Bailey Wright’s first goal of a season and a second half penalty from Joe Garner gave the Lilywhites a comfortable home victory against John Gregory’s Crawley Town.
Wright scored North End’s opener by steering the ball into the bottom left hand corner after Alan Browne had recycled a corner.
And then Garner doubled the tally with 20 minutes of the second half gone, driving home the spot kick into the top left corner after a hand ball in the box by Crawley’s Mat Sadler.
Manager Simon Grayson went with an unchanged starting XI from the draw with Chesterfield, the only difference in the 18 being Chris Humphrey’s return from injury to replace Kevin Davies, out with a broken rib.
The Lilywhites started the game on the front foot and had all the possession in the opening minutes, Josh Brownhill giving at early test to Jamie Ashdown in the Red Devils’ goal, the keeper denying the midfielder from 25 yards.
The visitors had a little spell of possession either side of the ten minute mark. Firstly Gwion Edwards saw a shot deflected wide for the game’s first corner and then from the delivery it needed Jamie Jones to de aware to claim under pressure from Izale McLeod.
Ashdown was proving North End top scorer Joe Garner’s nemesis, saving from the No.14’s header on 13 minutes and then again at the mid-point of the half, this time making a great diving save to his right to tip behind for corner from Hayhurst’s right wing cross.
However, that let off was short-lived as North End went ahead. The ball kept alive after the corner and recycled out to Alan Browne on the right hand side of the box and the Irishman cut the ball back to Bailey Wright ten yards out who passed the ball into the bottom left hand corner like a proven striker.
The visitors best chance of the half actually came from a PNE man as Joe Garner headed against the bar; his own bar on 26 minutes! It came from Gwion Edwards’ free kick and bounced down for Paul Gallagher to clear for a corner.
Just after the half hour mark a great counter from PNE saw Alan Browne, Brownhill and Gallagher combine before the latter pulled back to Brownhill, but he scuffed his shot before Garner was caught offside.
On 38 minutes Garner headed home Hayhurst’s inswinging corner, but the referee blew his whistle for no apparent reason.
Right on half-time North End had a spell of about 25 passes that eventually saw Garner’s shot blocked – positive passing play that almost resulted in what would have been one of the goals of the season.
The second half started with North End working the ball into the left hand channel and eventually feeding it in to Gallagher who arrowed a shot from the left hand corner of the box just inches over the stanchion.
On 64 minutes North End were awarded a penalty as Mat Sadler handled the ball away from Neil Kilkenny six yards out, referee Kevin Wright pointing immediately to the spot.
Joe Garner stepped up and drove the ball into the top right hand corner for his sixth goal of the season to double the lead.
The visitors made changes to try and push men forward in the last few minutes and Gwion Edwards went close, forcing Jamie Jones to push a shot wide in the final 30 seconds, but North End played out the time comfortably.
PNE line-up: Jones, Woods, Buchanan (Laird, 46), Kilkenny, Clarke (c), Wright, Hayhurst (Humphrey, 71), Browne, Garner, Brownhill, Gallagher. Subs not used: Stuckmann, Wiseman, Reid, King, Robinson.
Crawley Town line-up: Ashdown, Henderson (J Wright, 55), Leacock, Edwards, Smith, McLeod, Walsh, Bawling (Young, 84), Tomlin (Harrold, 62), Sadler, Elliott. Subs not used: Jensen, Bradley, Banya, O’Connor.
Attendance: 10,388 (84 away fans)
Referee: Mr K Wright