Preston North End retro game - Alex Bruce made Carlisle United pay the penalty at Deepdale in February 1978

Preston striker Alex Bruce slides in to make a tackle against Carlisle at Deepdale in February 1978
Preston striker Alex Bruce slides in to make a tackle against Carlisle at Deepdale in February 1978

Alex Bruce was not a striker to look a gift horse in the mouth when it came to putting chances away in the box.

So when he was twice given the chance to step up to the penalty spot within the space of a few minutes in Preston North End’s clash with Carlisle United in February 1978, the Scot found the net both times to turn the Deepdale meeting on its head.

Carlisle goalkeeper Trevor Swinburne gathers the ball ahead of Preston's Sean Haslegrave and Mike Elwiss

Carlisle goalkeeper Trevor Swinburne gathers the ball ahead of Preston's Sean Haslegrave and Mike Elwiss

North End had trailed to a Mick Tait goal, however Bruce’s accuracy from the spot kept their promotion push on track.

This was their first slice of action for more than three weeks because of a harsh spell of winter weather.

They had won 5-2 against Plymouth in their previous outing, that proving to be the start of a run of eight games unbeaten.

PNE started well in front of a crowd of 9,095, with Mike Elwiss forcing a save from United goalkeeper Trevor Swinburne in the fifth minute.

Preston winger Ricky Thomson on the attack against Carlisle in February 1978

Preston winger Ricky Thomson on the attack against Carlisle in February 1978

Sean Haslegrave sent a shot just wide from Elwiss’ pass as the hosts kept up their early pressure.

At the other end of the pitch, Preston keeper Roy Tunks saved well from Billy Rafferty.

A feature of the day was disturbances in the ground, with rival fans having to be separated – at half-time some were ejected.

Early in the second half, a pass from Graham Cross found Elwiss, who shot wide.

PNE's Alex Bruce looks on as the Carlisle goalkeeper catches a cross

PNE's Alex Bruce looks on as the Carlisle goalkeeper catches a cross

Bruce went close with an effort from 20 yards before Carlisle took the lead in the 59th minute.

A corner from the right fell into the path of Tait, who scrambled the ball over the line from close range.

However, North End were level within eight minutes.

Elwiss’ cross struck Ian MacDonald on the arm and referee Bert Newsome gave a penalty.

Bruce sent Swinburne the wrong way from the spot, the ball going in via the inside of the post.

A second penalty came the way of the Lilywhites in the 71st minute.

This time Bruce was tripped in the box by Peter Carr, and again Mr Newsome pointed to the spot, much to the visitors’ frustration.

Bruce stepped-up to put the penalty into the roof of the net.

North End hung on to their lead to secure the win.

That season, Bruce was to finish as Preston’s top scorer with 30 goals.

Five of them came from the penalty spot, two of them in a 4-0 win over Colchester in which he scored all of the goals.

It was a season which was to end in promotion for the Lilywhites.

They finished in third place behind Wrexham and Cambridge, managing to pip Peterborough for the final promotion slot.

PNE had gradually been progressing, with ninth, eighth and sixth place finishes in the three seasons before.

Nobby Stiles taking over as manager proved a shrewd move – this was his first season in charge with Alan Kelly as assistant.


PNE: Tunks, McMahon, Baxter, Cross, Cameron, Coleman, Haslegrave, Burns, Thomson, Elwiss, Bruce. Sub (not used): Doyle.