Preston North End drop into football's basement despite victory over York City

Preston North End tumbled down the steps into football’s basement for the first time on May 11, 1985.

By Dave Seddon
Monday, 11th May 2020, 3:00 pm

In a season when wins were rare and they leaked goals at an alarming rate, it was ironic that PNE went down on the back of a 1-0 victory.

They beat York City at Bootham Crescent, more than 1,000 North End fans making the trip in hope rather than in expectation that the drop could be avoided.

Not only did they need to win, Preston needed favours from others and those were not forthcoming.

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Bob Atkins (left), Gary Brazil and David Johnson congratulate Ian Stevens after the midfielder scored in Preston's win over York on May 11, 1985

Failing to win the previous six matches had left them dangling over the edge and hanging by their fingertips.

They had lost 5-2 at home to Wigan the week before, a dreadful display in which the writing was on the wall.

The fifth goal Wigan had scored had been the 100th conceded by PNE that season in the league.

Hence keeping a clean sheet at York was a surprise, for all the good it did them.

Preston's Gary Brazil takes on a York defender

Against the Minstermen they had plenty of defending to do in the first half, with goalkeeper Glenn Campbell kept busy making three saves.

The game’s only goal came in the 53rd minute, North End midfielder John Kelly chipping a pass over the York defence.

Ian Stevens and home keeper Roger Jones both went for it, Stevens getting there first and looping a header into the net.

It was the youngster’s first goal in only his fourth game in a Preston shirt.

PNE manager Tommy Booth (far right) and his No.2 Brian Kidd (middle) watch the victory over York

Central defender Geoff Twentyman kept North End’s lead intact when he cleared a header from Dale Banton off the line.

PNE should have extended their lead when a Mike Farrelly pass put Peter Houghton clear. But his shot lacked power and Jones managed to save.

The final whistle was the cue for PNE fans to realise they were down.

They finished second from bottom, level on points with Orient and Burnley and one behind 20th-placed Swansea.

Ian Stevens in action for Preston against York

Their goal difference was shocking though, 51 scored and 100 against – bottom club Cambridge shipped five fewer.

To think they had started the season with four wins from the first five league games, raising expectations that things could happen at the other end of the table.

That gave way, though, to a run of eight defeats in a row, while they exited the FA Cup to non-league side Telford.

A grim season and it took a while to get better.