John Gregory watched his Crawley side stage a superb two-goal comeback against high-flying Preston in his first home game as Reds’ manager.
Crawley found themselves two down within the opening 15 minutes but goals from Joe Walsh and Gary Alexander rescued a point for Crawley to end a run of four straight home defeats.
Reds began with a 3-5-2 formation and set about the opening five minutes dominating possession, but it was the visitors who went ahead with the first chance of the match. In the seventh minute, Scott Laird swung in a left footed corner and Preston centre half Paul Huntington rose highest in the six yard box. His flicked header hit the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net.
Eight minutes later Reds found themselves two down. Dannie Bulman was dispossessed by Kevin Davies and the former Bolton player laid the ball off to captain John Welsh. Welsh slid the ball through the exposed home defence and into the path of Josh Brownhill who audaciously chipped Paul Jones from the edge of the area.
On 23 minutes Reds carved out their first chance. James Hurst nicked the ball off Davies and Nicky Adams put a ball in the channel for Emile Sinclair to chase down. Preston keeper Declan Rudd raced out of goal towards the ball but he was rounded by Sinclair who returned the ball to Adams but he miscontrolled with an empty net ahead of him before he was crowded out by covering Preston defenders.
Preston could have been three to the good moments later, but Tom Clarke flashed his header wide as Town struggled to cope with North End's physical prowess from set-pieces.
Gregory made a change midway through the half, bringing on Andy Drury for Mat Sadler and switching to 4-4-2 and thenew formation seemed to settle the home team down and Crawley finally got a foothold in the game.
Tidy interplay between Bulman and Gary Alexander gave Adams the opportunity to whip in a cross. The centre found Billy Clarke at the back post but his header lacked power and the ball trickled wide. Crawley had more success with the aerial route to goal and a bombardment of set-pieces and long balls finished first half proceedings but the hosts couldn't find a way past a stern Preston backline.
The second half started in the same fashion as the first - with the home side on top. Clarke blazed over from 25 yards, a header from Gary Alexander whistled just over the bar and a tame effort from Bulman failed to test Rudd.
Finally, after 460 minutes without a home league goal, home fans finally saw the net bulge.
Nicky Adams whipped an enticing free-kick into the box and Mark Connolly saw his thumping header come crashing off the crossbar. Preston failed to clear properly and the ball eventually fell into the path of Joe WALSH who lashed the ball home from 10 yards with his weaker right foot to register his fifth goal of the season.
The home side were clearly bouyed by the goal and they piled on the pressure. Clarke played in Sinclair who turned inside onto his favoured right foot. He saw his shot saved by Rudd and it landed at the feet of Alexander who stabbed the ball home, but he was adjudged to be offside, much to the displeasure of an increasingly vocal home crowd.
This spurred on the home team even more as Connolly skimmed the outside of the post from 25 yards and Joe Walsh was left cursing his luck after he saw his shot hit the base of the post.
But, as the fourth official indicated four minutes to be added on, Adams swung in yet another dangerous corner. ALEXANDER leapt highest to grab the equaliser from close range and it was no more than Crawley deserved.