MEMORY LANE – PRESTON 1994 by Clive Hayward


Clive Hayward


Clive discusses the 1994 play off semi-final


I’m a small c conservative when it comes to football. Generally, I wish the powers that be would just leave the bloody game alone. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, please just let people carry on doing what they’ve enjoyed forever. 

I would certainly make an exception for the introduction of play-offs though. It has rendered that frequent final month of pointless fixtures a thing of the past. 

In fact, it wasn’t a new idea: when introduced in the late 1980’s the Football League were in fact harking back to the “Test Matches” of the 1800’s, when promotion or relegation was decided by a one off game at the end of the season between Division One strugglers and Second Division thrusters. 

As we know, Torquay enjoyed early heartbreak (Swansea 1988) and shootout joy (Blackpool 1991) before the 1993/94 version which I am going to recall here. 

It had been a really enjoyable season for Torquay, under player-manager Don O’Riordan. The genial Irishman had sorted out free tickets for Roy the Mechanic (his mechanic!) and several of us for some really enjoyable weekend trips. Chester and Shrewsbury spring particularly to mind. At Chester we encountered a Super Loo with a roll of carpet frustratingly abandoned down its gullet. Hotel accommodation was secured for most of us, whilst others bunked in and then out again on Sunday morning via windows and flat roofs! Shrewsbury saw an epic bit of sardining, with 9 of us sleeping in Huw’s one bedroom flat in Birmingham, including John in the bath. John, an occasional Yellow, would henceforth be known as “The Green Goddess” because of the viridescent pyjamas he unaccountable wore that weekend. 

Torquay did really well to finish the season in sixth place, level on points with Preston but below them on goal difference. Fifth would play sixth in the Play Off semis and Torquay fought out a deserved 2-0 win in the first leg at Plainmoor on a Sunday lunchtime. I have no memory of that game whatsoever, and I think I was probably playing cricket! 

So it was a cheerful few buses of Yellows that made their way up to the far North West following midweek. We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy night, playing on one of the first, bone hard artificial pitches in front of a raucous home crowd. We had had experience of Deepdale earlier that season, with fans in the home end trumpeting and drumming their way through the game with more songs about  their star striker Tony Ellis than you could shake a stick of Blackpool rock at. 

North End started quickly, and we were soon behind to an Ellis header. We soon stunned them, however, with a brilliant run and finish by Rodney Jack prototype Gregory Goodridge. To be fair, they weren’t quiet for long and by the end of the first half Preston were one goal and one player in front. A certain David Moyes nutted in a second header, and as for the sending off…… 


As Darren Moore stood on the touchline at Peterborough last night, watching his shell-shocked Sheffield Wednesday charges take one hell of a beating from the unfancied home side, I did wonder if his thoughts might be straying back to another miserable night for him at Deepdale 29 years earlier. 

Our young colossus was sent off following an infamous bit of play acting from Paul Raynor, who went down like the proverbial sack of spuds after “Bruno” had swung an arm in his general direction but missed by about 12 inches.   

The referee bought the Lancashire Music Hall act that would have put George Formby to shame. Supporters of my generation have never forgiven Raynor for it, and he routinely got dogs’ abuse at his subsequent playing & coaching appearances at Plainmoor.   

Plastic Heartbreak 

The rest of the night was the backs to the wall epic that Torquay seem to specialise in. We couldn’t get out, and it was a fierce long ball bombardment that would probably have caused PTSD if we weren’t only talking about a game of football. It was a heroic effort but Preston had too much. Not long before 90 minutes they got the killer third goal- another header, by Hicks- to take the tie to extra time. Although we were still theoretically ahead on the away goals rule, the last 30 minutes was a bridge too far, and the inevitable coup de grace came when- guess who?- Rayner scored with- guess what- another header with about 4 minutes left. 

It was a glorious failure. I would describe it as extremely character building, and those of us with a penchant for schadenfreude took great pleasure in Preston’s later defeat to Martin O’Neill’s Wycombe in the Wembley final. 

Hordes of the locals scuttled on. Many of them were tooled up, but thankfully this was only so they could cut themselves a piece of the cursed pitch which was being replaced by grass for the following season. 

It has taken me a lot of research to get the Torquay line-up that night. Ultimately I found it in the first few seconds of a You Tube video, which is here if you are brave enough to watch it (I wasn’t):  

Here it is, in an attractive old style 1 to 11 format: 

  1. Bayes 
  1. Hodges 
  1. O’Riordan 
  1. Kelly 
  1. Moore 
  1. Curran (capt) 
  1. Trollope 
  1. Buckle 
  1. Darby 
  1. Sale 
  1. Goodridge 

Subs: Hathaway, Foster, Lowe (gk) 

I’ve got strong memories about most of that team- especially the keeper, who was woeful- but maybe that can keep for another time. 






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