Season Review 2003/2004

**As you can see this season review is from quite a while ago! I unfortunately never got round to writing reviews in the seasons since, but there will be a review t the end of this season**

The season has now drawn to a close and what a disappointment it has been – sinking from a play-off position right down to mid-table mediocrity finishing in 15th place.
Here I give my month-by-month review of the season in which I talk about the highs and lows throughout the 03/04 season. Read on!

August 03

The season began with an interesting game against West Ham at Deepdale. A goal from Eddie Lewis gave us the lead (and this was also the first goal in the Nationwide league season) but West Ham hit back with an equaliser from Jermain Defoe. Another goal from West Ham gave them the lead and the three points courtesy of David Connolly. Their second looked offside and despite a good performance from North End, we were hard done by with some bad refereeing decisions.
The first ‘disaster’ of the season came against Notts County in the Carling Cup first round – losing 7-6 on penalties after remaining goalless throughout normal time and extra time. Awful finishing played a part in another defeat against a lower league side.
This was followed by a decent 1-1 draw at Wigan but after this was a diabolical performance at home to Sunderland. The Black Cats had been on a run of defeats and were set to equal the number of defeats in a row record. It was typical that they ended their run against us!
Bad refereeing decisions also played a part in the 1-0 defeat at West Brom – Jonathan Gould harshly being sent off and Lee Hughes scoring the penalty. I was wondering whether we would ever have some luck.
Still, the month ended with our first win of the season with a 1-0 win at home to Stoke City.

September 03

Although this month saw less games it wasn’t too bad in terms of results – won 2 lost 2. Needless to say the defeats at Bradford and Walsall were disappointing but North End could feel ‘hard done by’ at Bradford as Graham Alexander was unfairly sent off. This resulted in a melee of 22 players in which Dean Windass stamped on Michael Keane’s head – the referee failing to show a red card.
The month also had two wins at home to Coventry and Rotherham respectively. Richard Cresswell also ‘broke his duck’ by netting in both games.

October 03

Again, this month wasn’t too bad in terms of results but still yielded 2 defeats – the result at Crewe the more disappointing of the two.
The month started with a great run of form – 3 wins on the trot against Forest, Wimbledon and Millwall – all 1-0 wins. North End would need to keep this up if we were to get into a play off position.
Sadly, the next game away to Reading ended in a controversial defeat. North End had conceded a penalty which Shawn Goater went up and took. The referee unfairly judged that Gould had moved off his line so ordered a re-take in which this time Goater scored.
The next game was away to Crewe at Gresty Road in which North End played poorly and eventually lost 3-2 despite a late consolation from Dickson Etuhu.
The month ended with a decent 1-1 draw at home to Ipswich – a match North End should have perhaps won. A goal from David Healy gave us a first half lead but Ipswich equalised with a second half penalty.

November 03

The month began with a decent 3-0 win over Derby County at Deepdale and ended with a 2-0 defeat to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
The month wasn’t too bad in terms of points gained – 8 points out of a possible 15 which also included a credible 0-0 draw at home to Norwich City. North End should have perhaps won the game after dominating but just couldn’t put the chances away. It was the first goalless draw since September 2002.
November ended with the feeling ‘if we could just put more of our chances away then maybe we could just string a few more wins under our belt’.

December 03

The month began in the best possibly fashion – a 4-1 home win over Crystal Palace. It was only a few weeks previously that we had drawn 1-1 at Selhurst Park! This result set the precedent for the month as we went through December unbeaten – 3 wins and 3 draws.
December also included an unforgettable 5-3 derby win over Burnley – a Ricardo Fuller hat-trick was also a great moment. Needless to say, Stan Ternent was his usual ‘bad loser’ self!
North End could have, perhaps, earned two more points this month as a goal was conceded in the last minute away to Cardiff, with the match ending 2-2. Still, at least 12 points out of a possible 18 isnt bad.
The month ended with a 0-0 draw at home to Crewe, but I was filling up with confidence as we were at last stringing a good run together. All we needed now was a couple of loan signings (perhaps to the end of the season) to keep our good run going and to cover up for any inevitable injuries.

