Let there be light - when Preston North End switched on their new floodlights but Deepdale was still gloomy

Preston North End left their supporters in a dark mood the night they switched on their new floodlights on March 18, 1986.

Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 3:34 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 3:36 pm
Gary Brazil scores for Preston from the penalty spot against Cambridge under the new Deepdale floodlights in March 1986

After Deepdale had been without working floodlights for much of the 1985/86 season, the visit of Cambridge United for a Tuesday night fixture was the big switch-on.

The lights didn't work at full power though, and on the pitch North End turned in a sorry performance as they went down to a 2-1 defeat.

It was an 11th league game without a win for PNE and a few days later was to prompt the resignation of Brian Kidd as manager.

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Action from PNE's game with Cambridge in March 1986

Health and safety official had condemned Deepdale's floodlights in October 1985, the pylons having been in place since 1953.

The result was no night games at home until Cambridge's visit, while afternoon matches had to kick-off earlier over the winter.

Being able to play under lights again was meant to lift the gloom but another defeat led to more unrest among the crowd which numbered just 2,837.

After the game, fans gathered outside the club's main entrance on Lowthorpe Road to demonstrate.

PNE striker John Thomas gets in a header against Cambridge

North End could have fallen behind in the second minute when Cambridge's David Crown got clear of the PNE defence, forcing Alan Kelly into a brave save at his feet.

It was only delaying the inevitable, Peter Butler firing the visitors in front from a Steve Massey cross.

PNE, without a home win since November, came close to drawing level when Wayne Foster forced U's keeper Roger Hansbury into a diving save.

It was Hansbury being penalised which led to North End's equaliser towards the end of the first half.

North End on the attack against Cambridge

Foster chased a long ball forward and collided with Hansbury and defender Steve Downham in the box.

Referee George Courtney awarded a penalty, one which Gary Brazil drove into the net.

However, it took Cambridge only 20 seconds on the second half to regain the lead.

Visiting midfielder Tom Finney (not the great man himself!) was the creator, setting up Crown to shoot past Kelly from 20 yards.

That is the way it stayed, a shocker of a result against a side down in the lower reaches of the division with them.

PNE: Kelly, McNeil, Jones, Welsh, McAteer, Keen (Thomas 60), Gray, Martin, Brazil, Foster, Greenwood.