A year since PNE’s Wembley glory

Paul Gallagher (right) with Jermaine Beckford
Paul Gallagher (right) with Jermaine Beckford
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May 24, 2015, saw Preston break their play-off hoodoo in the grand surroundings of Wembley.

It was their 10th attempt at promotion via the play-offs, 26 years since the Lilywhites first tried in 1989.

North End celebrate the play-off final victory

North End celebrate the play-off final victory

They finally did it in some style, putting Swindon Town to the sword 4-0.

Effectively the game was over as a contest by half-time with PNE three goals to the good and in cruise control.

Jermaine Beckford hooked a volley into the net inside three minutes, centre-half Paul Huntington doubling the advantage in the 13th minute.

Beckford scored the goal of the game before the interval, steering a fine left-footed shot from the edge of the box into the bottom corner.

The striker completed his hat-trick in the second half to spark scenes of utter joy among the 24,000 Preston fans who had travelled to London.

Paul Gallagher created the first two goals for Beckford and Huntington before a calf injury forced him off in the 37th minute.

Worried that he would jinx the game by watching from the bench, Gallagher stayed in the dressing room until the final few minutes.

There followed a party which stretched from the capital back to Preston.

Reflecting on events a year ago, Gallagher told the Evening Post: “I got a good feeling about us on the day on the game.

“I looked around the team and knew that everyone was comfortable and ready.

“Sometimes you can look at a team and see some of the players are nervous and not quite ready for the occasion.

“We were cool, collected and calm; we had been to Wembley a couple of times in the days before and got used to the surroundings.

“To be fair, we wanted the game to come early because we were ready for it.

“When the game did come around, we blew Swindon away basically – it was 2-0 within the first 15 minutes.

“Swindon probably thought they would have possession and time to knock it around.

“We were straight in their faces and by the time they blinked, we were 2-0 ahead.

“I had to go off injured and even when we went 3-0 up, I didn’t come out of the changing room.

“There had been a few too many times when we had lost the lead, especially that season.

“I remember being 2-0 up against Gillingham and we drew 2-2 in the end, we had also the lead slip a couple of times at Port Vale a few weeks before.

“With it being such a big occasion, I just didn’t want to jinx anything by going back out to watch it.

“Someone came into the changing room to tell me Jermaine had scored his hat-trick which made it 4-0 but I only came out when there were five minutes left.

“It was great to see everyone celebrating, it was the 10th time in the play-offs and the first time Preston had won the final.

“You could see the relief and joy on the fans’ faces.”

Coach journeys home are normally tedious affairs but it was party central on board North End’s team bus once the champagne at Wembley had dried up.

Surprisingly, Gallagher remembers the trip extremely well.

“If they had stopped the bus we would have been in trouble because there were so many people on board,” said the midfield playmaker.

“We stopped at the services to stock up and seemed to get more people on board then!

“It took four hours or so to get back but it was a fantastic experience.

“There were some people who normally hardly ever spoke but once they got a drink inside them, went crazy.

“It was quite nice to sit back at times and watch the younger lads celebrate.

“Once we got back to Preston, we went straight into town to continue the night.

“I’m still not sure what time I made it home to bed but if you can’t celebrate a win at Wembley and promotion, when can you?”