Football

Crewe claim monumental victory over Preston

Crewe sealed an impressive win (©GettyImages)
Crewe sealed an impressive win (©GettyImages).

Crewe Alexandra upset several accumulators this weekend with a 2-0 away win at fifth-placed Preston North End.

Following a miserable 4-0 loss at Fleetwood in midweek in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, the Railwaymen claimed only their second win of the season to lift themselves out of the drop zone. 

Having fallen into the League One relegation zone, the Alex were inevitably the underdogs given their poor start to the 2013-14 campaign.

This did not prevent Steve Davis' side from producing a shock though as they demonstrated the grit and determination that had been missing for several weeks previous to overcome the odds and earn their first league victory since August 17.  

The visitors, who had gone seven games without winning before the trip to Lancashire, put in a much improved performance to end Preston's unbeaten home streak. 

Davis chopped and changed again as he continued to search for a concoction to produce results on the pitch. Opting for a 4-5-1 formation, attacking duo Max Clayton and Vadaine Oliver made way for on-loan Arsenal midfielder Chuks Aneke and attacking midfielder Brad Inman.

In several pre-match reports, Preston's Simon Grayson was commended for his side's spectacular form as he was presented with the manager-of-the-month award for September after leading the Lilywhites to both an unbeaten start to the season and winning all their fixtures in the month.

However the infamous curse of the award seems to have struck as his side have lost three successive games in all competitions since he earned the accolade.

Crewe, who did the double over PNE last season, immediately found themselves under pressure as Steve Phillips was forced into a good save to keep the hosts at bay. The 35-year-old tipped Scott Laird's shot round the post and Ian Hulme hit the bar from the following corner.

After establishing a foothold in the game the Railwaymen took the lead on the 25th minute, ending their six hour search for a goal, when Byron Moore staked his first of the season.

Clever build-up play by Inman and Aneke resulted in an incisive pass and Moore weaved into the box and poked past on-loan Norwich goalkeeper Declan Rudd.

This gave the away side the momentum, the crucial first goal boosted their confidence as opposed to capitulating it such as when they have been on the end of several lashings already this season, in which the team's performance did not warrant the final score line.

Former Bolton striker Kevin Davies wasted a golden second-half opportunity to equalise as he headed past the post after connecting with Stuart Beavon's cross. Preston would be left to rue their missed chances as Brad Inman further repaid Davis' decision to start him with a superb second after the break, to take his tally to three goals in three games against the Lilywhites.

Inman's first goal since making his loan move permanent was an absolute stunner, as he curled home from the edge of the box, provoking the away fans into hysteria.

Only minutes later Adam Dugdale almost capped his 100th appearance for the South Cheshire side with a goal as his shot agonisingly crashed against the woodwork. From then on, the result seemed pretty safe as Crewe dealt with the the following oncoming pressure from the home side. 

Matt Tootle's superb last-ditch tackle on Hulme with three minutes remaining ensured Preston had no real chance of a late fightback. The full-whistle blew and the Alex confirmed their first clean sheet since a 2-0 victory over Doncaster Rovers back in November 2012.

The shut-out against Preston ended Crewe's 20 away game streak of conceding. Their defensive showing was vastly improved but the Lilywhites forwards were admittedly wasteful, as they had just two shots on target from the total of 15 shots they had. 

Crewe enjoyed dominance of possession and produced an impressive display both defensively and offensively. Despite starting without any recognised striker, the visitors were clinical as their only two shots on target were both goals. 

The result alleviated growing pressure on their away form as before their trip to Deepdale Crewe had scored just one goal and conceded 13, picking up one point from the 15 available on the road.

Wins have eluded them in cup competitions too as in two away cup games they have scored two and conceded seven and were subsequently knocked out on both occasions, to lower league opposition.

The Railwaymen's defensive frailties have cost them dear this season, as they have conceded 25 goals in League Two in just 10 games and pre-Preston had the worst goal difference in all four English tiers, with -17. 

Crewe have also been beaten twice by teams at the pit of the table with comprehensive scorelines of 3-0 and 4-0. However they will be hoping this victory in which they defied the odds will be the turning point in their season, much in the same respect that a last-gasp 95th minute winner against Morecambe transformed their season back in 2011-12.

Looking ahead, the Alex's next three games are against opposition lower in the the league table than them and so it is essential the Railwaymen gain a minimum of six points if they are to build upon and maintain their new-found confidence. 

Davis told reporters after the game: "It's mad, I am sure we have upset a few odds today. Nobody would have expected us to come here and do this. It is one step forward, we need to not get carried away. We need to build on it.

"All you can do is work hard to find solutions to problems and we have done. We can take great confidence from it.

"It has hurt me when things haven't gone well, it is testing, but I relish the challenge. For a change I will have a decent weekend now!" he joked.

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