Nicholson downs Eagles
Barry Nicholson struck against Crystal Palace to maintain Preston's impressive start to the campaign.
Last Updated: 16/08/08 5:56pm
Barry Nicholson struck against Crystal Palace to maintain Preston's impressive start to their Coca-Cola Championship campaign.
Former Aberdeen midfielder Nicholson - who joined North End on a free transfer in July - struck with a low shot in the 58th minute after Callum Davidson's cross caused panic in the Eagles defence.
Fellow midfielder Richard Chaplow added a second in the closing stages to seal Preston's third win of the season in all competitions.
The strikes were no more than North End deserved but visiting boss Neil Warnock could not contain his anger in the 63rd minute when James Scowcroft looked to have been pushed in the back by home goalkeeper Andy Lonergan.
Referee Keith Woolmer ignored the vehement visiting claims for a penalty - much to Warnock's disgust, whose pain was compounded by Chaplow's injury-time clincher.
The result only added to the feelgood factor which Alan Irvine has engendered at the club since he quit his post as Everton assistant manager and took the helm at Deepdale last November.
The game began and ended in celebration as the redevelopment of English football's oldest Football League stadium saw club legend Sir Tom Finney, 86, cut the ribbon to open the new Invincibles Pavilion.
The 4,000-seater stand, running down one side of the ground, marked the completion of a 12-year project which has redeveloped the Lancashire outfit's home at a cost of more than £20million.
Yet for all the pre-match hype, Preston created precious few genuine goalscoring opportunities in the first half.
The first arrived in the 12th minute when a corner from the right saw Julian Speroni's fine reflex save from a powerful header land at the feet of Sean St Ledger 12 yards from goal.
The Preston centre-back thrashed a fierce shot goalwards but could only watch in agony as Palace defender Danny Butterfield hacked the ball off the line.
Eagles left-back Clint Hill was then shown a yellow card in the 27th minute for cynically hacking down Chaplow as he threatened to scamper clear down the right flank.
That sparked a brief flurry of home pressure which saw Chris Sedgwick slice a volley wide at the far post and Simon Whaley fire narrowly over the crossbar from 20 yards.
Palace finally emerged as an attacking force eight minutes before the break when Lee Hills produced a piece of clever footwork and a fierce shot which forced Lonergan into a smart parried save.
Hills was denied again by Lonergan in first-half injury-time when his low left-foot shot from six yards was cleared for a corner.
Preston stepped up a gear after the break and were rewarded shortly before the hour mark when left-back Callum Davidson reached the byline and whipped in a fine lofted cross.
Neil Mellor fired goalwards and although his effort was blocked, Nicholson stepped up to smash a low right-foot shot into the net from 12 yards.
Chaplow further buried his links with Lancashire rivals Burnley by clinically dispatching a low diagonal right-foot shot into the corner from eight yards to send Deepdale into raptures.