Two years on from PNE’s Wembley joy

PNE skipper Tom Clarke and manager Simon Grayson celebrate at Wembley in 2015
PNE skipper Tom Clarke and manager Simon Grayson celebrate at Wembley in 2015

Two years ago today, Preston ended their play-off hoodoo in some style.

It was ‘La Decima’ for PNE, success in the end-of-season showdown after nine failures.

Simon Grayson’s outfit brushed aside Swindon Town in clinical fashion, winning 4-0 at Wembley.

They led from the third minute, the first goal of a fine hat-trick from Jermaine Beckford.

In real terms it was all over as a contest by half-time, North End 3-0 ahead.

Paul Huntington scored the second, with the third – the goal of the game – coming from Beckford.

The striker completing his treble in the second half calmed any lingering nerves and signalled the start of a party in one half of the stadium.

Until then, PNE’s play-off record had been shocking.

Finalists three times in 1994, 2001 and 2005, they had lost to Wycombe, Bolton and West Ham.

There had been semi-final defeats in 1989, 1995, 1999, 2006, 2009 and 2014.

Six of PNE’s starting XI at Wembley remain – Tom Clarke, Huntington, Calum Woods, John Welsh, Daniel Johnson and Paul Gallagher.

So too do Alan Browne and Jordan Hugill who were on the bench that day – Browne was to play a big part, replacing the injured Gallagher after 36 minutes.

Beckford moved on last week, having been unable to recreate his Wembley form in the two years since.

A serious injury knee was to blame for that in 2015/16, with ill-discipline the cause this season – a stain for some on what he did under the Wembley arch.

The striker will wear Bury’s colours next season in the hope of finding his form back in League One.

Bailey Wright, Joe Garner, Neil Kilkenny and Sam Johnstone left before him.

The fortunes of Preston and Swindon have somewhat differed since that day too.

PNE have had successive 11th-place finishes in the Championship.

Swindon finished 16th in League One the season after Wembley and then at the end of this term were relegated to League Two.

Mark Cooper, who had led the Robins to the final, left five months later.

Martin Ling and Luke 
Williams have since filled the head coach role and they are on the look-out for a new man at the moment.

They have Tim Sherwood there in a director of football role.