Spread the love

Home games against Preston North End have been spectacularly uneventful in the last four decades, and despite results leaning heavily in Brentford’s favour, with six wins and four draws from the last dozen Griffin Park encounters, the matches have produced little to write home about – excluding, that is, just under three seconds back in September 1999.

Brentford 2, Preston North End 2​(Saturday 25th September 1999)

“Evans from the halfway line” and “Wonder-strike at Griffin Park” were just two of the headlines that appeared in both local and national press reports after an astonishing goal lit up an otherwise mundane meeting with Preston almost 14 years ago.

Goal of the Season, Goal of the Decade, Goal of the Century – whatever tag was deemed the most appropriate, there was no doubt that Paul Evans’ strike from inside his own half was 62.1 yards and 2.7 seconds of sheer brilliance.

As the Ealing Gazette reporter reflected afterwards, “Forget David Beckham’s effort against Wimbledon – this was longer, quicker and better.”

Under the management of David Moyes, champions-elect Preston had dominated the opening 45 minutes, creating plenty of chances with their brand of attacking, flowing football and it was a breakaway that gave Brentford their goal just before the interval – Scott Partridge drilling the ball into the net after Ijah Anderson’s attempted volley had fallen to him.

A fast-becoming-characteristic blunder from Andy Woodman gifted Preston an equaliser in the 70th minute, but that proved to be the prelude to an immediate response.

… ”We had just let in a soft goal and I hit the shot out of sheer frustration,” explained Paul Evans after the game, “Their ‘keeper had encouraged me as Martin Rowlands and I had noticed him wander off his line. I said I was going to go for it but Martin gave me a funny look! Ninety-nine per cent of those shots you shank and end up with egg on your face but it was the best feeling in the world when it went in.”

Many in the crowd must have wondered what Evans was doing when he took one touch of the ball and struck it towards goal. It wasn’t a lob, it was a shot, but the flight of the ball looked as if 6’5” Finnish goalkeeper Teuvo Moilanen would comfortably pluck it out of the sky. Instead, it sailed right over his head and into the top corner.

Ron Noades simply called the goal ‘magnificent’, whilst Ray Lewington, with all the technical know-how of a man destined to become England’s national coach, explained, “To all the Sunday footballers out there, try putting the ball down in the centre-circle, with no goalkeeper in the way, and try and hit the net, let alone doing it without the ball hitting the ground and you’ll realise just what skill it takes to score such a goal. There was no fluke about it.”

On any other afternoon, Paul McKenna’s late equaliser, beating three defenders and cutting inside before finding the top corner, would have left a huge sense of disappointment at two points dropped, but as supporters filed out of the stadium at the final whistle, there was only one topic of conversation – Paul “from the halfway-line” Evans!

Mark Croxford