John Gregory enjoyed his first win as Reds’ boss after his side came from behind to beat League One leaders Leyton Orient 3-2 in a thriller at the Matchroom Stadium.
Trailing to an early goal from Moses Odubajo. Crawley produced a superb response with first-half goals by Gary Alexander and Andy Drury followed in the second period by a superb chip from Nicky Adams. That came with 13 minutes to go and although Orient pulled one back Reds held on to claim their first league win since early October and give the 342 travelling fans a great reward for their non-stop backing throughout the 98 minutes.
The boss made two changes with Alexander and Mike Jones returning in place of Jamie Proctor and the injured Emile Sinclair. Billy Clarke partnered Alexander up front with Jones operating on the left-hand side of midfield.
Orient started with two former Reds’ loanees, Shaun Batt and Lloyd James, in their side and Batt created the first chance on three minutes but his tame shot was easy for Paul Jones.
Alexander was also facing his former club and he forced a fingertip save out of Jamie Jones after Mike Jones had put him in space for the shot.
It was even-stevens early on but then the leaders went in front with what was a poor goal as far as Reds were concerned.
Kevin Lisbie was only just onside when he threaded the ball through for Moses Odubajo. Both Joe Walsh and Mark Connolly failed to clear and the midfielder drove his shot through Jones’ legs.
Reds looked for an immediate response but Dannie Bulman’s drive was held by Jones and for the next 20 minutes or so a hardworking home side seemed to have a measure of control.
But then the visitors suddenly found another gear and levelled on 36 minutes. Clarke spread the play out to Connolly on the right and his cross picked out Alexander, whose header back across Jones nestled in the back of the net.
Jones then turned Adams’ inswinging corner over his own bar before Reds went in front in the 44th minute. Connolly’s shot was handled in the box by James and referee Kettle pointed to the spot. Alexander’s penalty came back out off the inside of the post and Drury was first to react, sweeping the ball home for his second goal of the season.
For the first time in 13 games Reds had scored in the first half and the lead gave them something to protect for the second period.
Orient brought on striker Robbie Simpson at the break and began to exert some pressure but Alexander had two good chances to add to his goal in the first 15 minutes of the second period.
After good work by Drury and Clarke, the striker hit a shot on the turn that might have crept inside the post had it not taken a deflection. Then Adams produced a lovely pass across the face of goal but Alexander’s shot went a yard wide of the far post.
But on 77 minutes Reds stretched their lead with a impudent finish by Adams. He chased down a clearance inside the Orient half and then ran into space before chipping Jones from just inside the box for his first league goal of the season.
Moments later Clarke was only denied a fourth by a superb goal-line clearance from Gary Sawyer after he had chipped the keeper only to see the Orient defender get back and hook the ball off the line.
It gave the home side some hope and five minutes from time they made it 3-2 when a free kick was scrambled home in a crowded six-yard box by substitute Marvin Bartley.
It ensured a tense finale but Reds defended superbly in the face of Orient’s late bombardment to claim a fantastic three points.