Memory match: Preston North End’s play-off semi-final shootout triumph over Trevor Francis’ Birmingham City

As Preston prepare to face Birmingham at Deepdale this weekend, who could possibly forget the play-off meeting between the clubs in 2001?

Thursday, 14th March 2019, 10:00 am
The Preston squad celebrate their dramatic play-off semi-final win over Birmingham City at Deepdale in May 2001

The Blues edged the first leg 1-0 at St Andrew’s, with the semi-final delicately poised for a Thursday night return in Lancashire.

What a night of drama it proved to be, it just about had everything.

PNE quickly wiped out the narrow first-leg deficit only for the tie to swing back the way of Birmingham during the second half.

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It looked like they were off to the Millennium Stadium for the final but in injury time Mark Rankine put North End back in front and sent the tie into extra time.

The additional 30 minutes could not separate the sides, the tie going to penalties.

City boss Trevor Francis had a strop with anyone who would care to listen when it was decided the shootout would be taken at the Kop end of the ground rather than in front of the building site which was the Town End.

While he lost his head, the Lilywhites kept theirs and won the shootout to cap the most dramatic of nights.

Preston’s home was a three-sided ground at the time, the Town End terrace having been demolished to make way for a new stand.

The place was jam packed and David Moyes’ men went into the contest with a quiet confidence about them.

Chances came at both ends either on, David Lucas saving with an outstretched leg from Jon McCarthy and David Healy putting an effort too close to City goalkeeper Ian Bennett.

North End took the lead in the 24th minute to level the scores on aggregate.

Graham Alexander’s cross hit Mark Grainger and fell to Healy who fired home.

The visitors responded with Lucas saving well from Marcelo, then Danny Sonner put a header against the bar.

They pulled equalised on the night and went ahead on aggregate in the 59th minute.

Stan Lazaridis sent over a low cross from the left which evaded Marcelo but came the way of Geoff Horsfield who netted at the far post.

Lucas made a double save from Marcelo and Horsfield before Preston were offered a lifeline when referee Paul Danson pointed to the spot after Sonner had handled.

But Alexander hammered the penalty against the bar.

Preston were not finished though, and equalised in the most dramatic way with more than 91 minutes on the clock.

It all began at the other end as Lazaridis moved into the PNE box and took the ball round Lucas. His shot from a tight angle rolled across the face of the goal where it was picked up by Rob Edwards who took the ball towards the halfway line.

Sean Gregan took over, the skipper’s pass finding Jon Macken, who fed a pass to Healy in the box.

The striker’s low shot was parried by Bennett and into the path of Rankine who side-footed home.

Extra time saw no more goals and with the away goal rule not in play, the tie went to penalties.

Francis argued with the referee and safety officials about the shootout taking place in front of the Kop.

Alexander put PNE 1-0 up in the shootout, with Lucas saving from Marcelo.

Healy buried his attempt, Lucas saving from Darren Purse.

Gregan made it 3-0, then Lazaridis netted.

Edwards missed PNE’s fourth, Nicky Eaden pulled it back to 3-2 and it was left to Paul McKenna to tuck his penalty home to send PNE to Cardiff.