Preston North End retro game - PNE end on a winning note at Deepdale against Port Vale in April 1976
Alex Bruce’s return to Preston North End early in the 1975/76 campaign caused ructions at Deepdale.
Bobby Charlton resigned as manager, not so much due to Bruce returning to PNE from Newcastle, more the fact John Bird was moving in the other direction as part of a swap deal.
Charlton objected to Bird going to St James’ Park and ended his two-year reign.
Although the loss of Bird from the defence was a blow, the return of Bruce proved a masterstroke.
The Scottish striker scored goals aplenty over the next few seasons, netting 30 goals in the 1977/78 campaign when PNE were promoted.
Bruce has been sold to Newcastle in February 1974 but didn’t have the best of times on Tyneside.
He soon got back into the groove at Preston, scoring 15 goals in 1975/76.
The 14th and 15th of that haul came in the final home game of the season as North End beat Port Vale 3-0 in front of a 5,783 crowd on April 24, 1976.
Mike Elwiss got the other goal, Elwiss also netting four days later at Hereford as the curtain came down on the campaign.
Against Vale, North End took the lead in the 33rd minute.
The build-up to the goal started in their own box as PNE goalkeeper Roy Tunks punched a corner clear.
The ball was collected by Bruce who moved up field and found Jimmy Brown with a pass.
Bruce took the return pass from Brown and had a shot which Vale keeper John Connaughton couldn’t hold.
Elwiss was first to the loose ball and found the net from close range.
That was a lead which North End doubled just two minutes into the second half.
Brown and Elwiss linked well to play in Bruce in the box who finished well past Connaughton.
The Lilywhites made it 3-0 when a back pass from Vale defender Colin Tartt was intercepted by Bruce.
His first shot was blocked by Connaughton but Bruce followedup and made no mistake with the second.
The Vale keeper saved well from Gordon Coleman soon after, with John Smith and Bruce both going close late the game.
North End boss Harry Catterick, who had taken over from Charlton, was pleased to see his side end on a winning note at Deepdale.
And while the sub-6,000 gate for this game was below the season’s average, the PNE fans won warm praise from Catterick.
“These are very loyal supporters, some of who have travelled around the country and not missed a fixture,” said Catterick.
“We are very proud that we have given them a young team which can only improve in the next two years.”
PNE: Tunks, McMahon, Baxter, Lawrenson, Williams, Brown, Coleman, Doyle, Bruce, Smith, Elwiss. Sub (not used): Cameron.