Memory match: Preston North End so close to pulling off a rare victory at Swansea City

Preston North End have traditionally found Swansea a tough place to visit and its in that direction they head on Saturday.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 3:00 pm

Last season’s victory at the Liberty Stadium – secured by an own goal in the 90th minute of Frankie McAvoy’s second game as interim head coach – was their first in that corner of South Wales since 1961.

It was the first time the Lilywhites had got anything since the Swans moved to the Liberty.

Before that, the Vetch Field – which stood across the road from the city’s prison – was a venue North End didn’t tend to get much at.

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Preston players celebrate Tony Ellis' goal

One occasion when they did bring something back from Swansea’s old home was in October 1988.

They drew 1-1 with Tony Ellis on target for PNE.

Only in the 84th minute were they pegged back by a Swansea equaliser, Andy Melville scoring. Melville’s late goal denied PNE a fifth consecutive win, John McGrath’s men having hit a real purple patch in a season when they made the play-offs for the first time.

North End made the trip along the M4 on the back of a midweek 5-0 victory over Gillingham.

They were without the injured Sam Allardyce for the game, Adrian Hughes replacing the veteran defender in the backline.

PNE, backed by a strong following of fans, made a lively start. Ellis was not too far off target with a volley from just inside the box.

They had the better of the first half and just 10 seconds before the interval, Preston got their noses in front.

David Brown’s goalkick was flicked out by Warren Joyce to Gary Brazil on the right wing. Brazil showed a good turn of speed to get away from his marker, before sending over a peach of a cross.

Ellis met it first-time just inside the box, rifling a shot past keeper Rhys Wilmott.

North End had a couple of chances early in the second half to increase their lead.

But those went begging and steadily Swansea worked their way back into the game.

Tommy Hutchinson, who at 41 was the oldest player at the time in the four divisions, was pulling the strings for the home side.

As the pressure grew, Bob Atkins, Jeff Wrightson and Hughes stood firm at the back, with Neil Williams and Mick Rathbone doing a solid job in the wing-back roles.

North End got forward on the break and one of those forays upfield saw them have the ball in the net a second time, only for Ellis’ effort to be ruled out for offside.

Just as it looked like PNE would hold out for the three points, Swansea equalised in the 84th minute. Paul Bodak’s cross from the right wing was met by Meville who sent a header past Brown.

It was the first goal which Brown had conceded for 519 minutes of league action.

Swansea went looking for a second after that, with the momentum with them.

Meville went close again, while Hutchinson wasn’t far away with a shot from inside the box.

But Preston survived to hold on to their point, one which McGrath was pleased with to say the least.

McGrath said: “I thought we deserved our draw and I’m delighted with the way we battled for it.

“Swansea threw a lot at us but we stood firm and David Brown hardly had a shot to save.

“Our goal was an absolute gem, Tony Ellis is on fire at the moment and I know that a few scouts have been looking at him.”