When Preston North End defender Tom Clarke put the ball in the Blackpool net

Tom Clarke earned instant hero status with the Preston North End faithful when he scored the winner against Blackpool in the League Cup seven years ago.

Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 3:00 pm
Even the motorway signs knew that Tom Clarke put the ball in the Blackpool net

The Lancashire rivals were pitched together in the first round of the competition in August 2013, the game being played on the Monday night after their opening league games.

North End were in League One at the time and the Seasiders in the Championship.

The tie looked to be heading for extra-time until Clarke wrote his name into PNE folklore in the 87th minute.

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Tom Clarke turns to celebrate after scoring Preston's winner against Blackpool at Deepdale in August 2013

This was only his second competitive game for the club after a summer arrival from Huddersfield Town on a Bosman.

But as the ball hit the back of the Blackpool net from his far post header, Clarke found out straight away just how much his goal meant to the Preston fans.

North End had won a free-kick in the visitors' half and loaded the box as Lee Holmes stood over the ball.

Holmes delivered it left-footed towards the far post where Clarke got behind the last defender, jumped and sent a downward header bouncing past goalkeeper Matt Gilks.

Tom Clarke and Paul Huntington celebrate

Clarke's celebrations took him running past the Alan Kelly Town End and towards the Invincibles Pavilion where his team-mates piled on him.

In among the excitement, team-mate Paul Huntington managed to lose a cap off one of his teeth!

The song 'Who put the ball in the Blackpool net - super Tommy Clarke cha' became a terrace favourite from then on.

In his honour, a Preston supporter doctored a road sign near to the M6 at Lancaster to let everyone know the score!

Beating Blackpool came at the start of something of a rebuild by PNE.

Having sacked Graham Westley the previous February and replaced him with Simon Grayson, Deepdale had become a steadier ship.

Clarke had arrived that summer together with Kevin Davies and Chris Humphrey, while Declan Rudd had returned for a second loan spell.

North End had drawn with title favourites Wolves on the opening day of the season, then the win over Blackpool got the club rocking.

That was the start for Clarke at PNE, the end only coming this week when it was announced he would be leaving at the end of his contract.

He had been offered a short contract extension until the end of the season but decided now was the best moment to leave.