The day we crowned Arthur

Things were good for the Clarets; we were top of the league, although a couple of the players had been shunted out on loan. Just a week before the trip to Deepdale we were all shocked when news broke that Paul Cook had gone to Wigan on loan, whilst three days ahead of the game Andy Payton joined Blackpool for a month.

On the same day that Payts went tangerine, two of our players signed contract extensions and that meant Glen Little would remain a Claret until the end of the 2003/04 season and Arthur Gnohere a year beyond that. If we needed a further boost, Stan Ternent admitted that Bradford City's Robbie Blake was a player he would very much like to sign.

Arthur Gnohere gives the Clarets a 1-0 lead

There were no tickets left for Burnley fans, over 5,500 of us made the short trip west along the M65 to take on a Preston side who were themselves doing well and were in the play off places ahead of the game.

Gareth Taylor was available again after suspension but we opted to play without him and started with the 4-5-1 formation that had served us so well at Palace the week before, but we didn't get off to the brightest of starts and Preston took control right across the pitch in the opening exchanges.

Nik Michopoulos saved well from David Healy in their first attack but we were very much on the back foot and needed something to get us into the game, and there's nothing better than a goal. We won ourselves a free kick and when Lee Briscoe swung it into the box there was Arthur Gnohere to celebrate his new contract by poking the ball past Lucas in the Preston goal.

The Shankly Stand erupted and what a change that made to the game. Suddenly it was all Burnley and within eight minutes we'd doubled the lead with a superb finish. A bad mistake by Lee Cartwright presented Glen with the ball and from outside the box he curled it into the corner of the net with the outside of his right foot.

It was a brilliant finish, the Burnley fans sensing another away win were on their feet. “Dingle Bells, Dingle Bells, Dingles all the way,” the sang but we were soon to be rocked back as the home side fought their way back into the game to draw level.

The first of them followed a mistake by Nik the Greek when he came and failed to hold a cross which presented Paul McKenna with a shooting chance, but the second owed everything to the incompetence of one of the worst referees around at the time, Roy Pearson.

Pearson was fine when he refereed your home games, he was so one sided I think he might well have instigated the term ‘homer'. After yellow carding Nik for handling the ball outside his penalty box, when in fact it was well inside, he then pointed to the spot when Healy went down under a challenge from Graham Branch. Branchy had played the ball but it mattered not, and we always concede a dubious penalty against North End. Alexander got his annual penalty against us and with four minutes to go to half time the scores were level.

The faces were more subdued in the away end now but within a minute we were almost back in front and I don't think any of us can still believe we weren't. Alan Moore, who was in inspired form, chipped Lucas from distance but the young keeper just about got a fingertip to it to push it onto the bar. That only succeeded in putting the ball onto Ian Moore's head about a yard or two from goal, but amazingly he managed to head it in the wrong direction and allowed the keeper to save.

2-2 at half time, it had been breathtaking stuff, but disappointing after being two up. Things could have been worse too in the early stages of the second half as Nik saved superbly from Healy within seconds of the restart and then kept out a Jonathan Macken effort.

Gareth Taylor & Ian Moore celebrate with Arthur after the winner
But cometh the hour, cometh the man. Arthur had scored his first Burnley goal in the first half to give us the lead, and he did it again just past the hour, and this time it was a stunning goal right in front of the massive Burnley support.

I'm not sure what Arthur was doing up there but he collected the ball from a throw and played it into Alan Moore on the edge of the box. He continued is run and when Moore played a delightful back heel that beat three defenders there was Arthur to slot the ball home. It was one of those very special goals and the whole stand just lifted as one to salute the new King.

Preston never seriously threatened to draw level again, they lost their cool somewhat and Colin Murdock was a very lucky man to stay on the field following two shocking challenges on Ian Moore and then Glen.

That wasn't referee Pearson's curtain call though, in stoppage time Gareth Taylor, on as a substitute, scored a fourth goal for Burnley after he got past Lucketti to lob the keeper. Incredibly it was ruled out for a foul that no one else on the ground saw. You could say it didn't matter, we still won the game 3-2, but try adding that goal on at the end of the season, I think it might just have mattered a great deal.

But at the time we were too busy celebrating a fifth successive victory, and one that had moved us four points clear of Wolves at the top of the league, and once again we'd quietened them and their Dingle chants.

The teams were;

Preston North End: David Lucas, Graham Alexander, Colin Murdock, Chris Lucketti, Rob Edwards, Lee Cartwright (Iain Anderson 82), Sean Gregan, Paul McKenna, David Healy, Richard Cresswell (Steve Basham 10), Jonathan Macken. Subs not used: Michael Keane, Adam Eaton, Andy Lonergan.

Burnley: Nik Michopoulos, Dean West, Ian Cox, Arthur Gnohere, Lee Briscoe, Graham Branch (Gareth Taylor 59), Glen Little (Paul Weller 84), Kevin Ball, Lee Briscoe, Tony Grant, Alan Moore (Lenny Johnrose 85), Ian Moore, Subs not used: Luigi Cennamo, Dimitri Papadopoulos.

Referee: Roy Pearson (Peterlee).

Attendance: 20,370.