Six years ago today that Preston North End won the League One play-off final at Wembley
Six years ago today Preston North End triumphed at Wembley to book their return to the Championship.
They beat Swindon 4-0 in the League One play-off final, a game they had control of throughout.
North End’s tactics worked to a tee, allowing Swindon to have the ball in the areas where they couldn’t do any damage.
As soon as they ventured too far into Lilywhites’ territory though, PNE hustled and harried them out of possession.
It was a game when Jermaine Beckford came into his own, the striker netting a hat-trick.
Paul Huntington scored the other goal in a game where North End were never in trouble. After nine play-off failures dating back to 1989, this was PNE’s time – at long last.
They really should have been promoted automatically three weeks earlier.
Second spot was theirs if they had beaten Colchester on the final day of the season.
It all went wrong in Essex though, North End beaten 1-0 by the U’s who avoided relegation in doing so.
The mood of 3,000 PNE fans on the long journey home was a low as a snake’s belly.
With the play-off record being as it was, the end-of-season knockout was not seen as a safety net.
PNE got their act together, beating Chesterfield 1-0 in the first leg at the Proact Stadium, Beckford scoring early.
Two more from Beckford and a Joe Garner penalty saw them win the home leg 3-0.
There was a fortnight’s wait for the final, Preston training at Deepdale with boss Simon Grayson having the pitch measured out to the same dimensions as Wembley.
The build-up was spot on, with PNE pitch-perfect on the big day.
Beckford got on the end of a Paul Gallagher free-kick to net the opener from close range with three minutes on the clock. Another Gallagher assist was prodded in by Huntington to make it 2-0 in the 13th minute.
Beckford’s second and PNE’s third on the stroke of half-time was the pick of the bunch, the frontman curling in a left-foot shot from outside the box.
He went one-on-one to make it 4-0 and complete his hat-trick in the 57th minute.
The last half-hour was one big party in the sections of the stadium occupied by PNE’s 24,000 followers.
Tom Clarke and John Welsh hoisted the trophy in the Royal Box as four seasons in League One came to an end.
The next promotion is one North End are still chasing.
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