PNE are back in the Championship!
A hat-trick from Jermaine Beckford and a ninth goal of the season from Paul Huntington gave North End resounding win to banish the Play-Off hoodoo once and for all.
It began as early as the third minute as Beckford volleyed home Paul Gallagher’s cross and then Paul Huntington poked home from another Gallagher assist.
A stunner from Beckford two minutes before the break ended the game as a contest before the No.10 fired in his third to become only the third player in Play-Off history to score a hat-trick in the final.
It was an unchanged starting line-up for the Lilywhites to the one that overcame Chesterfield in the second leg at Deepdale two weeks prior, Kyel Reid taking Callum Robinson’s place amongst the bench.
And after all the build-up the game exploded to life.
Paul Gallagher put a ball into the left hand channel in the second minute and Jermaine Beckford raced onto the ball only to be hauled to the floor by Nathan Thompson, the Robins’ skipper who had recovered from his hamstring injury to take his place in their starting XI.
Gallagher himself took the free kick and Jermaine Beckford volleyed home with his left foot from five yards out into the bottom right hand corner.
Nathan Thompson had been trying to wrestle Beckford to the floor as the ball came in and was injured and replaced by Sam Ricketts before the game got re-underway.
And on 13 minutes it was two as Paul Huntington poked home another Gallagher’s cross from the left, after the No.12’s initial corner had come out and John Welsh won it back with a strong tackle and got it back to Gallagher to put the cross in.
It took 19 minutes for the opposition to win their first corner, but Sam Johnstone punched clear.
Their best chance of the first half saw Jack Stephens make a driving run from the back through the midfield and his shot deflected off John Welsh up and over for a corner.
Eight minutes before the break Gallagher, who had assisted both the opening goals, was forced off with an injury, with Alan Browne coming on to replace him.
With two minutes left in the first half Michael Smith headed just wide at the back post from Nathan Byrne’s cross from the right, an excellent opportunity to reduce the arrears.
But a minute before the interval it was three. From the goal kick from Smith’s miss Joe Garner headed on Sam Johnstone’s long kick and Jermaine Beckford curled the ball into the bottom right hand corner from 25 yards with his left foot – a stunning strike to light up Wembley and to make the West side of the stadium explode with noise.
Five minutes into the second half and Neil Kilkenny sent Jermaine Beckford clean through on goal, but Wes Foderingham pulled off a brilliant save to push the ball round the post in a one on one. From Kilkenny’s corner Bailey Wright headed wide from 12 yards out.
But on 58 minutes Jermaine Beckford became the third player in Play-Off Final history to score a hat-trick as he again raced through on goal and this time one on one with Foderingham he gave the keeper no chance and fired into the bottom right hand corner.
Sam Johnstone denied Michael Smith with a flying save on 65 minutes, but three minutes later hat-trick man Jermaine Beckford needed to be replaced; Kevin Davies – whose daughter Lana had been mascot for the PNE side – replacing the man who had scored his 16th, 17th and 18th PNE goals since his arrival on loan from Bolton Wanderers.
As Beckford entered the dougouts a young Oldham fan who had just won the Kids Cup prior to kick-off got the prize possession of a lifetime as he was given the shirt that came off the No.10’s back!
Neil Kilkenny was now on free kick duties and his delivery from the right hand corner of the box with seven minutes left was headed inches wide by Davies in what would have been a dream goal for the 38-year-old front man.
Jordan Turnbull stung the gloves of Sam Johnstone with eight minutes left, the keeper palming the defender’s 30 yard pile driver around the right hand post and then he denied Jonathan Obika with a brilliant save after a long ball back in as the corner was recycled.
The last few minutes as the Swindon half of the stadium emptied became a party as the fans and players waited for the final whistle which eventually ended the Lilywhites’ five year exile from the Championship as referee Andy Madley blew his whistle to fantastic noise.
PNE line-up: Johnstone, Clarke (c), Woods, Welsh, Wright, Huntington, Kilkenny, Johnson (Laird, 82), Beckford (K Davies, 68), Garner, Gallagher (Browne, 37). Subs not used: Stuckmann, Laird, Humphrey, K Davies, Reid, Hugill.
Swindon Town line-up: Foderingham, N Thompson (c) (Ricketts, 5), Byrne, Luongo, Stephens, Turnbull, Gladwin, Kasim, Smith, Toffolo (Williams, 66), Obika. Subs not used: Belford, Williams, L Thompson, Hylton, Rodgers, Rossi-Branco.
Referee: Mr A Madley