PNE retro game - a chink of light at Tranmere in the re-election season

John Thomas slides in to score for PNE at Tranmere in 1986
John Thomas slides in to score for PNE at Tranmere in 1986
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For a brief spell in the rotten 1985/86 campaign, Preston North End gave their fans something to cheer about.

Bottom of the Football League in March 1986, Brian Kidd resigned as manager having only been in the post full-time for a couple of months.

John Thomas and Terry Gray link-up in the box

John Thomas and Terry Gray link-up in the box

Midfielder Jon Clark was asked to replace Kidd on a caretaker basis and went on to inspire a run of five wins on the bounce.

The second game of that sequence came at Prenton Park, North End beating Tranmere 3-2.

A crowd of only 1,574 was there to see it, that number including around 400 from Preston.

Tranmere were no great shakes either that season, this very much a lower table clash.

Bob Atkins puts in a cross at Tranmere

Bob Atkins puts in a cross at Tranmere

PNE made the trip as the league’s 92nd placed club but buoyed by a 3-2 win three days earlier over Southend.

They were ahead in this one inside six minutes, a slide-rule pass from Terry Gray sending Gary Brazil clear of the home defence.

Brazil showed a good turn of pace to move into the box and shoot low past Rovers keeper Nigel Adkins.

Further chances followed for Brazil and John Thomas as the visitors pushed on.

PNE put Tranmere under pressure at a corner

PNE put Tranmere under pressure at a corner

But they were pegged back by a fine goal from Frank Worthington who hit a 25-yard shot past Alan Kelly, it dipping under the bar.

Ian Muir should then have given Tranmere the lead but fluffed his lines just six yards out with only Kelly to beat.

North End regained the lead in the 41st minute, Mick Martin delivering a free-kick into the box which Simon Gibson met in the air.

Gibson headed it down into the path of Gray who in turn found Thomas with a pass.

Thomas made no mistake with his finish from close range.

PNE’s lead was to last just a couple of minutes, with the hosts level before half-time.

Kelly had produced a fine save to tip a Worthington shot over the bar but from the resulting corner, Muir headed home.

In the early exchanges of the second half, North End took the lead for the third time and managed to cling on to it.

Brazil’s cross picked out Thomas on the edge of the box and the striker drilled a fine finish past Adkins.

Preston produced some stout defending to hang on to their advantage, with Martin making two vital blocks in the box.

Victory lifted them off the bottom of the table, Torquay dumped there in their place.

PNE followed-up this win by winning 3-2 at Mansfield, 1-0 against Wrexham and 3-1 at Scunthorpe United, before a 3-1 home defeat to Orient brought the run to a halt.

Thomas scored seven goals in that run of five wins.

After his double against Tranmere, the striker said he felt sorry for the departed Kidd who hadn’t been able to inspire an upturn in results.

Thomas said: “I’m just sorry, so sorry, that Brian wasn’t here to share this.

“I don’t know why we have just come good.”

PNE: Kelly, Jones, Gibson, Atkins, McAteer, Rudge, Gray, Martin, Brazil (Foster 83), Allatt, Thomas.