A dream start for PNE striker

Tony Ellis  in action against Vale in the 3-2 victory at Deepdale in 1987
Tony Ellis in action against Vale in the 3-2 victory at Deepdale in 1987
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Tony Ellis made a dream Preston debut, capping off a Lilywhites’ fightback with a last-minute goal to defeat Port Vale in October 1987.

The striker had joined PNE for £23,000 from Oldham a few days earlier, swapping Boundary Park’s artificial pitch for the Deepdale plastic.

He was one of two players making their North End bow, Brian Mooney having joined on loan from Liverpool just 24 hours ahead of the contest.

John McGrath had swooped for the pair as he tried to breath life into a side which was struggling badly to adapt to the Third Division after promotion.

They had won just once before this clash, that being a 2-1 away victory at Southend.

McGrath was unable to see his new signings in action though, a bout of flu having kept him at home.

His recovery would not have been helped by the first hour of the clash which saw Preston fall 2-0 behind.

But a superb last 16 minutes saw them snatch victory from the jaws of defeat thanks to two Gary Brazil goals and the late Ellis strike.

With McGrath’s No.2 Les Chapman in charge for the day, North End went behind in the first half after defender Jeff Wrightson conceded a free-kick just outside the box.

Vale midfielder Ray Walker crashed the set-piece past goalkeeper David Brown.

The home side responded with Vale keeperMark Grew forced into three good saves to deny Brazil and Ellis twice.

Mooney was pulling the strings on the right-hand side of midfield as PNE searched for an equaliser.

However, they fell 2-0 behind in the 58th minute, Walker again on target with a free-kick. This time it was keeper Brown giving the free-kick away after taking too many steps while hold of the ball, a rule no longer in place.

Frank Worthington and Gary Swann came of the bench in the 73rd minute to take the places of Mooney, who had pulled up with an injury and David Miller.

The double switch paid instant dividends as just 60 seconds later, Brazil sprang the offside trap to race clear, go round Grew before finding the net from a narrow angle.

Soon after, North End were level as Sam Allardyce – making the 400th league appearance of his career – was brought down in the box by Vale’s Bob Hazel.

Brazil did the honours from the penalty spot, sending Grew the wrong way.

The momentum was firmly with Preston by now and the winning goal arrived in the 90th minute.

Worthington sprayed a fine pass out to Wrightson on the left wing, his cross falling to Ellis who made no mistake from six yards.

Ellis, who 12 months earlier had been playing for Poets FC in the Salford Sunday League, said: “It is one thing to score but when your first goal comes in such significant circumstances, that makes it extra special.”