Joe Garner lived up to Port Vale’s pantomime villain tag as he bagged a double to seal victory at Deepdale for Preston North End against his old foes.
The striker latched on to a Lee Holmes cross in the 43rd minute for his first goal that helped Preston start 2014 with a bang.
Garner was booed and jeered by Port Vale’s travelling support for his role in the mistaken identity debacle at Vale Park back in November.
“The Jakal” controversially scored both goals in PNE’s 10 man, 2-0 victory but earned a three-match retrospective ban after video evidence eluded that he was at the centre of the off the ball incident that led to Neil Kilkenny’s red card.
But Garner had the last laugh as time seemed to stop as he coolly slotted away North End’s third goal in a blockbuster 3-2 victory.
Port Vale staged a fight-back in the last ten minutes, but despite eight shots in the closing stages the visitors could not net the illusive equaliser.
PNE manager Simon Grayson made four changes to the side that beat Shrewsbury 1-0 on Sunday.
Grayson brought super-sub Iain Hume back into the starting XI for the Lilywhites’ first match of 2014 at Deepdale.
Jack King returned in place of the suspended Paul Huntington, who picked up his fifth yellow card of the season against the Shrews.
Paul Gallagher came back into the side and Lee Holmes made his first start since November as Josh Brownhill, Kevin Davies and Chris Humphrey moved to the bench.
Prior to kick-off North End announced the signing of 18-year-old Alan Browne from Cork City.
The returning duo of Hume and Holmes made an immediate impact. Linking up in the second minute as Hume’s header found Holmes in space. But the winger blazed a curling shot over the bar.
Gallagher won a free-kick on the left-hand side in the fourth minute. The Scot picked himself up off the ground to take the set-piece and his teasing shot evaded every PNE player in a packed penalty box but swerved to force Port Vale keeper Sam Johnson into a good save.
Louis Dodds beat the off-side trap and ran through on goal in the tenth minute but the Port Vale fan’s jubilant cheers were in vain as Dodds failed to test PNE keeper Declan Rudd.
Canada international Hume was ruled off-side in the 22nd minute, luckily for the striker as he missed a golden opportunity.
Gallagher had space on the edge of the penalty area just minutes later, but the loanee hit the ball wide of the left-hand post.
In the 30th minute Garner had an effort deflected out for a corner. Gallagher pounced on the loose ball from the resulting set-piece, but his curling shot flew inches over the bar.
Just seconds later Garner was back in the action as headed the ball down into the ground and wide of goal from six-yards out.
Gavin Tomlin broke away from Jack King and Bailey Wright and rattled the cross bar for Vale in the 38th minute. His fierce shot beat a diving Rudd but rebounded back out into play.
In the 40th minute Gallagher received a yellow-card for simulation as referee Mark Heywood waved away a PNE penalty appeal.
But on the brink of half-time Garner headed the host’s ahead after breaking free and powerfully connecting with a Lee Holmes cross from the right-hand side.
North End started the second half brightly as Hume’s header grazed the far post in the 46th minute after some good work from Holmes.
And Gallagher hit a screamer in the 49th minute as Preston seized the initiative and doubled their lead, the returning Scotsman’s sublime goal was the highlight of a dominant period of pressure for North End.
Up at the other end Tom Pope missed an opportunity to pull a goal back for Vale.
As Gallagher dispossessed Carl Dickinson on the edge of the penalty box in the 55th minute. But he hit the ball wide of the left-hand post.
Hume hit a great crossfield ball to Gallagher who pushed forward in the 59th minute, but they could not complete the one-two as Gallagher’s teasing ball just evaded the goal bound run of Hume.
Hume’s header was saved well by Vale keeper Johnson, but Gallagher squared the ball back into the middle and Garner composed himself to capitalise on some week Vale defending to calmly slot away Preston’s third in the 61st minute.
Just minutes later a hungry Hume nearly netted the fourth and in the 77th minute a Gallagher free kick was tipped wide by Johnson.
But Port Vale pulled a goal back seconds later as Gavin Tomlin sent a powerful header past Rudd thanks to some good work from inspired substitute Jennison Myrie-Williams,
Vale had further opportunities to test Preston’s goal, but the travellers could not break through the defence.
A stunning cross from Dickinson nearly found an on-rushing Myrie-Williams whose header shaved the bar.
Vale upped the tempo, but Dodds could not hit the target and his shot through a crowded penalty box trickled wide.
Before scoring a second in the 85fth minute - Dickinson launched a long throw into the box from the left-hand side and substitute Jordan Hugill was on hand to nod home from the back post.
Ben Williamson got a foot on another teasing cross from Dickinson in the closing stages of the game - but the substitute could not direct the ball past Rudd.
Preston defended in their numbers as Port Vale pushed for an equaliser in added time, but the Lilywhites held on for a third win on the bounce.
PNE: Rudd, Clarke, Wright, King, Buchanan, Gallagher (Davies, 82) Kilkenny, Welsh, Holmes (Laird, 82), Garner, Hume (Humphrey, 73). Subs: Stuckmann, Keane, Laird, Beavon, Brownhill.
Port Vale: Johnson, Yates, Dickinson, Chilvers, Loft, Dodds, Tomlin, Pope (Hugill, 69), Shuker (Williamson, 59), Duffy, Birchall (Myrie-Williams, 59). Subs: Neal, Robertson, Lloyd, O’Neill
Referee: M Heywood (West Yorkshire)
Attendance: 10,653 (Away: 1,136)