Reds could have no complaints as they suffered their first competitive defeat of the season at the County Ground against a Swindon side who, on this display, could well challenge for successive promotions.
A fluke goal by Matt Ritchie and a second on the stroke of half-time by Tommy Miller gave Swindon a 2-0 lead which they added to in the second half through Italian Raffaele De Vita.
Reds never stopped working and had some chances of their own but boss Richie Barker's pre-match warning that this could be a tough night for his side sadly proved spot-on.
Swindon boss Paolo Di Canio had been critical of his side’s performance in last Saturday’s goalless draw at Hartlepool and their response was to make a strong start with Reds pinned back in the early stages.
But apart from a shot by Alan McCormack which was comfortably held by Paul Jones, they didn’t threaten our goal too often in the opening quarter of the game although they did dominate possession and their movement, with Ritchie lively down the right, was at times impressive.
Reds carved out their first chance on 19 minutes when Hope Akpan curled a shot wide after a good move down the left involving Nicky Adams and Josh Simpson and Barker’s boys appeared to be settling into the game when they went behind to a fluke goal on 24 minutes when a right-wing cross from RITCHIE, which was aimed to the far post, dropped over Jones and went in off the upright.
On the balance of play Swindon deserved their goal but Crawley responded impressively.
Gary Alexander’s volley, from Mat Sadler’s cross, was deflected wide for a corner then Kyle McFadzean met a diagonal cross from Sadler but his header dropped onto the roof of the net.
Kyle was then booked for a foul before Billy Clarke forced Wes Foderingham to turn his shot around the post. At that stage Reds looked more likely to score the next goal but on the stroke of half-time they conceded again.
Ritchie’s corner was headed down and only half-cleared to MILLER who lashed it past Jones from 12 yards.
Reds had clearly been fired up by the boss at the break and began the second half at a decent tempo. They nearly got a goal back on 54 minutes when Connolly’s free kick was punched by Foderingham only as far as Adams but his volley lacked sufficient power and McCormack was able to get it clear.
The away fans had made a tremendous noise since the break and they weren’t even silenced on 63 minutes when Swindon got another rather fortunate goal. A cross from the right by Ritchie skimmed off Claude Davis’s head and fell perfectly for Rafaelle DE VITA, whose volley went through Connolly’s legs and sped past a helpless Jones.
Richie immediately brought on Jonathan Forte for Dannie Bulman and Adams had another decent effort, this time from outside the box, but it was always going over the bar. Jones then made a fingertip save to keep out Andy Williams’ pile-driver before Nicky Ajose and then Shaun Cooper, making his competitive debut for Reds, came on.
Throughout the second half the 154 Reds' fans had provided nearly all of the atmosphere with their magnificent non-stop backing and the least they deserved was a goal to cheer.
But it wasn't to be and Crawley will be hoping to bounce back on Saturday when they go to Doncaster Rovers.
Reds: Jones, Connolly, Sadler, Davis (Cooper 77), McFadzean, Simpson Akpan, Bulman (sub: Forte 64), Adams, Clarke (Ajose 68), Alexander. Unused subs: Torres, Hunt, Neilson, Kuipers.
Attendance: 7658 (154 Crawley fans)