Date:Thursday April 30 2009
Preston North End striker Neil Mellor has been outlined as the One to Watch ahead of the final clash of the season at Deepdale.
The former Liverpool front man has been one of the main reasons behind the Lilywhites` end of season revival, which has seen them in with a shout of a playoff place on the final day.
Son of the former Manchester City and Brighton & Hove Albion player Ian Mellor, Neil started his career at one of the foremost clubs in the country, Liverpool.
He impressed coming up through the ranks at Anfield, scoring a total of 46 goals for both reserves and youth sides during the 2001-02 season. His time in Joe Corrigan`s reserve side prompted manager Gérard Houllier to blood the youngster in the first team.
He made his debut in a League Cup draw at home to Ipswich Town, starting the game before being replaced by Czech striker Milan Baroš with just under 15 minutes remaining. The reds went on to win the game on penalties after El Hadji Diouf had equalised Tommy Miller`s strike from the penalty spot.
Mellor made three further appearances in the Premier League and scored his first goal in a surprise League Cup defeat away at Sheffield United. The young striker had handed the visitors the lead but two goals from Michael Tonge gave the Blades the win.
After a positive spell in the Liverpool side, recently relegated West Ham United came calling with great controversy surrounding his signature. The Hammers team coach picked him up on the motorway as they travelled to Preston on the opening day of the season, and despite their brief encounter manager Glenn Roeder selected him over David Connolly.
It was the former Wimbledon man who would have the last laugh as he came off to replace Mellor and score the winning goal for the Hammers.
Mellor`s only goals for the East London outfit came at home to rivals Crystal Palace. His brace helped the Hammers to a 3-0 victory over the Eagles. He returned back to Liverpool not long after the turn of the year with the forward unsettled at Upton Park.
The striker returned to Liverpool and hit an impressive ten goals in four games for the second string, keeping him very much in the thoughts. However a persistent knee injury scuppered his progress at Anfield and he finally broke back into the side that defeated Millwall 3-0 in the League Cup.
The striker was still little-known comparatively speaking, but what was to happen just weeks later would shoot propel him to world-wide fame. A stunning last minute winner against Arsenal (below) secured all three points for Liverpool over one of their nearest rivals.
His goal scoring exploits extended into one of the more exciting Champions League games in recent memory as he handed a lead to the reds at Anfield requiring only one goal to secure an unlikely turn-around against Olympiacos. Step forward Steven Gerrard to thunder home a last-minute winner prompting elation from the Kop end and commentator Andy Gray to lose his head for a few moments.
The last of a trio of strikes for the season came once again at Anfield against Newcastle United, he bagged Liverpool`s second in a 3-1 victory over Newcastle United. That was his last action of the season as surgery on both knees brought a premature end to the campaign.
He returned to action in January 2006 as Wigan came calling in a short-term loan deal. Mellor scored a debut goal for the Latics in the final minute of the match as Wigan defeated Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.
With opportunity hard to come by at Liverpool as the 2006-07 season got underway, Mellor opted to make the permanent switch down to Championship level for Preston North End on an undisclosed fee. The striker was forced to wait for his debut as his injury woes put pay to the first part of the campaign.
Eventually he made seven appearances after the turn of the year, scoring a solitary goal at Deepdale against Southampton - in that game he was replaced by now Rangers forward Patrick Agyemang.
Finally Mellor got a consistent run in the first team in the 2007-08 season scoring ten goals in total for the season. New boss Alan Irvine helped the former Liverpool man rediscover some of his form as he bagged a goal against QPR at Loftus Road before it was doubled by loanee Tamas Priskin.
Rangers struck back in an amazing finale to the game, with first Gareth Ainsworth and then Dexter Blackstock scoring two last minute goals to condemn the Lilywhites to mere point in W12.
Mellor has already scored 12 goals this season with three goals in his last three games. Most recently he was in deadly form to hit a brace against an appalling Cardiff City side, as the Bluebirds went down 6-0 at Deepdale - an indication of the deadly threat that the Lilywhites possess.
Date:Thursday April 30 2009
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