Alex will pose stern test for PNE

North End travel to Crewe in the first round of the Capital One Cup
North End travel to Crewe in the first round of the Capital One Cup
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Preston North End being drawn away to Crewe in the Capital One Cup means a return to a ground where they have traditionally struggled.

Fifteen visits to Gresty Road down the years have yielded just three PNE victories.

So a few groans from North End supporters when the first-round draw was made, were understandable.

Yesterday’s draw was both seeded and regionalised.

That meant the Lilywhites’ opponents were guaranteed to have come from the pot of clubs who either finished in the lower half of League One or are in League Two.

Crewe finished a place and two points above the League One relegation zone last month.

Simon Grayson will take his side to Cheshire in the week beginning August 10, the game coming on the back of the opening league match of the season.

Their last visit there came on December 28, and it needed an 83rd-minute equaliser from Jermaine Beckford to earn a 1-1 draw.

Prior to that, Preston had lost their last two games there, 2-1 on the final day of the 2013/14 campaign and 1-0 the season before.

They won at Gresty Road two seasons on the spin when Billy Davies was in charge.

In January 2005, goals from Chris Sedgwick and Brian O’Neil delivering a 2-1 win. Callum Davidson and Adam Nowland were on target in a 2-0 victory in December the same year.

PNE’s first victory on Crewe’s home patch was in April 2001, goals from David Healy and Jon Macken (2) giving them a 3-1 win.

The clubs have met twice in the League Cup before, North End winning both times.

In August 1967, they beat Crewe 2-0 at Deepdale.

Then four years ago, PNE won a first-round tie 3-2, Neil Mellor and Iain Hume netting late strikes – Crewe having recovered from conceding an early own goal to go 2-1 up.

North End have reached the second round of the Capital One Cup for the last two years.

Last season, they won 2-0 at Rochdale before bowing out 3-1 at Middlesbrough.

The previous campaign, Tom Clarke’s late header gave them their dramatic victory over Blackpool.

That set up another derby clash against Burnley, with PNE losing 2-0 at Turf Moor.

PNE got as far as the third round in both 2011/12 and 2012/13.

In 2012, North End beat Championship opposition in Huddersfield and Crystal Palace, then lost to Middlesbrough.

The year before, the first-round win over Crewe was followed by a 2-0 victory at Charlton.

That set up a visit to Southampton – then in the Championship – which they lost 2-1.