Looking back: Preston North End's clash with Cardiff City in the early weeks of Bobby Charlton's reign as manager

Preston North End fought back from two goals down to draw with Cardiff City at Deepdale in October 1973, to help get back on the straight and narrow after two away defeats.

Wednesday, 25th November 2020, 3:00 pm

Bobby Charlton’s men had been on an eight-match unbeaten run in the weeks previously, a 1-0 home win over FA Cup holders Sunderland lifting them into the top three.

But the back-to-back losses on the road had knocked them, hence this point against Cardiff being quite welcome.

Although hindered by having both captain Nobby Stiles and Graham Hawkins on the sidelines, North End began brightly enough with efforts by Mel Holden and Alex Bruce that were eventually dealt with by Bill Irwin in the Cardiff goal.

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Preston North End on the attack against Cardiff City at Deepdale in October 1973

The Welshmen rallied, and with George Smith dominating the midfield, North End were made to look second best for the remainder of the first half.

Gil Reece was a constant thorn up front for the visitors, and he split the North End defence wide open with a pass to John Vincent, who hammered the ball past John Brown but just wide of the post.

A rare flurry of activity in the Cardiff penalty area saw a dipping Bruce drive kiss the cross bar and Holden, in the clear just 15 yards out, drove the ball wide of the post.

The action then swung to the home penalty area for the remainder of the half, and Andy McCullough duly headed the visitors into a deserved lead following a Vincent corner.

PNE striker Mel Holden (No.9) watches a Cardiff defender clear at Deepdale

Cardiff turned the screw and when Brown mistimed his leap at a centre from the right, Reece hit the crossbar with a powerful twisting header.

The half-time whistle came at the right moment and gave North End time to regroup.

Unfortunately, Cardiff were in the mood to carry on where they had left off.

Following two near-misses from shots by Smith and Reece on the hour, striker Booby Woodruff beat Alan Spavin down the right and pulled the ball back into Reece’s path and the centre-forward duly slotted the ball into the welcoming net.

PNE's Francis Burns (No.10), Mel Holden (No.9) and John Bird (No.5) are involved in a goalmouth scramble against Cardiff

Finally stung into action, just two minutes later Holden forced his way past three defenders and into the Cardiff penalty area, to enable Alex Spark to drive the ball over the line from close range.

This gave the subdued home fans a little heart, and a more determined North End went in seek of an equaliser.

Chances came and went, the closest when Neil Young couldn’t control his shot after being played in by Holden, and a Bruce flick following a Bird pass that Irwin just managed to palm around the post.

Eventually, an equaliser did come, as Bruce headed home from a superbly placed inswinging corner by Young after 76 minutes.

Action in front the West Stand during PNE's game against Cardiff

PNE: Brown, McMahon, S Baxter, Bird, McNab, Spark, Coleman (Spavin), Burns, Young, Bruce, Holden.

Attendance: 12,050

*....Ed Skingsley is a lifelong Preston North End supporter who has written five books on his beloved Lilywhites – A Season To Savour, Preston North End – The Sixties, Back From The Brink, Preston North End – The Seventies and Nobby’s Lads.

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