Five years on from Preston North End's promotion final joy at Wembley - their play-off 'La Decima'

Preston North End lift the League One play-off final trophy at Wembley on May 24, 2015Preston North End lift the League One play-off final trophy at Wembley on May 24, 2015
Preston North End lift the League One play-off final trophy at Wembley on May 24, 2015 | jpimedia
Preston North End buried their play-off hoodoo five years ago today and did so in emphatic fashion.

After nine unsuccessful attempts at negotiating the end-of-season knockout, PNE made light work of beating Swindon Town 4-0 at Wembley on May 24, 2015.

After making it look so easy, you had to wonder why North End and the play-offs just hadn’t mixed over the years – going all the way back to 1989.

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This was a day when everything just clicked, the Lilywhites three goals to the good by the interval and four up before the hour mark had been reached.

North End supporters enjoying their day out at Wembley five years agoNorth End supporters enjoying their day out at Wembley five years ago
North End supporters enjoying their day out at Wembley five years ago | jpimedia

Jermaine Beckford scored a hat-trick, while Paul Huntington rounded off his player-of-the-year campaign with a goal.

In truth, the North End supporters had gone into the play-off campaign on something of a downer.

Their side should have taken the second automatic promotion slot behind champions Bristol City.

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They went 19 league games unbeaten from early February through to the end of April.

Paul Huntington scores PNE's second goal at WembleyPaul Huntington scores PNE's second goal at Wembley
Paul Huntington scores PNE's second goal at Wembley | jpimedia

On the last day of the season at Colchester, though, things went horribly wrong.

A 1-0 defeat in Essex in front of 3,000 travelling fans saw MK Dons pip them to second spot. Credit to MK, they won seven and drew two of their last nine games.

The last team to beat them that season? That’s right, PNE on March 7.

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Two wins over Chesterfield in the semi-final – 1-0 away and 3-0 in the Deepdale return leg – began to brighten the mood.

Jermaine Beckford curls home PNE's third goal against Swindon at WembleyJermaine Beckford curls home PNE's third goal against Swindon at Wembley
Jermaine Beckford curls home PNE's third goal against Swindon at Wembley | jpimedia

Still there was that nagging doubt though, about their play-off history.

There was a fortnight between the second leg win over Chesterfield and facing Swindon in the final.

The preparations saw PNE train at Deepdale where the pitch was marked out to the exact dimensions of Wembley.

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Simon Grayson took his squad south two days ahead of the Sunday final.

Preston striker Joe Garner kisses the play-off winners trophy in the Wembley dressing roomPreston striker Joe Garner kisses the play-off winners trophy in the Wembley dressing room
Preston striker Joe Garner kisses the play-off winners trophy in the Wembley dressing room | jpimedia

They visited Wembley on the Friday, the players told in no uncertain terms that any photos they took were not to appear on social media.

“We didn’t want to look like day-trippers,” said North End boss Grayson. “We were there to do a job, not for a jolly.”

Earlier in the season, North End had lost 1-0 to Swindon at the County Ground.

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Five of the side which started in Wiltshire six months earlier were not in the starting XI at Wembley.

In the penultimate game of the regular campaign, PNE had beaten Swindon 3-0 at Deepdale thanks to a hat-trick from Joe Garner.

It was Beckford’s turn to hit a treble at Wembley, with the Robins unable to contain him.

On loan from Bolton, the striker had got better and better after a slow start.

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He finished with 18 goals in 26 appearances for North End that season.

Beckford struck inside three minutes in the final, with Huntington’s ninth goal of the season coming in the 13th minute.

A fine finish, curled home from the edge of the box by Beckford, made it 3-0 on the stroke of half-time.

There were North End fans who admitted to still feeling nervous during the interval, despite the healthy lead. After all, this was the play-offs.

They need not have worried.

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Beckford's hat-trick came in the 57th minute, the striker running on to Garner’s through ball to roll a shot past Swindon keeper Wes Foderingham.

The last half hour was a carnival for the PNE faithful, time to enjoy the occasion and savour the fact their team was heading to the Championship after four years away.

Preston’s ‘La Decima’ – the play-off jinx put to bed at the 10th time of asking.