Billy Davies continues to fashion a silk purse from a sow's ear at Deepdale, as Preston extended to five their points advantage over the chasing pack coveting their sixth place in the Championship.
Despite seeming to lose a key squad member with each passing week the defender Callum Davidson is the latest to join the list of season-long absentees following a training ground knee injury manager Davies' homespun side endured few problems in disposing of the bottom club Crewe to take a significant step towards back-to-back play-off campaigns.
These clubs could be two divisions apart in August, as this result all but condemned Crewe to League One, as they lie 11 points adrift of safety and have only half a dozen games left to rectify the situation.
Jon Otsemobor's speculative injury-time 25-yarder flashed inches wide to cause a few Preston palpitations, but, trailing to Brett Ormerod's neatly taken first-half goal, the visitors squandered their clearest two openings within 60 seconds at the outset of the second period. Gareth Taylor failed to capitalise on a slip by debutant defender Kelvin Wilson as the forward planted a shot wide from 18 yards, before Steve Jones lobbed narrowly over stranded goalkeeper Carlo Nash after being released by Lee Bell.
"We needed a win to give us a fighting chance," admitted Dario Gradi, the Crewe manager. "We've stopped conceding goals left right and centre, but we didn't keep the ball well enough. It looks like we're going to run out of time."
Preston ought to have taken the lead before Ormerod struck when Marcus Stewart, part of a three-pronged attack, launched an inviting close-range rebound into orbit after Ross Turnbull had pushed out a low angled drive from the match-winner.
Ormerod brushed over Stewart's embarrassment, as the impressive striker's second Preston goal of the season was entirely down to his own industry, as he broke clear from midway inside the Crewe half to unleash a right-foot shot from 20-yards beyond Turnbull into the bottom corner.
Preston moved to within three points of fifth-placed Crystal Palace and Davies said: "We heave a sigh of relief after that. I have eight players from a squad of 26 out injured so it's a wonderful three points and the five-point lead we have is a great advantage."
Victory was accompanied by the welcome news that Sir Tom Finney, the 83-year-old former Preston player, is due out of hospital today after suffering a blood clot in his leg.
Preston North End (4-3-3) Nash; Mears, Davis, Wilson, Alexander; Sedgwick, McKenna (Whaley, 78), O'Neil (Jarrett, 61); Agyemang, Ormerod, Stewart (Hibbert, 83). Substitutes not used: Neal (gk), Ward.
Crewe Alexandra (4-4-2) Turnbull; Otsemobor, Bougherra, Foster, B Jones; Bell (Vaughan, 89), Grant (Higdon, 89), Lunt, S Jones; Taylor (Johnson, 78), Rodgers. Substitutes not used: Tomlinson (gk), McGready.
Referee: M Thorpe (Suffolk).Reuse content