Retro match - PNE cause a cup shock against Middlesbrough in 1987

PNE players celebrate after beating Middlesbrough in January 1987
PNE players celebrate after beating Middlesbrough in January 1987

Thirty one years ago today, Preston North End pulled off an FA Cup shock in style when they beat Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park.

More than 2,000 North End supporters made the trip to Teesside on January 10, 1987, and were rewarded with a superb winner from pint-sized Ronnie Hildersley.

PNe right-back Bob McNeil sees a shot blocked by Gary Parkinson

PNe right-back Bob McNeil sees a shot blocked by Gary Parkinson

At the time, PNE were in the Fourth Division and Boro were top of the third tier.

In fact the hosts were four points clear at the summit of the division above, playing some fine football to boot.

That didn’t seem to worry North End who were going well with a promotion push themselves.

Victories over Bury and Chorley – the Magpies were beaten in a replay – had set up this third round tie for North End.

Gary Swann has a shot in PNE's FA Cup win at Middlesbrough

Gary Swann has a shot in PNE's FA Cup win at Middlesbrough

Boro, not surprisingly with being at home, made the early running.

A header from Stuart Ripley beat Preston keeper David Brown but centre-half Alex Jones cleared off the line.

Bernie Slaven had the ball in the PNE net but the flag went up for offside against the Boro striker.

Brown pulled off a good save from Slaven, with Sam Allardyce collecting a yellow card for a robust challenge on Ripley.

Preston striker Gary Brazil challenges Boro keeper Stephen Pears

Preston striker Gary Brazil challenges Boro keeper Stephen Pears

Preston began to emerge as an attacking force, with Gary Swann forcing a save from keeper Stephen Pears with a header.

As half-time approached, North End scored what turned out to be the winner.

Gary Brazil collected a pass on the right-wing from Bob McNeil.

He turned the ball back into the path of McNeil who played a pass inside to Les Chapman.

PNE’s player-assistant manager took a touch and laid it off to his left into the path of Hildersley.

The little Scotsman took a couple of touches before unleashing a left-foot rocket shot into the top corner from 25 yards.

It came at the end where the North End supporters were gathered, sparking wild scenes in the away end.

The second half saw Boro turn up the pressure, with it needing all the experience of Preston’s trio of centre-halves Allardyce, Jones and Bob Atkins to keep the home side at bay.

They protected keeper Brown very well, with Boro restricted in the main to shots from outside the box.

North End always offered a threat on the break, with Hildersley only denied by a last-gasp tackle.

The final whistle was the signal for joy among the PNE fans, although they had to have their wits about them leaving the ground with the locals not taking too kindly to a defeat on their territory.

Preston manager John McGrath revealed after the game that his team had worn the boots they normally used on the Deepdale plastic pitch, the Ayresome Park surface having been frosty.

On goal hero Hildersley, McGrath said: “He’s only small, he has to jump up to shake hands with you!”


PNE: Brown, McNeil, Jones, Allardyce, Atkins, Bennett, Chapman, Swann, Hildersley, Brazil, Thomas. Subs (not used): Williams, Miller.