston struggled to make any impact against a resurgent Burnley, so much so it came as no surprise when we doubled the lead. The only surprise was the scorer, none other than Kevin Ball with his first Burnley goal.

It was game over and although Preston had much of the possession in the second half it was man of the match Glen Little who completed the scoring as he latched onto a ricochet following a Paul Cook cross.

A year later and the Sky cameras were back at the Turf to see the result go the same way. Preston had just lost David Moyes whilst Burnley had new loan signing David Johnson in the side for the first time whilst Paul Gascoigne was paraded on the Turf Moor pitch before kick off.

We even had a real life Dingle on the pitch at half time, a streaker tackled by a bee in the second half and a first half performance that simply blew Preston away. Again it was Moore who gave us the lead after Johnson forced goalkeeper Lucas into a bad mistake, but it was a superb finish by Moore.

They couldn’t handle Johnson and it was he who scored the second as he worked a free kick with Alan Moore before running through to finish. He could have had a hat trick by half time, they simply couldn’t handle him.

Highlight from our 2002 win
The second half was nothing like the same and they pulled a goal back through Iain Anderson and although we weren’t hanging on, the win wasn’t as comfortable as it should have been.

A year on, to 2003 and it couldn’t have come at a more difficult time. It was the fifth of five consecutive home games and we’d picked up just a point from the first four of them. Worse still, just three days earlier Watford had been and scored seven in that ridiculous 7-4 throw one in game.

Just as in 2001, pride needed to be restored, and it was. Stan Ternent sprung a surprise by leaving out Marlon Beresford, a decision that was well received after the Watford game, and an even bigger surprise by moving Graham Branch to centre half with Steve Davis going into the midfield.

Again Preston were very much in form but we took the game to them from the off and never let them settle on the ball. We battled for everything in a very tight first half but just as it looked as though we would go in level at half time, we went in front.

It all started with an awful cross from Dean West, but Lee Briscoe got to it on the other side and crossed for Davis to get in a superb header. Lucas saved it but it dropped for Dimitri Papadopoulos. We all thought he was going to cross but from the tightest of angles he hit it home off the far post.

Preston manager Craig Brown stormed over to the referee at half time, well his side had gone behind and he was looking for excuses. He had none, and he was to have none in the second half either. They tried to get at us but failed to create anything and Robbie Blake completed the scoring with our second. And not for the last time he hit Preston with a free kick from over thirty yards.

So in three seasons it was 3-0, 2-1 and 2-0 but we failed to make it four out of four in 2003/04 season but that was mainly down to the cheating of Ricardo Fuller and the total incompetence of referee David Pugh, an official who thankfully is no longer with us.

Blake gave us the lead after Glen Little latched onto a bad mistake in the Preston defence. Glen set up Robbie who gave keeper Lonergan no chance. It lifted the injury depleted Clarets who on more than one occasion had strong claims for penalties.

That’s something Preston never had but incredibly Pugh pointed to the spot after the devout diving Fuller went down in the box with no one within touching distance of him. Needless to say Alexander stepped up to score from the spot and the game ended 1-1.

Robbie Blake - ensured we would always remember his last home appearance
The good news at the end was that Fuller, who was trying to take the micky, got himself sent off after his arm went into Glen’s face, the third time he could have been sent off in the game.

But it was just a point for the Clarets, Weary Whinger Craig Brown whinged and we went off on a trip to Spain to prepare for an away game at Coventry, and I’m sure you don’t want to know about that.

That just leaves last season and the game that will always have the name Robbie Blake stamped on it. It was his last home game for the Clarets before his move to Birmingham and what an impact.

We won it 2-0, he got both, the second coming in the second half following a mistake by Lucketti. It was a good finish by Robbie but nothing compared to the one that gave us the lead just before half time.

We always seem to play them when things aren’t running so smoothly. The 5-0 defeat down the road, the 7-4 farce against Watford and now all the talk of Wigan and Robbie. But he certainly didn’t let it get to him and now to that first goal.

We won a free kick just before half time some 35 yards from goal, a free kick that needless to say Billy Davies (the apprentice whinger) contested. It was too far out for Robbie to shoot, I told my brother as much when he suggested a shot.

Robbie did shoot and it is a goal that I watch and watch again. He hit the free kick with such power that it was still rising at some pace when it hit the net. I’m not sure Ward in the Preston goal had even moved. It was his 50th goal for the Clarets but sadly there was to be just one more.

A year on and it is almost the same scenario, the transfer speculation is still surrounding our leading scorer. This time it is Ade Akinbiyi who cannot do much about it on Saturday as he sits the game out with a one match ban. But Preston are here again at what could be considered not the best time for Burnley, and that’s not bothered us in recent seasons.