There was no sign of a New Year’s Day hangover for PNE, as they started 1983 with a convincing win over Wigan at Deepdale.
It put behind them a tame Christmas in which they had drawn 0-0 with Bradford and lost 2-0 at Doncaster in the space of 24 hours.
Alex Bruce was key to this victory, played in front of North End’s biggest league crowd of the season – 7,560.
Three weeks before, the attendance had been almost double that for a 2-1 win over Blackpool in the FA Cup.
Bruce netted twice on his return to the side after two months out, Lilywhites boss Gordon Lee having preferred others ahead of him.
Lee abandoned his usual 4-4-2 for Wigan’s visit and went with a 4-3-3, Bruce in a forward line with Graham Houston and Steve Elliott.
As well as recalling Bruce, Lee also brought back club captain Gordon Coleman in midfield.
Graham Bell and Simon Westwell were the two men to make way.
It was the visitors who made the early running, with half chances for John Butler, Graham Barrow and Eamonn O’Keefe.
But North End took the lead in the 23rd minute, Don O’Riordan taking the ball down the right and putting over a cross which caused all sorts of problems in the Wigan defence.
The ball eventually fell to Bruce, who saw a shot blocked before netting at the second attempt.
Bruce saw a shot cleared off the line by former PNE right-back John McMahon, before the hosts doubled their lead after half an hour.
It was gifted to them by Roy Tunks, another ex-North End player.
The keeper came off his line to try and punch clear Andy McAteer’s corner.
But Tunks missed the ball and it flew into the net, gifting McAteer his fourth goal of the campaign.
Tunks made amends soon after, pulling off a fine save to deny Elliott.
Wigan halved the deficit just before half-time, Butler beating Alan Gowling to the ball and crossing for O’Keefe to score.
However, Preston pretty much had the game sewn up inside the first six minutes of the second half.
In the 47th minute, Bruce fired home from close range after Houston had kept the ball in play on the byline and crossed into the middle.
North End’s fourth goal came from the penalty spot with 51 minutes on the clock.
John Kelly was brought down in the box by Kevin Langley, the referee pointing to the spot.
Even though Bruce was on a hat-trick, it was Kelly who picked himself up to take the penalty, dispatching it into the net past Tunks.
There were chances for both sides as the second half went on, Gowling doing well to clear a shot from Langley off the line.
O’Riordan, McAteer and Houston went close for PNE, while late on home keeper Peter Litchfield made three saves to prevent the away team reducing the arrears.
Preston : Litchfield, Walsh, O’Riordan, Gowling, McAteer, Kelly, Coleman, Sayer, Houston, Elliott, Bruce. Sub (unused): Bell.