PNE retro - when the Doc's newcomers drew a blank on Match of the Day

Gary Buckley attempts to get on the end of an Alex Bruce cross
Gary Buckley attempts to get on the end of an Alex Bruce cross

A new look Preston North End side earned a draw with Bristol City at Ashton Gate in October 1981.

The highlights were shown on the BBC’s Match of the Day show, although there was little action to excite the Saturday night viewers.

Barry Dunn takes on a Bristol City defender at Ashton Gate in 1981

Barry Dunn takes on a Bristol City defender at Ashton Gate in 1981

North End boss Tommy Docherty fielded four new signings in his starting XI.

Midfielder John Kelly pulled on a Preston shirt for the first time after signing from Tranmere Rovers.

Tommy Booth, Barry Dunn and Gary Buckley played their first league game for PNE after featuring four days earlier in a 1-0 win over Leicester City in the League Cup.

Centre-half Booth had ended a long association with Manchester City to sign for North End – he was to go on and manage the club a few years later.

Gary Buckley on his PNE league debut

Gary Buckley on his PNE league debut

Buckley had followed the same route from City, with winger Dunn recruited from Sunderland.

Docherty had taken over as manager that summer in succession to Nobby Stiles following PNE’s relegation from the Second Division.

The start to the season had been a struggle, with them having one just once in eight league games going into the clash with Bristol City.

They had scored only five league goals too, hence the recruitment of Kelly, Dunn and Buckley to create more from midfield and the wings.

Docherty went for a 4-2-4 system for this game, Kelly starting on the right-wing and Dunn on the left.

Buckley partnered Jon Clark in midfield, with Booth partnering Don O’Riordan in the centre of defence.

Hosts Bristol City had been relegated along with PNE and Bristol Rovers five months earlier.

Both sides had a sight of goal early on, with Jimmy Mann forcing a save from North End goalkeeper Peter Litchfield.

At the other end, PNE’s John Anderson sent a shot straight at the Robins keeper after a mistake had let him in.

Alex Bruce tested the keeper again after being played in by a good through ball from Dunn.

There was a scare for North End when Litchfield needed treatment but he was able to carry on.

Litchfield was moving freely enough after the knock to save from Clive Whitehead at the start of the second half.

Buckley and Kelly saw shots disappear over the bar, with Kelly going on to have the game’s best chance in the 80th minute.

Bruce’s pass found Dunn down the wing, his cross picking-out Kelly who lifted a shot from 12 yards over the bar.

Clark and Bruce both had late chances but North End had to make do with a point.

The following week, PNE boss Docherty had a leave of absence from the club when he went on trial at the Old Bailey for an allegation of perjury – coaches Ken Shellito and Alan Kelly holding the fort.

North End: Litchfield, Anderson (Farrelly), Booth O’Riordan, McAteer, Kelly, Buckley, Clark, Dunn, Coleman, Bruce.

Attendance: 5,389