Roper Reports will endeavour to make sense of the recent happenings at North End and offer general comment on the world of Football.
During the season there'll be a new report each week. You can navigate the season's articles by using the 'Older' and 'Newer' buttons or by using the drop-down menu.
Winners in the end
Friday 29th May 2015
A grand total of 63 competitive games that started way back on August 9th at Deepdale finally ended at Wembley Stadium on May 24th at Wembley stadium. No doubt that it will be the 63rd game that people remember for many years to come, and rightly so, but there were one or two other memorable moments along the way. In the League Cup we only made it to round two and a respectable exit away at Middlesbrough who, consequently, proved quite a force in the Championship. In the JPT Trophy we almost made a glamour final against Bristol City but, unfortunately, lost a two legged Northern Final against Walsall with one of the poorest performances of the season away in the second leg. It was so bad that people were calling for the manager's head and to add insult to injury it was followed by a shocker of a defeat at Crawley the following Saturday.
The FA Cup, however, provided much relief to North End and after overcoming a Banana skin tie on TV at Havant and Waterlooville in round one we saw off Shrewsbury at Deepdale in round two in a rather low key affair made lighter by the fact that Paul Gallagher put a late penalty into St Gregory's church car park. A superb 2-0 win against, now Premiership, Norwich saw us draw the old foe Sheffield United in round four. A draw at Deepdale didn't quite seem to be enough and when the winners of the replay drew Manchester United at home it looked like a case of what might have been. No-one will convince me otherwise that the 3-1 win in the replay at Bramall Lane changed our season round and set us on the path, ultimately, back to the Championship. United came in front of the TV and a sell-out crowd and for 18 minutes we were dreaming as a Scott Laird shot beat De Gea and North End were in the lead against the three times Champions of Europe. Unfortunately we conceded three goals all of which had degrees of dubiousness about them but that is history now and a gallant six game FA Cup ended in glorious defeat on a Monday evening in February.
So we move on to the league and the 46 game programme which became 49 in the end. We only lost seven games all season in the league and when you think two of those were against Crawley and Colchester then it just shows how consistent we have been over the season. The fact that we drew too many at home is probably the real reason why we didn't finish in the top two and not the heart-breaking defeat at Colchester on the last day. We played an incredible eight out of ten competitive games during October and November in various competitions and the two home games against Fleetwood and Bradford could both have been conceivably called off due to international call ups. There were, of course some great wins along the way particularly at MK Dons and at Ashton Gate with the famous fight back against Fleetwood one of the highlights of the Deepdale fixtures. Five points clear with five games to go would surely be enough but a home draw against Gillingham and a 2-2 draw that seemed like a defeat at Port Vale saw us just one point clear of MK with two games to go. We thrashed a weakened Swindon team at home while MK did their bit and so it all came down to the last game. Preston at Colchester and MK at home to already relegated Yeovil. I think we all knew MK wouldn't slip up and they didn't but oh what a hash we made of it in Essex. It just didn't happen for us on the day and with a 3,000+ following and the home side missing a penalty we still couldn't make our superiority, on paper at least, tell. The U's scored late on and it was another 265 mile journey home feeling like we had blown it again. The team and the fans were really going to take some lifting after this but Sunday soon became Thursday and off we went to Chesterfield. It was the home side's big chance and in spite of some continuous pressure particularly in the second period and the antics of Paul Cook we gained the advantage with an early Beckford goal and came back to Deepdale one up. Thursday soon became Sunday and 15,600 saw North End sail through to the final winning 3-0 and Beckford scoring one of the goals of the season from 45 yards.
Wembley beckoned and there was an almost hourly update on the number of tickets sold. The fact that we had blown it nine times before and had play off heartbreak at Rotherham just 12 months earlier probably didn't help, not to mention the ticket prices and the rail engineering works. In the end 24,000 made it to the National Stadium and boy oh boy where they given a day they are never likely to forget. Grown men hugging each other in tears, dancing in the aisles, whole families rejoicing together because we hadn't just broken the play-off hoodoo, we had buried it in the Earth's crust. 4-0 it finished and Beckford was the hero with a superb hat-trick by a player who could still do it in the top flight given the right management encouragement. It was a fabulous journey back as we left North London about 9.30 having supped enough ale to sink the Titanic. My head was hurting on Monday morning but I didn't care, I was pinching myself and trying to make sense of the fact that just 24 hours earlier I had seen a Preston Captain lift a trophy at Wembley Stadium. That moment will live with me for the rest of my life.
So it's back to the future for North End with a return to the Championship and much work already being done in preparation for next season. Six players have left the club and we wholeheartedly thank all of them for their efforts in raising the club out of the Wilderness and back on the football radar. Clearly we need to get the three loan players signed up as quickly as possible for Johnstone, Beckford and Gallagher were integral parts of the Promotion squad. Season ticket arrangements have already been announced and further communications will be coming shortly. There is no time to lose because it will be Saturday August 8th before you know it. If anybody who has fallen by the wayside is thinking of buying a season ticket the stop think and get saving. We are out of League One, Trevor says the club will go forward and be "competitive" in the Championship – we all need to be a part of it.