Memory match: A Deepdale final day to remember for PNE

Sean St Ledger celebrates his goal which sent Preston into 'the play-offs on the final day in May 2009
Sean St Ledger celebrates his goal which sent Preston into 'the play-offs on the final day in May 2009

If the current Preston side need any inspiration ahead of their attempt to make a late arrival in the play-offs, they should turn to the class of 2009.

Nine years ago, North End made the top six after the most dramatic of finishes to the season.

They went into their 
final-day clash with Queens Park Rangers at Deepdale three points adrift of Cardiff City in sixth spot.

A 2-1 victory against QPR, coupled with Cardiff losing at Sheffield Wednesday, saw the teams finish level on 74 points and with an identical plus-12 goal difference.

What secured North End’s men the last play-off slot was the fact they had scored one more goal than Cardiff – 66 to the Bluebirds’ 65.

A fortnight earlier they had hammered Cardiff 6-0, a game in which the Welsh side had missed a penalty.

Ultimately it was all to turn on that game, which was the second of a four-match run of wins.

North End had looked out of the play-off race following an Easter defeat to Blackpool, of all teams.

Victory at Doncaster on Easter Monday looked at the time to be nothing more than a late-season tonic.

But the six-goal thrashing of Cardiff was followed by a 2-1 win at Birmingham.

That set things up for the visit of QPR who were under the caretaker stewardship of Gareth Ainsworth.

A crowd of more than 18,000 were at Deepdale to roar Preston on. North End had plenty of the ball in the first half but for much of it did not have much to show for their control.

Chris Sedgwick had the ball in the net only for that one to be disallowed by a raised offside flag.

Sean St Ledger – later to be the hero of the afternoon – mis-kicked in front of goal from a Neil Mellor cross.

It was Jon Parkin who burst the game open eight minutes before half-time.

QPR centre-half Kaspars Gorkss played a back pass and saw it fall short of his keeper Radek Cerny.

Parkin stole in, the Beast taking the ball round Cerny and finding the net from an acute angle.

Scorelines elsewhere meant Preston went into the interval still outside of the top six.

And when PNE old boy Patrick Agyemang equalised for QPR in the 57th minute, their hopes of making the play-offs looked remote.

Agyemang raced on to a pass from Rowan Vine and slid a shot past North End keeper Andrew Lonergan.

News started to filter through of a goal for Sheffield Wednesday against Cardiff.

The huge cheer which greeted that was nothing compared to the roar which followed Preston’s winner in the 74th minute.

Parkin launched a long throw-in which Chris Brown flicked on.

St Ledger rose to meet it in the box, sending a header over Cerny into the net.

It was a lead North End had to cling on to as QPR piled forward in search of an equaliser.

In the third minute of time added on, Youl Mawene cleared off the line.

Matthew Connolly got his head to the resulting corner but midfielder Darren Carter was in the right place to clear from under the bar.

Fans swamped the pitch at the final whistle to celebrate the victory which saw North End leapfrog Cardiff and book a semi-final slot.