Reds erased the memory of last week’s performance at Yeovil with a thoroughly deserved second League 2 win in three games at Gresty Road.
James Collins took his tally for the season to 11 with a goal in each half and Crawley’s game management was excellent as they kept their first clean sheet in the league since October 1.
Collins scored with a spectacular volley in the 20th minute to open the scoring and added his second 16 minutes from time after he had been teed up by Billy Clifford.
The striker will grab the headlines but everyone in a black shirt put in a shift with Glenn Morris offered excellent protection by his back four, the midfield and wide players hardworking and inventive with Collins a hardworking spearhead.
Reds had made three changes to the side beaten at Yeovil in last Saturday’s League 2 game. Josh Yorwerth came into central defence and there were recalls for Enzio Boldewijn and Lewis Young. In total, there were six alterations to the team which bowed out of the Checkatrade Trophy at Crewe yesterday.
Crawley made their intentions clear from start. Crewe keeper Ben Garratt was happy to see a long-range strike from Josh Payne flash just wide of his right-hand post in the first minute and that set the tone for an excellent first-half display by Reds.
They dominated possession for long spells and passed the ball well, stretching Crewe down the flanks and it was no surprise when they took a 20th minute lead.
Billy Clifford’s right-wing cross should have been cleared by Perry Ng, but his pass went straight to Collins who volleyed emphatically into the roof of the net from close range.
Reds celebrate James Collins' first-half opener. Picture: James Boardman
As the visitors grew in confidence, they twice went close to adding to their lead. Josh Payne’s pass was headed into Collins’ path by skipper Jimmy Smith and the striker’s shot on the turn took a deflection which wrong-footed Garratt who was relieved to see it drift just wide.
On 39 minutes Reds should have doubled their lead. Roberts’ diagonal ball put Boldewijn away of Crewe’s creaky offside trap but Garratt stood up as the Dutchman bore down on goal and managed to parry his shot. Garratt had earlier denied Boldewijn by saving his shot at full stretch.
Crewe created little before the break, their best chance coming on 37 minutes when Ng’s pass found Alex Kiwomya in space but his shot was always rising over Glenn Morris’s crossbar.
Not surprisingly, there was more urgency about the home side’s approach after the break and they had two early opportunities, although both came after Reds mistakes. Boldewijn was caught in possession by Danny Hollands in the 49th minute but his 25-yarder was always rising over Morris’s bar. Two minutes later Clifford gave the ball away and Chris Dagnall advanced but dragged his effort wide from 20 yards.
Collins had a terrific game for Crawley and he nearly got a second goal when Reds worked a good corner routine and the striker’s shot was blocked. The visitors were then inches away from a second when Roberts’ low drive, after good work down the left by Blackman, went just wide of the far post.
Reds made their first change on 72 minutes when Bobson Bawling replaced Boldewijn and three minutes later they doubled their lead – after another horror show in the home defence. Under no pressure, Garratt gifted possession to Clifford on the right of the box and his unselfish pass to an unmarked Collins was swept into an empty net from 10 yards.
The biggest cheer from the home fans came on 82 minutes when Morris was finally tested by a volley from Ryan Lowe which the keeper held comfortably to his right. Moments later Adi Yussuf came on for Roberts.
By now the rain was hammering down but the 73 Crawley fans were celebrating at the end and Dermot Drummy will want his side to use this game as a springboard for a surge up the table.