Alexander double as Reds win at Deepdale
Skipper Gary Alexander scored two superb second-half goals as Reds deservedly claimed another impressive League 1 scalp at Deepdale.
The visitors stood firm after some early pressure from Preston to take control as Alexander headed home Nicky Adams' 54th minute cross before curling a superb second into the bottom corner seven minutes later.
Paul Huntington pulled one back in stoppage time but a fourth win of the season - and second in succession on the road - was no more than Reds deserved for a superb display throughout the team.
Richie Barker made two enforced changes with Dannie Bulman and Mark Connolly coming in for suspended Hope Akpan and Josh Simpson. With Claude Davis still unfit Connolly slotted in alongside Kyle McFadzean in the heart of our defence.
Preston, as to be expected, pressed early on and had their best chance of the half in the 12th minute when Stuart Beavon got on the end of David Buchanan's cross but although his flick beat Paul Jones it drifted wide of the post. Buchanan, Beavon and John Welsh also tested Jones but he made comfortable saves from their shots.
Reds began to get into the game as the first half wore on. Their football was certainly pleasing on the eye as Adams and Nicky Ajose began to cause problems with their neat footwork and Adams wasn't far away after a decent move with a drive from 22 yards which landed on the roof of the net.
Bulman then headed wide and Ajose was robbed by a last-ditch tackle inside the six-yard box when he anticipated Alexander's flick on but was denied just as he was about to pull the trigger.
As Preston's frustrations grew three of their players, Huntington, Nicky Wroe and Akpo Sodje, were booked as referee Webb took a no-nonsense approach to their occasionally robust tactics.
The half ended with Reds on top but in truth neither goalkeeper had been seriously extended in the opening 45 minutes.
The visitors were determined not to lose the initiative and on 54 minutes they were in front. Adams produced a wonderful delivery from the left and ALEXANDER, having peeled off his marker, planted a firm header past the helpless Stuckmann before celebrating in front of the away fans.
But if that goal had the away fans dancing in the aisles there was even better to come seven minutes later. ALEXANDER held off Shane Cansdell-Sherriff 20 yards out on the right-hand side of the box and curled a delightful shot into the bottom corner, giving Stuckmann no chance.
Preston went 4-3-3 in search of a breakthrough but there was no way back against a Crawley side who continued to defend doggedly when they came under pressure and use the big pitch intelligently when they had possession.
Alexander had another sight of goal when he got on the end of Sadler's cross but his header was straight at the keeper while an increasingly desperate home crowd appealed more in hope than expectation for a penalty when David Amoo's cross struck Sadler but referee Webb waved play on.
The home side did make it a more nervy stoppage time than it ought to have been when Joel Byrom's free kick was met at the far post by Paul HUNTINGTON who steered his shot past Jones.
Preston sensed a route back into the game and deep into stoppage time Jones turned a header from Beavon over the bar but Reds held on and no one could say they did not deserve another eye-catching League 1 win.