It was eight years ago this week that Paul Huntington and Joe Garner played a huge part in the game that secured Preston North End’s return to the second tier.

North End finally ended their play-off hoodoo with a 4-0 win over Swindon Town in the League One play-off final. It was a memorable day at Wembley that gave joy and relief to Preston fans who had become tired of previous failures.

Simon Grayson’s side should have secured automatic promotion to be honest with it in their hands going into the last game of the season away to Colchester United. They lost that game and then had to pick themselves up for a semi-final against Chesterfield.

Swindon Town v Preston North End - Sky Bet League One Playoff Final
Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images

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Chris Humphrey spoke about how good of a job Simon Grayson did in keeping the players spirits up and getting them ready for the play-offs on the Playing Away From Home podcast.

Preston beat Chesterfield 4-0 over two legs with three goals from Jermaine Beckford and one from Joe Garner.

It meant a first trip to the ‘new’ Wembley for the club. Fans travelled with excitement but with trepidation as well. They needn’t worry however as Preston took the lead after three minutes through Beckford. Paul Huntington scored 10 minutes later before Beckford picked up another one before half time.

The Lilywhites fans were in disbelief. The play-offs were never this straight forward. Beckford went on to complete his hat-trick and the game was over.

I vividly remember a moment in the second half where Joe Garner was shielding the ball out for a throw in which he won before turning to the crowd and letting out a huge roar and a fist pump. Everyone knew how important this was.

Garner and Huntington were crucial for us that season scoring 27 and nine goals respectively. They were instrumental figures and Huntington carried on being one until his departure from the club only last season after ten years.

Garner left after one season in the Championship, moving north of the border to Glasgow Rangers. He’s also played at Ipswich Town, Wigan Athletic, APOEL Nicosia and Fleetwood Town.

Carlisle United v Bradford City: Sky Bet League Two Play-Off Semi-Final Second Leg
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They are both at Carlisle United though now, under former Preston manager Paul Simpson. ‘Simmo’ has done a great job in Cumbria, keeping them away from relegation last season before guiding them to 5th place in League Two.

They dispatched Mark Hughes’ Bradford City side 3-2 on aggregate after extra time in the semi-finals and are now one game away from League One.

They face Stockport County on Sunday at 1:30pm. Garner and Huntington will both have fond memories of their previous play-off match at Wembley.

Both 35 years old now, their teammates will be looking to them for experience. Huntington has particularly been key this year, starting 41 league games.

It would be nice to see them enjoy Wembley success again and perhaps there will be a Huntington testimonial at Deepdale this summer too.

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