21 years on from Preston North End's dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Birmingham City

For drama, excitement, tension and shredded nerves, Preston North End’s play-off clash with Birmingham City had it all.

By Dave Seddon
Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 12:30 pm

It’s 21 years ago that Deepdale was bouncing as the Lilywhites negotiated 120 minutes of play and then a penalty shoot-out to book their place in the second tier’s play-off final at the Millennium Stadium.

The semi-final second leg was an occasion everyone of a Preston persuasion packed into a three-sided Deepdale that night will remember with such fondness.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg at St Andrew’s, there was a determination about North End to turn the tie in their favour to continue such a great first season back at this level after 19 years in the bottom two divisions.

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David Healy scores Preston North End's first goal against Birmingham City in the play-offs at Deepdale in May 2001

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David Healy fired them in front to level the aggregate scores, only for Geoff Horsfield to equalise on the night and swing the advantage back in favour of the Blues.

It was an advantage they held until stoppage-time when PNE survived the ball running across the face of their goal and counter-attacked from there.

The ball was worked up field and when it came into the box, Mark Rankine was on had to guide a close-range finish into the net to send the game into extra-time.

Mark Rankine's late goal takes Preston North End's play-off clash with Birmingham into extra-time

That was only half the drama, extra-time bringing no further goals and so it went to a shoot-out.

With the Town End a building site at the time after the demolition of the old terrace structure, referee Paul Danson instructed the penalties to be taken in front of the Bill Shankly Kop which was packed with North End fans.

Cue a meltdown from Birmingham manager Trevor Francis who during an exchange with Mr Danson and safety officials, ordered his players off the pitch and to the sidelines.

Eventually the shoot-out got underway, Graham Alexander, Healy and skipper Sean Gregan scoring, with Rob Edwards missing his.

PNE fans pack the Bill Shankly Kop for the play-off clash with Birmingham in 2001

North End goalkeeper David Lucas saved twice and when Paul McKenna went forward from the centre circle to take his, the midfielder knew he could send PNE to the final.

Calm as you like, McKenna tucked his penalty away and sparked jubilant scenes.

PNE: Lucas, Alexander, Murdock, Kidd, Edwards, Cartwright, Gregan, Rankine, Anderson (McKenna 63), Macken (Cresswell 113), Healy. Subs (unused): Moilanen, Barry-Murphy, Gunnlaugsson.

Preston North End skipper Sean Gregan celebrates scoring his penalty during the shoot-out against Birmingham at Deepdale