Preston North End retro - PNE on the wrong end of a seven-goal thriller against Chester in 1977

PNE players, coaching staff and board meet Harold Parker, Mayor of Preston, in the build-up to the game against Chester in February 1977. Back row: Chris Hassell (club secretary), Mike Elwiss, Alex Bruce, Alan Kelly (coach), Nobby Stiles (chief coach). Front row: Tom Finney, John McMahon, Alan Jones (chairman), Harry Catterick (manager)
PNE players, coaching staff and board meet Harold Parker, Mayor of Preston, in the build-up to the game against Chester in February 1977. Back row: Chris Hassell (club secretary), Mike Elwiss, Alex Bruce, Alan Kelly (coach), Nobby Stiles (chief coach). Front row: Tom Finney, John McMahon, Alan Jones (chairman), Harry Catterick (manager)

Preston North End were the authors of their own downfall as they were beaten 4-3 by Chester at Deepdale in February 1977.

Two of the visitors’ goals were as a result of defensive mistakes from PNE, the loss a setback in their push for promotion.

Preston striker Barrie Mitchell challenges the Chester goalkeeper at Deepdale in February 1977

Preston striker Barrie Mitchell challenges the Chester goalkeeper at Deepdale in February 1977

This was only a second home defeat of the season for Harry Catterick’s men and followed two Deepdale wins on the bounce.

In the week leading up to the game, some of the North End squad, coaching staff and board, had been invited to the Town Hall to meet Mayor Harold Parker.

The mayor was keen to show his support for PNE’s promotion push and for the town to rally behind them.

A crowd of more than 10,000 turned up for a third home game in a week.

Preston celebrate as Mike Elwiss heads home a Francis Burns corner against Chester in 1977

Preston celebrate as Mike Elwiss heads home a Francis Burns corner against Chester in 1977

They saw their side start brightly, North End forcing four corners in the opening 10 minutes.

Alex Bruce and Gordon Coleman both saw shots go wide, while at the other end, Roy Tunks saved well from Chester striker Terry Owen - father of future England and Liverpool striker Michael Owen.

North End midfielder Francis Burns brought a good save from goalkeeper Grenville Millington.

Against the run of play, Chester took the lead in the 24th minute.

Preston centre-half Mick Baxter lends his height to the attack at a corner against Chester in 1977

Preston centre-half Mick Baxter lends his height to the attack at a corner against Chester in 1977

A back pass from Preston left-back Gary Williams fell short of Tunks, Paul Crossley nipping in and driving a shot into the net.

Crossley had been on PNE’s books in the 1960s and certainly enjoyed his return to Deepdale in this game.

North End were quickly back level, Burns’ corner met by Mike Elwiss who headed home.

Both sides had chances before Chester regained the lead three minutes before half-time, Owen getting on a cross to send a header past Tunks.

Preston striker Alex Bruce on the attack against Chester in February 1977

Preston striker Alex Bruce on the attack against Chester in February 1977

Bruce saw a shot kicked off the line moments before the interval as North End pressed for an equaliser.

The game was to get away from them in the opening few minutes of the second half as Chester scored twice more.

In the 56th minute, an Owen cross found Crossley who shot past Tunks, before another error gifted Chester their fourth goal.

Mick Baxter attempted to dribble out of his own box only to be robbed by Owen who went through to score.

Preston brought it back to 4-2 just beyond the hour mark.

Skipper John McMahon crossed from the right and Elwiss connected with a beauty of a volley.

It was Elwiss’ 18th goal of the season.

Buoyed by that goal, PNE poured forward in search of another.

They made it 4-3 when an Elwiss cross was headed on by Barrie Mitchell and Bruce fired home.

An equaliser was to prove elusive unfortunately.

North End were to finish the 1976/77 season in sixth place in the Third Division.

That laid foundations for promotion the next year.

Nobby Stiles took over from Catterick and led PNE to a third place finish.


PNE: Tunks, McMahon, Baxter, Lawrenson, Williams, Coleman, Burns, Brown, Mitchell, Elwiss, Bruce. Sub (not used): Doyle.