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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

FA Cup: Preston/Forest Histories

As part of our build-up to Saturday's FA Cup third round clash between Preston North End and Nottingham Forest, Nobes reflects on the two sides and their rich history in the competition.

Preston's second FA Cup triumph was a revenge mission over Huddersfield

I don't think I'd be sticking my neck out too far to suggest that neither Preston North End or Nottingham Forest will,
this year, become the first team outside the top division since 1980 to win the FA Cup.

Indeed, it's hard to imagine either having a shot of winning the old trophy even if they were in the top flight next season - a prospect distinctly more likely for Forest than North End.

It's a sad reality that some of the smaller clubs in the higher divisions will probably never again win the Cup. However, once upon a time, both Forest and North End enjoyed moments of glory in the competition.

Preston made their first of seven appearances in the final all the way back in 1888. During their run, they defeated Hyde 26-0, a record in the competition which still stands today.

So confident of emerging victorious against West Bromwich Albion in the final, the North End players even asked to be photographed with the trophy before the game kicked off, when they wouldn't be so muddy.

Pride came before a fall though, as West Brom emerged 2-1 victors in front of 19,000 at the Oval - which was the regular venue for the occasion back then.

A year later, and PNE - newly crowned unbeaten Champions of the Football League, were back to try and make amends. In their way they faced opposition from the Black Country again in the form of Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The Invincibles team didn't make the same mistake twice, and a 3-0 victory saw Preston become the first ever side to win the FA Cup and League double.

Their triumph had been the brainchild of ambitious chairman and manager, Major William Suddell, whose team won 18 of their 22 league games and didn't concede a goal throughout their entire FA Cup campaign.

North End would have to wait all the way until 1922 until their next appearance in the final though.

There they faced Huddersfield Town, in a match which has become a strong candidate for the worst final ever. Played at Stamford Bridge, it ended 1-0 to Town thanks to a controversial penalty.

It was the first time a spot kick had won the trophy, although the ref appeared to award the penalty for a foul which had occurred just outside, rather than in, the 18-yard box.

Fifteen years later, and Preston made their fourth final - and first at Wembley stadium. Over 93,000 were there to see Sunderland come from behind to win 3-1 and be presented with the trophy by the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth - wife of George VI.

Just as in the last century though, North End bounced back from a defeat in the final to win the next one. In an ironic twist, their opponents were Huddersfield, who had beaten them in the '22 final.

This time, it was Preston who were on the winning side, thanks to a penalty of their own in the dying seconds of extra time. It was the first time a Wembley final had been decided from 12 yards - and North End had exacted their revenge.

The '38 final was also the first to be shown live on BBC Television with an estimated viewing audience of 10,000 added to the 93,497 spectators at the national stadium.

PNE made two more final appearances after the Second World War, but ended up on the losing side on both occasions. The first was in 1954, when their conquerors in 1888, West Brom, returned to haunt them.

North End had been 2-1 up with less than half an hour to play, but the Baggies staged a late comeback and with three minutes left on the clock scored what proved to be the winner at 3-2.

Ten years later, and it was the same scoreline as Second Division North End saw West Ham United come from behind to beat them. Little did Preston fans know at the time that, nearly 50 years on, they'd still be waiting for another final appearance.

Forest captain Jack Burkitt holds the trophy aloft after their 1959 success

Nottingham Forest, like Preston, are also twice winners of the FA Cup. However, they have only appeared in the final on three occasions.

Their first appearance - and victory - came in a memorable 1898 final against bitter East Midlands rivals Derby County.

Forest were the underdogs going into the game, having been beaten 5-0 by the Rams in a league fixture just a few days before the final. However, on the day, they were the better side.

Over 60,000 at Crystal Palace saw Forest run out 3-1 winners to secure their first major honour.

It wasn't until 1959 that they made the final again. However, once again on the big stage, Forest rose to the occasion to make it two triumphs out of two.

Their 2-1 win over Luton Town at Wembley was also notable as they became the first ever side to win the Cup despite being down to ten men.

Forest had raced into an early 2-0 lead, but then suffered a blow as winger Roy Dwight - the uncle of Reginald Dwight AKA Elton John - broke a leg and was stretchered off.

With no substitutes being used at the time, Forest had to battle on with a numerical disadvantage. They restricted Luton to just one goal back though to win the match officiated by one Mr J. Clough.

There was a different Clough, and no relation to the ref in '59, involved in Forest's third and final FA Cup appearance in 1991.

The inimitable Brian had transformed the East Midlands outfit into English League Champions and twice European Cup winners during his time at the City Ground.

He had also taken them to four League Cup triumphs, and the '91 FA Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur was the chance to add the missing piece to his managerial honours jigsaw.

Things couldn't have got off to a much better start, with Stuart Pearce's free kick giving Clough's side a 1-0 lead. Then, Forest keeper Mark Crossley became only the second keeper to save a penalty in the final when he kept out Gary Lineker's spot kick.

It saw Forest go into the break ahead, but Paul Stewart drew Spurs level ten minutes after the interval. The match went into extra time, where an own goal by Des Walker proved to be the winner for Tottenham.

Clough was never to win the FA Cup, and Forest had suffered their first heartbreak in the final. In truth, they have never reached the same heights in the almost 20 years since.

For one of Preston and Forest though, a place in the Fourth Round awaits - and a trip to Wembley in the final potentially only four games away. Well, I say "only"...

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