PNE opponents Crawley aiming to creep up table

Striker Izale McLeod is Crawley's top scorer with 11 goals this season
Striker Izale McLeod is Crawley's top scorer with 11 goals this season
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Crawley find themselves propping up League One as they ready themselves for Preston North End’s visit to the Broadfield Stadium.

A run of 13 games without a win – that stretches back to October – has dumped the West Sussex club to the foot of the table.

They are five points adrift of safety and at the moment look in real danger of dropping into League Two after a three-year stay at this level.

Tuesday night’s 3-0 defeat to Chesterfield was the third loss on their travels in a row, having also been beaten at Fleetwood and Rochdale.

For that reason they will be pleased to be back home this weekend, although as interim Crawley boss Dean Saunders has pointed out, it is a fourth sucessive clash with opposition from the higher reaches of the division.

Saunders said: “We play Preston next, which is another tough one.

“We have had a run of difficult fixtures against good teams, with Chesterfield, Fleetwood and Rochdale all up there.

“I just have to keep picking the positives out of games, keep building until it comes together and we get a result.

“When a result comes the belief might come back.”

Saunders was honest in his assessment of Crawley’s loss at Chesterfield.

The Welshman said: “I thought we were beaten by a better team on the night.

“ We couldn’t cope with the two strikers, who caused us all types of problems and the goals were bad from my point of view.

“Chesterfield are a better team than us – they’ve been together for two-and-half years and it showed. There were some positives. We had some passages of play which were probably the best since I’ve been here.

“But I think looking at the two teams, we had some players who had to play two games in three days and struggled for various reasons. Overall, as a group we have a lot of players carrying injuries and games in quick succession are difficult.

“Physically, Chesterfield looked fitter and stronger than us on Tuesday night.”

Saunders, 50, took charge of Crawley late in December.

John Gregory stepped down in order to have heart surgery and the interim title which Saunders has suggests the door is open for Gregory to return when he is back to full health.

The Red Devils drew the first two games of Saunders’ tenure, 0-0 against Colchester on December 28 and then 2-2 with MK Dons three weeks ago.

They led 2-0 against MK before losing goalkeeper Brian Jensen to a facial injury before the interval.

With no sub keeper on the bench, striker Matt Harrold went in goal and was only beaten by an equaliser deep into injury time.

On target with both Crawley goals that day was striker Izale McLeod. The well-travelled front man, who Charlton once paid £1.1m for, is Town’s top scorer with 11 goals. Winger Gwion Edwards, who signed from Swansea last season, has netted five goals and Marvin Elliott four.

A January arrival to bolster the Crawley midfield has been Anthony Wordsworth.

The 26-year-old joined on loan from Rotherham, a club he only signed for in August from Ipswich.

PNE looked at Wordsworth last season when he was at Ipswich but did not make a move for him.

Another recent recruit is keeper Lewis Price from Crystal Palace. He was needed due to Jensen’s injury.

Earlier this season, North End beat Crawley 2-0 at Deepdale.

Bailey Wright put the home side ahead in the first half before Joe Garner’s penalty after the break doubled 
the lead.