It has been a great first week of the season for Reds. In fact, it could hardly have been any better.
Three 1-0 wins and a place in the next round of the Capital One Cup and now fifth place in the embryonic League One Table after Izale McLeod scored the clincher for the third successive fixture to see off ten-man Swindon.
The visitors played with ten men for the last third of the game after Louis Thompson was shown a straight red for bringing down McLeod who got up to score his third goal of the season from the penalty.
The visitors might wonder how they didn’t get anything from the game though. They forced 14 corners and Brian Jensen was named man of the match but it was Crawley who went closest to scoring again when Gwion Edwards’ shot crashed back off the underside of the bar.
Boss John Gregory made two changes to the side that beat Ipswich in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday. Gavin Tomlin was fit to make his competitive debut while Ryan Dickson started on the left-hand side of midfield. Lewis Young and Bobson Bawling dropped to the bench.
It was 4-4-2 for Reds with Tomlin alongside McLeod but Swindon made the better start with Massimo Luongo curling a shot wide in the sixth minute after a spell when the hosts gave the ball away too easily.
Jensen made a terrific save in the 11th minute to push away Louis Thompson’s drive before Reds began to threaten. Lanre Oyebanjo won the ball and attacked the box but McLeod turned his cross wide. At the other end, Yaser Kasim’s low drive from 30 yards skimmed wide.
Reds were struggling at this stage to cope with a lively home side, particularly in midfield. Jensen blocked Kasim’s header at his near post, then Michael Smith stabbed a shot wide which took a deflection as the hosts lived dangerously. On 26 minutes Ben Gladwin was next to threaten when he was allowed space to fire in a shot from the edge of the box which flew just over the bar. Dean Leacock then got in a timely block on Smith’s effort from inside the box.
The hosts finally began to threaten on 35 minutes when Swindon keeper Wes Foderingham was forced to make a terrific save to his right from Tomlin’s drive after Edwards’ low cross had almost been turned in by McLeod moments earlier. The striker missed a great opportunity three minutes later when, unmarked, he headed Ryan Dickson’s deep cross wide from inside the six-yard box.
Swindon’s Raphael Rossi-Branco was booked for bringing down Dickson in full flight then Tomlin followed him into the book for simulation after a strong run into the box ended with him flat on his feet after trying to round Foderingham.
Swindon started the second half positively too, Smith seeing his shot deflected for a corner.
The game exploded into life in the 50th minute when Reds went in front from the penalty spot. Jensen had just made two superb saves from Luongo and Jordan Turnbull before he launched the ball forward over a static Swindon defence. McLeod outpaced Thompson and the defender dragged him down inside the box. Thompson was shown a straight red by referee James Linington and McLEOD drove the spot kick down the middle, giving Foderingham no chance.
Swindon would have considered themselves hard done by to be behind at that stage and they mounted a spirited response to the setback. Nathan Thompson headed just over when he met a left-wing corner and the dangerous Smith saw his shot deflected for Swindon’s 10th corner.
The boss made his first change on 63 minutes when Charles Banya replaced Tomlin and Conor Henderson then let fly from distance but Foderingham got right behind his shot.
Swindon continued to look more likely to score the next goal with Kasim slicing a decent chance wide from distance. With 13 minutes to Reds made a second change with Bobson Bawling coming on for Henderson.
The hosts were inches away from extending their lead on 78 minutes when Edwards thundered a shot against the underside of the bar from 12 yards, having seen his first effort blocked by the visitors. Joe Walsh met Smith’s corner – our first of the game – but couldn’t keep his header on target.
With four minutes left Edwards was replaced by Emmett O’Connor and Reds managed to see the game out and hang on somehow in a frantic finale to three hard-earned points.
Reds: Jensen; Oyebanjo, Leacock, Walsh, Bradley; Edwards (O’Connor 86), Henderson (Bawling 76), Smith, Dickson; Tomlin (Banya 63), McLeod. Unused subs: Young, Rose, Richefond, Spiegel.