Former PNE man will be back on home turf

Paul Raynor (left) with Steve Evans

Paul Raynor (left) with Steve Evans

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There will be a sense of irony in seeing Paul Raynor in Deepdale’s away dugout when Preston North End face Rotherham in Saturday’s play-off first leg.

Raynor, No.2 to Millers boss Steve Evans, featured for North End in one of their most memorable play-off occasions.

He was PNE’s semi-final matchwinner against Torquay in May 1994, in the last ever game on the plastic pitch.

The contest had gone into extra time after the 90 minutes had produced a 3-1 victory for North End.

That had brought the scores level following Torquay’s 2-0 win in the first leg at Plainmoor four days earlier.

In the 116th minute – and with the tie going the visitors’ way by reason of the away goal they had scored – Andy Fensome swung over a cross from the right which Raynor met with a diving header.

All four of PNE’s goals that night came from headers, Tony Ellis, David Moyes and Stuart Hicks having netted in such a manner.

Raynor’s goal sent the fans wild, the Lilywhites hanging on to their lead to book a Wembley date with Wycombe.

The celebrations at the final whistle saw supporters spill on to the pitch and start cutting up rolls of the artificial turf as a souvenir of the plastic era.

In the final, Raynor scored Preston’s second goal in a 4-2 defeat, glancing home an Ellis cross.

He was involved in a second PNE play-off campaign the following season, one which started and finished at the semi-final stage.

North End were beaten 1-0 in both legs by Bury, Raynor starting both games.

Raynor’s boots have long since been hung up, and he has worked for a number of years at Evans’ side, the association starting at Boston United and then moving on to Crawley Town.

Two years ago, the pair left Crawley just before the West Sussex club’s promotion to League One, in order to join Rotherham.

Recalling his two-year stay at PNE, Raynor said: “I had a fantastic time at Preston as a player and have some great memories, including the 
play-offs at Deepdale.

“Preston are a very big club for League One and have a superb support.

“But what comes with that is a huge expectation for them to win promotion to the Championship via these play-offs.”

Raynor and Evans are an animated pair on the touchline, so expect sparks in the two semi-final ties.

Rotherham’s build-up to the visit to Lancashire will not be anything out of the ordinary, according to manager Evans.

The Scotsman said: “I don’t see why we should treat this week any differently.

“We’ll do our usual preparations and the lads will do what they’ve done all season – work hard at their training and keep relaxed.”

Evans added: “I had a funny feeling we might end up with Preston and there’s no doubt that everybody will have them down as favourites.

“That’s no surprise. It’s a terrific club with great support and Paul Raynor will tell you what a great club it is.

“But it would have been tough whoever we had got. I’ve every confidence in these players.”