Memory match: PNE v Blackburn Rovers

Alex Bruce (No.11) turns to celebrate scoring against Blackburn in August 1978, with Michael Robinson (No.9) and Francis Burns (No.7)

Alex Bruce (No.11) turns to celebrate scoring against Blackburn in August 1978, with Michael Robinson (No.9) and Francis Burns (No.7)

Share this article
0
Have your say

Preston North End’s derby clash with Blackburn in August 1978 saw Second Division football return to Deepdale after an absence of four years.

It was a happy return too, the Lilywhites beating their Lancashire neighbours 4-1.

Having won 5-2 on aggregate over two legs against Huddersfield Town in the League Cup, North End had opened their league season with a 2-2 draw at Cardiff.

And so Blackburn came to town on a midweek summer’s evening, a crowd of 15,412 there to see it.

PNE boss Nobby Stiles was operating with the same squad which had won promotion, with one exception.

Mike Elwiss, scorer of 17 goals the previous campaign, had been sold to Crystal Palace that summer.

Elwiss’ replacement in attack was Michael Robinson,promoted from the reserves – although he 
had played a handful of first-team games towards the end of the promotion season.

Preston could not have made a worse start to this clash, going behind with just three minutes played.

Full-back Danny Cameron gave away a free-kick just outside the box, one which Tony Parkes played short to Stuart Metcalfe.

His shot rattled against the bar and bounced kindly for David Gregory to head over goalkeeper Roy Tunks.

North End were not behind for long though, equalising in the 12th minute.

Alex Bruce started a move which saw the hosts carve their way through the Rovers defence, Robinson played into the box and shooting low past John Butcher.

With the bit between their teeth, North End began to dominate the play.

Ricky Thomson, Sean Haslegrave and Robinson all went close.

Their persistence paid off when they went ahead with 26 minutes on the clock.

Bruce, whose good work normally came inside the box, did the spadework for the goal outside it.

He cut inside from the left-wing and fed a pass inside to Steve Doyle, the young Welsh midfielder shooting into the net from inside the box.

North End stretched their advantage five minutes into the second half.

A stray pass from Rovers midfielder Kevin Hird was intercepted by Thomson.

He played in Bruce down the inside-right channel, the striker cutting inside and finishing with a superb angled strike from 25 yards.

Victory was wrapped up in the 74th minute, underlining PNE’s dominance of the game.

Thomson’s corner found Francis Burns in the box, the midfielder’s shot blocked by keeper Butcher.

The rebound fell to Bruce, his first effort hitting Butcher before a second bite at the cherry saw him find the net.

That took Bruce’s tally to seven goals in the first four games, the Scotsman having scored twice in the first leg of the Huddersfield tie and once in the second leg.

He had been on target twice in the league at Cardiff, then came this pair.

The good start to the season gave way to a rocky run of six successive defeats in September and October.

But Preston recovered and a run of just one defeat in 19 games was to help them to a seventh-place finish.