FOWLER DEBUT DELIGHTS DEAN
CRAWLEY interim boss Dean Saunders admits he can’t wait to see what a fully-fit Lee Fowler can do after the midfielder enjoyed a debut to remember as the hosts jumped two places off the bottom.
Fowler only arrived at the club on Thursday on loan from Non-League Nuneaton, but came on as a late substitute and volleyed brilliantly to secure Saunders’ first win in charge and Crawley’s first three points since October – a winless run stretching 16 games.
Anthony Wordsworth, in his debut home game, had struck from close range in the firsthalf before Paul Huntington’s header levelled.
An entertaining second-half then saw a barrage of chances for both sides before Fowler struck with three minutes remaining.
“He isn’t anywhere near fit yet but he’s come on and shown his class,” Saunders said of 31-year-old Fowler. “He’s more talented than anyone in this league but he’s just wasted it a bit.
“I want to put him on the straight and narrow and I’ve never seen him score a volley like that. In the past he’s made the game look easy. I said to him that he should be playing in the Championship.
“We deserved the win and we played them at the right time as they were less confident in front of goal.
“I was really pleased how professional we were in the last five minutes and hopefully the three points will lift the place.”
Against the run of play, Crawley scored first in the 18th minute when David Buchanan lost the ball on the right. Lewis Young broke free and crossed low as Wordsworth bundled in from close range after an initial save by Sam Johnstone.
But Preston’s creative endeavour was rewarded before the hour when Huntington’s run went unnoticed after a Paul Gallagher corner and he easily headed home for his sixth goal of the season.
The hosts’ best chances all came with 15 minutes left. First, Calum Woods clattered into Ryan Dickson on the edge of the box, with Jimmy Smith’s resulting free-kick excellently tipped over by Johnstone.
Five minutes later Lanre Oyebanjo saw his rasping drive flick the cross bar, while Izale McLeod had two clear chances.
Crawley’s winner was richly deserved. Fowler, unmarked on the edge of the box, rifled in an unstoppable right-footed volley high into the net from a corner, leaving Preston manager Simon Grayson to rue a fifth league game without a win.
“We dominated most of the game and possession where it mattered, but we can’t buy a goal apart from set pieces at the moment,” he said.
“We didn’t do enough in the final third and then we conceded a sloppy late goal. We have to go back and do the basics right.
“We were hard to beat at the start of the season and we were ruthless in the 18-yard box.
“At the moment we are switching off. There’s not a great deal wrong with the team right now but we have to be more clinical.”
DREAM DEBUT: Lee Fowler celebrates his winner Inset: The midfielder fires home