One of the high spots of this, or any other season in our history, are the local derbies we play.
Over the years there have been hundreds, but going back to day one, the anticipation and excitement generated by a local derby never changes.
There are many games played in Lancashire that could be called local derbies, but for the purposes of this article, I will stick to Preston versus Burnley, Blackburn, Bolton and Blackpool, mainly because they are the nearest to us and have gone on the longest.
My goodness, we have had some titanic struggles with our neighbours from Ewood Park over the years and I would like to feature this classic match we played straight after WW2 on December 2nd 1946.
The local reporter summed up the feelings of everyone when he opened his report with: ‘It was like old times at Deepdale to see the heavy inflow of people from Blackburn for the peacetime renewal of those legendary battles between North End and the Rovers’.
As for the match itself, everything that could go wrong for the visitors did go wrong. The crowd of over 30,000 saw a game with lots of nip and tuck in the opening half, but it was North End who took the lead, after just ten minutes.
Promising newcomer (!), Tom Finney was the architect as he threaded a wonderful pass through to Willie McIntosh, in on goal. Goalkeeper George Marks came out but McIntosh, ice cool in these situations, hit his shot hard and true giving the keeper no chance.
The goal changed the game and over the next few minutes the visitors were hanging on for dear life. One ferocious goalmouth scramble in the Rovers penalty area saw Marks suddenly go down for reasons not really known.
In the end, he was carried off unconscious and forward Billy Guest took over in goal as Rovers went down to ten men. North End were not about to let this opportunity pass them by and they spent the rest of the half camped in the Rovers half.
With Bill Shankly playing a super game in midfield the Lilywhites doubled their lead on 25 minutes. This time Jimmy Garth’s speculative shot cannoned off Bobbie Beattie, billiards style, to wrong foot the unfortunate Guest.
The makeshift goalkeeper was badly at fault two minutes later when he fumbled the ball, allowing Jackie Wharton to set up McIntosh for an easy number three. With still ten minutes to go before the break that man Finney made his mark.
A lovely pass by Bob Beattie saw Finney hit the ball on the drop, ‘with a shot paralysing with its power and pace, the ball fairly hurtling into the far corner from his left foot’.
It looked odds on a cricket score at that point, but after the break PNE took their foot off the gas, totally dominated the half, but just could not find that fifth goal.
Maybe, just maybe, the home side’s players did not want to totally embarrass their opponents or the Blackburn fans. Do you believe that, no, nor do I! But, let’s face it, it was a different world in 1946.
When I looked to see how many Preston North End players have made their league debut in a derby match and scored, there were very few.
Nine did it between 1888 and 1939 and after World War Two there have only been three.
On Boxing Day in the 1947/48 season Harry Jackson, playing for PNE, born in Blackburn and scoring against Burnley really tested the local loyalty!
A year later Jackie Knight, born in Bolton and scored against Bolton on his PNE debut. And the last to do it so far, was Darren Byfield, who though born in Sutton Coldfield, scored against Burnley in November 1998.
Preston North End’s match against Sunderland back in March 1957 ended in a goalless draw. Not too much to write home about except that it was the 500th draw in North End’s history up to that point.
The game was all about defenders with centre half Joe Dunn outstanding and the two full backs, Willie Cunningham and Joe Walton excelling at their art. Fred Else, in goal, also had a fine match.
Up front only Tom Finney showed flashes of his skill, as chances were at a premium, but in the end the good news was that North End had extended their unbeaten run to 15 matches.