Blackpool secured a return to the Championship on Sunday after a six year absence. A
fter beating Lincoln City 2-1 at Wembley, they will be in the same league as arch Lancashire rivals Preston North End for the first time in 11 years.
However, since then there has been one meeting between the sides, coming in 2013 in the League Cup.
The first round of the competition rarely excites fans but on this occasion, 17,470 turned up back in August on a Monday night. Tom Clarke scored a late winner to make himself an instant hero at Deepdale and secure a 1-0 win. The stadium erupted and a small pitch invasion followed, one which Blackpool manager at the time Paul Ince strongly condemned – but no Preston fan really cared what he had to say.
It was a memorable evening and it felt incredibly special to witness such a moment in the Town End. Lee Holmes’ free-kick seemed to hang at the back post for an age as Clarke then got his head to it. It was just his second game for the club since joining from Huddersfield Town.
Simon Grayson was starting his first full season as Preston manager, and despite his links to Blackpool, he enjoyed the winner as much as anyone else.
Only Declan Rudd and Paul Huntington remain from the Preston squad that night. The latter actually lost a tooth in the wild celebrations when the goal was scored and had to locate it to be fixed back in later. Kevin Davies made an appearance of the bench along with a young Will Hayhurst. Bailey Wright, Keith Keane and Joe Garner were others in the side on that night.
Preston were in League One at the time and Blackpool were in the Championship, but that did not show on the night. North End were determined to get one over on their local rivals. Little did we know that it would be over eight years before the sides would meet again, so it sticks in the memory for even longer now.
Preston fans were rooting for Michael Appleton’s Lincoln to win in the League One play-off final, but having said that, there’s no doubt that they will be looking forward to the two games against The Seasiders now.
Fingers crossed all restrictions are lifted by the time the games take place as a capacity crowd at Deepdale for the encounter is already whetting the appetite.
Recent years have seen Preston settle for North West derbies against Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic, but the majority will always class Blackpool as the big one to look forward to.