Memory Match: Alex Bruce is Preston North End's derby hero against Blackburn Rovers in 1979

Preston North End’s victory over Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park in March 1979 was one which television viewers were given a weekly reminder about.

By Dave Seddon
Thursday, 9th January 2020, 5:00 pm
Alex Bruce scores Preston's winner against Blackburn at Ewood Park in March 1979
Alex Bruce scores Preston's winner against Blackburn at Ewood Park in March 1979

Alex Bruce struck a superb goal to give the Lilywhites a 1-0 win in this Second Division clash.

Granada Television had their cameras there to cover the game for their Kick-Off Sunday highlights show.

Bruce’s goal was deemed such a cracker that it appeared on the programme’s credits for some time to come.

Preston striker Alex Bruce on the attack against Blackburn

Victory in East Lancashire stretched PNE’s unbeaten league run to 14 games, a sequence which had started three months earlier.

What it did too was to halt a run of six successive draws, although in the day of two points for a win, draws were far from a disaster.

The goal from Bruce was the one real moment of quality in a game played in a swirling wind and on a bobbly pitch. His 12th-minute goal sent the huge contingent of travelling Preston fans wild.

A headed clearance from the Rovers defence was picked up by Eric Potts who played the ball out to Brian Taylor on PNE’s right.

Preston right-back Danny Cameron is tackled in the win over Blackburn at Ewood Park

Taylor’s ball up the wing found Graham Bell who was making his debut after a move from Oldham.

Bell’s cross came to Bruce on the edge of the ‘D’, the striker catching it superbly on the volley.

It stayed low and flew into the far bottom corner past the Rovers keeper.

That was Bruce’s 23rd goal of the season, with him going on to hit 26 that term.

Preston defender Don O'Riordan goes in for a tackle against Blackbrun at Ewood Park

At the other end, Danny Cameron cleared off the line from a Noel Brotherston shot, the shooting chance having been created by the North End right-back getting into a tangle with keeper Roy Tunks.

In the second half , Rovers came out pushing for an equaliser but found PNE’s defence a solid unit.

When the visitors did get on the attack, they found the going tough without injured striker Mick Robinson.

His place for this game had gone to recent arrival Steve Elliott – signed from Nottingham Forest.

Steve Elliott rides a tackle in Preston's win at Blackburn in March 1979

Elliott himself was not fully fit, North End manager Nobby Stiles naming striker Ian Cochrane on the bench just in case.

Rovers skipper Parkes misjudged a header at the far post from Duncan McKenzie’s cross, allowing Don O’Riordan to clear.

Chances came North End’s way with Bruce heading a Taylor cross wide and Mick Baxter off target after getting on the end of a Bell free-kick.

In the closing stages, the home side upped the pressure as they went in search of an equaliser.

But Stiles’ men held out to claim victory and record a league double over Rovers, who they had beaten 4-1 at Deepdale in the second week of the season.

Commenting on Bruce’s winner, Stiles said: “Alex’s goal was a real cracker, it showed just how good he is.”

The 17,790 crowd was Blackburn’s best that season.

They were to be relegated at the end of the campaign, finishing five points adrift of safety at the foot of the table.

North End finished seventh, a decent show indeed for a side in their first season back at this level.