When the lights went out on Preston North End's play-off hopes against Leeds United in May 2006

It was 14 years ago tonight that Preston’s play-off hopes came to a dark end.

Friday, 8th May 2020, 3:00 pm
Billy Davies sat alone in the dug out as a power cut delayed the start of the second half of Preston's play-off clash with Leeds in May 2006

They were beaten 2-0 by Leeds at Deepdale in the second leg of the semi-finals, four days after getting a 1-1 draw at Elland Road.

It was a dark night in more ways than one on May 8, 2006, as North End’s attempts to reach the Premier League via the play-offs failed for a second year running.

A power cut in the area meant a 20-minute delay to the second half.

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Tyrone Mears heads home for PNE against Leeds in the second leg of the play-off semi-final against Leeds but it was disallowed for a foul

The lights went out during half-time and a big memory of the night was PNE boss Billy Davies sat alone in the dug-out during the enforced break.

It was goalless at half-time before Leeds scored twice in a five-minute spell to sink Davies’ men.

The Yorkshiremen were robust on the night, finishing the game with nine men after red cards for Stephen Crainey and former PNE frontman Richard Cresswell.

Six other Leeds players were booked by referee Mike Thorpe who struggled to gain any sort of control.

Preston striker David Nugent celebrates after giving his side the lead against Leeds at Elland Road in the first leg of the play-off semi-final in May 2006

It was an end-of-season trilogy between the clubs from either side of the Pennines.

A quirk of the fixture list saw the sides meet on the final day of the regular campaign at Deepdale.

Both sides were already in the play-offs and a 2-0 win for PNE saw them jump above Leeds to finish fourth and have home advantage for the second leg.

Goals from Brian Stock and Brett Ormerod delivered the victory, neither side playing a full strength team so not to show their hand ahead of the play-off games.

PNE players celebrate David Nugent's goal at Leeds in May 2006

Six minutes from the end of the game, David Nugent came off the bench for his first slice of action for more than seven weeks after recovering from a fractured metatarsal.

It was a quicker than expected return for the striker and five days later in the first leg in Yorkshire, Nugent was handed a start by Davies.

That was a gamble which paid off, Nugent scoring a superb solo goal three minutes after half-time to give PNE the lead to the delight of 5,000 travelling supporters.

Eddie Lewis, one of four former Preston men in the Leeds squad together with Sean Gregan, David Healy and Cresswell, equalised with a 74th minute free-kick.

Deepdale Duck relaxes on the pitch as Deepdale is left without lights by a power cut during PNE's play-off semi-final second leg tie against Leeds

Post match, PNE manager Davies talked of trying to finish the job off at Deepdale in the second leg.

His words were somewhat twisted, by the time his quotes landed in some publications Davies had talked of the 1-1 draw being ‘job done’.

The Monday night second leg was eventful and strange from the off.

Davies made one change to the starting XI, that being the return of loanee Marcus Stewart after injury at the expense of Jason Jarrett who had started six of the previous seven games and had indeed played well.

Midfielder Jarrett didn’t even make the matchday squad, with him watching suited and booted from the Pavilion Paddock.

Stewart’s inclusion meant PNE started with four strikers, Nugent, Danny Dichio and Ormerod in the front line.

Leeds striker Richard Cresswell is sent-off by referee Mike Thorpe against PNE in the play-off semi-final

Sadly, Ormerod’s night was to last just five minutes after a challenge from Jonathan Douglas left him with a badly broken leg. Simon Whaley came off the bench to replace the stricken front man.

Stewart was substituted at half-time, replaced by Patrick Agyemang.

That half-time was to last 25 minutes due to the power outage, the floodlights going off and giving referee Thorpe no option but to delay the start of the second half.

Out came Davies to gather his thoughts alone in the dug out, the flash bulbs of the photographers’ cameras snapping the moment, puncturing the gloom.

Rob Hulse and Frazer Richardson scored in quick succession once the action resumed, before a red card for Crainey for a second yellow.

Cresswell took the same walk to the dressing room in stoppage-time, having got two yellows after only joining the action in the 78th minute.

His dismissal made little difference, the tie was already beyond PNE and Leeds were later to revel in the ‘job done’ jibe at Davies.

A strange, eventful and painful night for North End.

This was Davies' last stand as PNE manager, with him departing to join Derby County a few weeks later.

Having taken Preston to the play-off final 12 months earlier and then this near miss, the Scotsman sought pastures new.