Memory match: PNE v Birmingham, play-off semi-final, 2nd leg, 2001

You would be hard pressed to remember a more dramatic night at Deepdale in recent years than Preston North End's play-off semi-final win against Brmingham City in May 2001.

Thursday, 18th January 2018, 11:00 am
Mark Rankine scores the last-gasp goal which took PNE's play-off clash with Birmingham into extra time in May 2001

The excitement levels were something else that Thursday night, the second leg contest containing more than any script writer could have dreamt up.

A jam-packed three-sided Deepdale was kept enthralled by a late goal, a manager going into meltdown, a champagne-delivering comedian and a thrilling penalty shoot-out.

On offer to the winners was a visit to the Millennium Stadium in the final and it was PNE who landed the prize.

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They had trailed 1-0 from the first leg at St Andrews the previous Sunday afternoon but confidence was high in the Preston camp that the semi-final could be turned in their favour on home turf.

Early chances were traded at either end, North End keeper David Lucas saving well from Jon McCarthy with an out-stretched leg while David Healy put a shot too close to Ian Bennett.

The Lilywhites took the lead on the night and levelled the score on aggregate in the 24th minute.

A throw-in lobbed into the penalty area by right-back Graham Alexander seemed to be hit the arm of Martin Grainger as the Birmingham defender jumped to clear.

As the crowd shouted for handball, the ball dropped to Healy who took a touch and rifled a shot into the roof of the net.

As Birmingham looked to hit back, Marcelo’s shot was well saved by Lucas before Danny Sonner headed against the bar.

The visitors pulled level on the night in the 59th minute, swinging the tie back in their favour.

Stan Lazaridis’ low cross was missed by Marcelo but his fellow striker Geoff Horsfield arrived at the far post to steer the ball past Lucas.

The PNE keeper made a double save from Marcelo and Horsfield before Preston were offered a lifeline when referee Paul Danson pointed to the spot after Sonner had handled in the box.

But the normally deadly Alexander hammered the penalty against the bar.

Preston were not finished though, and equalised in the most dramatic way with more than 91 minutes on the clock.

It all began at the other end as Lazaridis moved into the PNE box and took the ball round Lucas.

His shot from a tight angle rolled across the face of the goal where it was picked up by Rob Edwards who took the ball towards the halfway line. Sean Gregan took over, the skipper’s pass finding Jon Macken, who fed a pass to Healy on the left-hand side of the box.

The striker’s low shot was parried by Bennett and into the path of Mark Rankine who side-footed home.

Extra time saw no more goals and with the away goal rule not in use, the tie went to penalties.

Step forward Blues boss Trevor Francis who argued with the referee and safety officials about the shoot-out taking place in front of the Bill Shankly Kop rather than at the Town End, which at the time was a building site.

Alexander put PNE 1-0 up in the shoot-out, with Lucas then saving from Marcelo.

Healy buried his, Lucas then saving from Darren Purse. Gregan made it 3-0 with a powerful conversion, then Lazaridis netted.

Edwards missed Preston’s fourth, Nicky Eaden pulled it back to 3-2 and it was left to Paul McKenna to tuck his penalty home to send PNE to Cardiff.