Preston North End's first taste of play-off football against Port Vale 33 years ago

Preston North End got their first taste of the play-offs 33 years ago this week.

By Dave Seddon
Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 3:00 pm

It was the third season which the Football League had held the end-of-season knockouts but 1989 was this was the first year using the format still used today – previously a side from the division above battling to avoid relegation had been involved.

PNE met Port Vale in the Third Division semi-finals, hosting them at Deepdale on May 22 before making the trip to Vale Park three nights later.

The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw, Nigel Jemson giving the Lilywhites the lead before Robbie Earle headed Vale level.

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Preston North End's Brian Mooney puts in a cross against Port Vale in the play-offs

So all eyes were on a Thursday night trip to Burslem for the second leg with the tie finely poised.

North End supporters had quickly snapped-up their 3,500 allocation and there were police check points on the routes into the Potteries to try and weed-out ticketless fans.

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While their side had it all to do in the second leg after drawing the home leg, the mood among the PNE faithful was expectant and they were in good voice on the open away terrace behind the goal.

Mark Patterson (out of picture) scores Preston North End's equaliser against Port Vale in the play-offs in May 1989

Preston wore red socks with their yellow away shirts and shorts as a tribute to the Liverpool fans who had died at Hillsborough the month before.

It was Vale who started strongly and took a 21st minute lead through Darren Beckford.

However, North End were quickly level, doing that in some style.

Brian Mooney got possession down the side of the Vale box and cut the ball back into the path of Mark Patterson on the edge of the box.

Preston North End fans on the away terrace at Vale Park for the play-off clash with Port Vale in May 1989

Patterson shifted the ball on to his left foot and swept a fine curling finish over Vale keeper Mark Grew into the top corner, the goal scored at the end where the PNE fans were massed.

North End keeper David Brown saved a penalty from Ray Walker after half an hour but he was beaten twice by Beckford in the second half who completed his hat-trick to clinch a place for Vale in the final.

Vale won the two-legged final 2-1 against Bristol Rovers, drawing 1-1 away and winning the second leg 1-0.

Nigel Jemson in action for Preston North End against Port Vale in the play-offs in 1989