MJ off the mark in Reds' win
Mike Jones scored his first goal for the club to secure a deserved win over Preston at a balmy Broadfield on Tuesday night.
Reds played some outstanding football in the first half and should have been further in front after Jones netted in the sixth minute. Preston were more of a force after the break but the hosts also had chances to stretch their lead.
Richie Barker made one change to the side beaten 2-1 by Oldham on Saturday with skipper Josh Simpson restored to the starting line-up and Sergio Torres dropping to the bench.
The boss had made it clear that he didn't want his players to coast through the final week of the season and that was certainly not the case in a first half when Reds played some of their best football of the season.
Some of the moves they put together were of real quality and top scorer Billy Clarke nearly broke the deadlock in the fourth minute but his volley from Paul Hayes' lay-off went over.
But two minutes later Reds did go ahead. JONES collected possession 25 yards out and hit a low drive into the bottom corner past the diving Thomas Stuckmann.
As Reds continued to dominate Josh Simpson volleyed over then Clarke forced Stuckmann into a fingertip save after he'd headed on Jones's cross.
Preston finally threatened when John Welsh hit a free kick from distance wide but the opening half had been dominated by the hosts who should perhaps have been further in front at that stage.
The visitors began the second half brightly and Paul Jones was finally called into action after 52 minutes when Jack King robbed Joe Walsh and his well-struck shot was turned over by the home keeper.
Reds responded well and Clarke fired over after Simpson had dummied David Hunt's square pass and then Hayes got put through by Clarke but he tried to dink the ball past Stuckmann and the keeper made a fairly comfortable save.
Preston's best chance of the night came with 20 minutes left when King met a right-wing cross with a powerful header which hit the bar before Reds hacked it clear. The visitors had certainly improved in the second half but despite their pressure Reds always seemed to have a measure of control.
Sub Jamie Proctor cleverly teed up Nicky Adams but he couldn't keep his shot on target then in the closing stages two more subs, Sergio Torres and Matt Sparrow, combined but Sparrow got his cross all wrong with Proctor screaming for the ball inside the box.
Reds saw the game out and the three points made it three wins out of the last four with four clean sheets in five. The season ends on Saturday against Hartlepool and another win could lift us up to eighth place.