PNE retro - 31 years today since John McGrath's men clinched promotion at Orient

Les Chapman prompted a Preston North End knees-up in East London, his first goal for the club firing them to promotion from Division Four 31 years ago today.

Wednesday, 25th April 2018, 12:04 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th April 2018, 12:06 pm
The PNE squad celebrate promotion at Orient in April 1987

Player/assistant manager Chapman netted the winner in PNE’s 2-1 victory against Orient at Brisbane Road.

Less than 12 months after the club had been forced to apply for re-election to the Football League, the win sent them up to Division Three.

Chapman had been among a haul of new recruits in the summer of 1986, as John McGrath re-built the North End squad.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

PNE midfielder Gary Swann has a shot at goal against Orient

It was effectively done on a £15,000 budget – the fee the club had received for the sale of Nigel Greenwood to Bury.

McGrath wheeled and dealed to pick up waifs and strays, adding them to the handful of survivors from the re-election season.

The 1986/87 campaign will go down as one of the most enjoyable for Preston fans of a certain age.

After the dark days of the early 1980s – it had been a downward spiral from the relegation of 1981 – there was at last something to cheer about.

Alex Jones (left) and John Thomas in action for PNE against Orient

It was a superb season, PNE promoted as runners-up behind Northampton – a side they had beaten 1-0 at Deepdale earlier that month.

The campaign produced many great memories.

There was a 3-2 victory over Halifax after they had fallen 2-0 behind, with John Thomas netting a hat-trick.

North End beat Burnley 4-1 at Turf Moor, there was a thrilling 2-2 draw against Wolves at Deepdale when Frank Worthington scored with an exquisite chip.

PNE boss John McGrath is congratulated by Frank Worthington at the final whistle

There was an unbeaten 16-game run in the league from late November through to the third week of March.

Away from the league, an FA Cup run saw them beat Chorley after a replay and then shock Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park.

The cup run ended against Newcastle, more than 5,000 PNE supporters at St James’ Park.

On April 25, 1987, Preston headed to London needing just a point to go up.

PNE fans at Bribane Road in April 1987

They were ahead inside 18 minutes, to the delight of more than 2,500 travelling Prestonians.

Bob Atkins launched a free-kick into the box which Sam Allardyce headed into the path of Gary Brazil, who shot left-footed into the net.

Orient equalised in the 33rd minute, David Miller’s foul on Alan Comfort seeing the referee point to the spot.

John Cornwell stepped up to beat Alan Kelly.

In the second half, North End had to hold out against plenty of Orient pressure.

That paid dividends in the 82nd minute when they hit their winner. Allardyce’s pass found Miller, who laid the ball off to Chapman.

Preston fans on the pitch at Brisbane Road after PNE's promotion

The 38-year-old took the ball into the box, sidestepped a challenge before shooting low into the net.

Asked how he felt about scoring such a vital goal, Chapman said: “I feel 53 miles west of Venus.”

A PNE fanzine was later launched carrying the title '53 Miles West of Venus' in honour of Chapman.

PNE: Kelly, Miller, Atkins, Allardyce, Jones, Bennett, Swann, Chapman, Williams, Brazil, Thomas. Sub: (not used) Worthington.

PNE midfielder Gary Swann has a shot at goal against Orient
Alex Jones (left) and John Thomas in action for PNE against Orient
PNE boss John McGrath is congratulated by Frank Worthington at the final whistle
PNE fans at Bribane Road in April 1987
Preston fans on the pitch at Brisbane Road after PNE's promotion