January 04

This month started off quite well, much like the last, but ended on a sour note. The first match was a FA Cup third round tie at home to Reading. A decent performance resulted in a 3-3 draw and a replay at the Madjeski Stadium 10 days later which North End won 2-1.
The first league match of the year saw an excellent 2-1 win for the whites away at West Ham. A very important result against another team fighting for a play-off place. A goal each from Ricardo Fuller and David Healy helped us get the result we deserved after coming back from 1-0 down.
The next game was somewhat a bit of a disaster - losing 4-2 at Deepdale to pie-munching Wigan. I was beginning to have a feeling of 'here we go again with the inconsistency'.
Disaster continued in the next game away to Swansea in the FA Cup fourth round. A pathetic performance from North End saw us drop a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1. This was hard to take as it was the second year in a row that we have gone out to third division opposition. Only David Healy and Claude Davis were the ones that had creditable performances.
My thoughts after this month were that Craig Brown should really sign at least two players, either permanent or on loan, so that we had proper cover to prepare for any inevitable injuries and suspensions.

February 04

North End started this month off well with a great result at home to promotion-chasing West Brom. An excellent all-round performance saw North End win comfortably 3-0 thanks to goals from Eddie Lewis, David Healy and the penalty king Graham Alexander.
Unfortunately the West Brom game was the only game in February where we actually gained any points as the next three games all resulted in losses. This was obviously not good enough for a team with supposedly play-off aspirations.

March 04

Craig Brown really angered me with his comment that North End had 'adequate provision' when we obviously hadnt! I was constantly saying for the past 2 or 3 months how we needed at least 2 signings to cover for any injuries and suspensions. Low and behold this month saw us experience a severe injury crisis! The game with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light saw us having to pratically use some of the youngsters since we had an injury 'epidemic'. Thank you Mr Brown what great judgement you really have!
Onto results and performances, this month was just as bad as the last. It started off with a creditable win at home against Reading but the next 6 games this month saw us only pick up 3 points from a possible 18. Most Northenders had realised by now we had blown our play-off chances but not Mr Brown! He continually said we could make the play-offs despite our disgusting form and results.

April 04

Again, this month was almost as bad as the last! In fact it was probably worse if you think about the defensive performances!
The month started with a 1-0 win at home to Bradford City although the performance was very mediocre. I was beginning to get sick and tired of the recent pathetic performances. I was beginning to wonder how the heck us fans deserved to put up with this kind of crap.
It all came to a head on the 17th when we faced Derby County at Pride Park. The performance that day completely and utterly sickened me - it was absolutely disgusting and disgraceful to say the least and what made it worse was my birthday was a few days earlier and this away trip was supposed to be a birthday treat for me!! We got the result exactly what our performance deserved - a 5-1 thrashing. There was no way I wanted to experience a performance like that again and in my whole time of supporting Preston North End that was the worst performance I have ever seen.
The month ended with a 2-2 draw at home to Cardiff - a creditable result but the majority of fans had still not forgotten the nightmare performance a week previously.

May 04

Finally, the end of the season was upon us and in a way I was happy as I didnt want to carry on watching some of the donkeys that were currently inhabiting places in the squad. The final two games more or less summed up the whole season - we can play some good attacking football but the defence leaved a lot to be desired!
At least the final game, at home to Sheffield United was very entertaining for both sets of fans and of course, the neutral. A 3-3 draw was a fair result but showed where our problems lie - the defence. A massive 18 goals were conceded in the last 6 games of the season - an average of 3 goals a game.

With the season now ended work on the team was needed urgently - a complete clear-out of has-beens, injury prone players and clowns alike. Most fans were divided on manager Craig Brown - some wanted him out while others, myself included, are prepared to give him some more time so he could operate a clearout operation and bring in some fresh young blood.
Three words came into my mind at the end of the season - SORT IT OUT!