The year of 2013 certainly looked like it could be yet another bleak one for PNE fans this time twelve months ago, with dwindling crowds and the last league win at Deepdale being against Yeovil all the way back in September of the previous calendar year.
It was a 3-1 defeat to the Glovers on a cold Tuesday night that saw the sacking of Graham Westley, which was the first signal that the Lilywhites were about to turn a corner.
The end of the Westley era was met with a relieved change of atmosphere at Deepdale when John Dreyer took the reins against table-toppers Bournemouth, with a 2-0 win ending the clubs barren spell in front of the home crowd.
It wasn’t long before ex Blackpool player and manager, Simon Grayson, was announced as Westley’s successor.
The appointment of the League one promotion whizz was met with mixed responses due to the Yorkshireman’s links with North End’s fierce rivals down the M55, although Larry soon became well liked among the North End faithful as they went on to lose only three more games that season.
From his appointment in February, Grayson was able to work with the squad he inherited but had to wait until the summer to make his own changes.
When the summer window opened, much like his predecessor, Grayson worked on bringing in players on free transfers as Tom Clarke and Chris Humphrey signed as well as retaining the services of Declan Rudd on loan for another season.
It soon became clear that Grayson’s intentions were to add yet another promotion on his impressive CV when he secured the signing of the former England striker, Kevin Davies, after he turned down a number of offers from many clubs at a higher level to join up with his former Blackburn Rovers teammate.
Before the 2013/14 campaign even got underway, North End fans were given something to look forward to in the form of the first round of the Capital One Cup, when they were drawn at home against rivals Blackpool, which would be the first meeting between the two clubs for three and a half years.
It was a chance for any of the current squad to make themselves a hero, and the tie on the 5th August would go down as one to remember for everyone associated with PNE. A late headed goal by Tom Clarke secured a 1-0 win, a place in the second round, and bragging rights over the Seasiders for the foreseeable future.
The year ended with North End in fourth place in League One, heavily involved in the promotion chase, with the club’s away following and performances standing out.
The final two fixtures in 2013 away at Carlisle and Shrewsbury were both sell-out crowds for the Lilywhites, whilst a 1-0 win at Brisbane Road back in November against the then league leaders Leyton Orient highlights the team’s strong away form, being the first team to win at Orient in the league this season.
The moment Tom Clarke headed his way to legendary status at Deepdale can be found below (who doesn’t want to watch it again?!)