By Ben Blackmore
Crawley recorded their first ever victory over Portsmouth with a fine 2-1 comeback win at Fratton Park on Boxing Day.
Goals from Mat Sadler and Billy Clarke ensured the Reds went home with three points but they had Paul Jones to thank after the keeper pulled off a fantastic late save to deny Daryl Russell an equaliser.
The Reds made two changes from Saturday’s defeat to Sheffield United. Clarke and Claude Davis replaced Dannie Bulman and Joe Walsh, who both dropped to the bench.
Reds started the brighter of the two sides with last Saturday's man of the match Mark Connolly volleying over in the first minute before Nicky Adams drilled in a low cross that narrowly missed the onrushing Clarke.
However the visitors fell behind against the run of play in the 10th minute. Scott Allan produced a cross from the left hand side that flicked off Claude Davis and went past the helpless Paul Jones in the Crawley goal.
The Reds tried to respond quickly. Adams fired over from 18 yards after good play from Gary Alexander before an Adams cross fell kindly to Hope Akpan but his header lacked power and went straight at goalkeeper Simon Eastwood.
Dominating possession, the Reds deservedly levelled the scores in the 28th minute. Good play on the wing from Mike Jones drew a free-kick on the right-hand side and the in-swinging delivery from Matt Sadler went straight through a crowd of players and into the bottom corner much to the delighted of the loud travelling faithful.
Reds grew in confidence following the goal and came close to adding a second, Akpan volleyed over from 10 yards out after a ball in from Connolly before Alexander nearly connected with a diving header after more good play on the right from Adams.
Pompey had the first effort after the interval, Paul Jones saving well following a shot from Paul Benson 12 yards out.
Reds soon found their feet and looked the most likely to take the lead. Adams and Josh Simpson both had shots deflected just wide of the mark and at the other end Crawley soaked up pressure well from Pompey, Davis headed clear a succession of crosses before he nearly connected with a Sadler cross at the other end.
Going into the last 20 minutes it was the visitors who looked more likely to go ahead, Adams caused havoc down the right and his cross was turned around the post by Dumbuya for a corner. From the corner the Reds got their deserved second. Adams crossed into the box and Clarke nipped in ahead of his marker to score his ninth of the season. 73 minutes gone, Crawley ahead 2-1.
The visitors were soon on the attack two minutes later, Adams once again the creator and after his 20-yard shot was saved before Alexander’s follow-up went behind for a corner.
Pompey looked for a way back into the match and would have scored a late equaliser if it wasn’t for the heroics of Jones in the Crawley goal. The keeper made a fantastic diving save to deny Daryl Russell a late leveller and ensure the Reds travelled back to Sussex with three points.