Reds suffered their first defeat of the season after three second-half goals earned Bradford their first ever victory at the Checkatrade.com Stadium.
The hosts matched their visitors for long spells and after falling behind early in the second half they quickly levelled through Joe Walsh’s glancing header.
But two more goals in the space of six minutes midway through the half ended any hopes of a Crawley comeback and Reds must regroup and go again on Saturday when we travel to Bramall Lane to face Sheffield United.
John Gregory made one change to the side that beat Swindon on Saturday as Bobson Bawling came in for his first League start with Conor Henderson dropping to the bench. Connor Essam came into the squad with goalkeeper Raphael Spiegel back at West Ham after the end of his loan spell.
There was a terrific tempo from the start with play switching from end to end with Bawling to the fore early on when his fourth minute pass picked out Ryan Dickson’s run into the box, but Dickson couldn’t get the ball from under his feet to get his shot away.
Gwion Edwards’ pace and ability to run at defenders was a good outlet for Reds. The Welshman saw an early shot blocked and then led a counter-attack following a City corner and was brought down by Billy Knott, earning the Bradford midfielder a booking.
Jordan Pickford in the visitors’ goal was forced to save a header from Gary Liddle at full stretch after the Bradford midfielder inadvertently diverted Jimmy Smith’s free kick goalwards.
Reds went close on 27 minutes when Brian Jensen’s clearance was flicked on by Izale McLeod and Tomlin lashed a rising drive just over.
The big Dane’s handling was again faultless and although Bradford forced a few corners, they were restricted to few direct threats on the Crawley goal, although Knott was convinced a volley had struck Lanre Oyebanjo on the arm.
And moments before the break Reds nearly broke the deadlock. Pickford raced out of goal to concede a corner as Edwards threatened and when Bradford only half-cleared the set piece, Joe Walsh’s goalbound shot was blocked in front of goal.
Reds’ goal was finally breached for the first time this season on 49 minutes. Stephen Darby’s cross found its way to James HANSON eight yards out and he side-stepped Oyebanjo, who was on the floor, shifted the ball onto his left foot and smashed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net. It was the first goal Crawley had conceded in 349 minutes.
But Reds were level within five minutes. Bawling won a corner on the right and skipper WALSH met Ryan Dickson’s in-swinger with a fabulous glancing header into the top right-hand corner.
Alan Sheehan was booked for taking a free-kick too early before Reds made their first change with Henderson replacing Edwards.
Bradford regained the lead on 62 minutes when KNOTT, who scored against Crawley for Port Vale last season, hit a volley from the edge of the box that flew past Jensen and went in off the inside of the right-hand post.
The visitors nearly made it 3-1 on 72 minutes when Jason Kennedy’s shot following good work by Morais on the left hit the bar before Reds cleared their lines.
But six minutes later Bradford did stretch their lead. Hanson flicked on a long ball and Mason Bennett, who is on loan from Derby, outpaced Walsh and rounded Jensen before knocking the ball into an empty net.
JG threw on Charles Banya for one last push but Bradford saw the game out comfortably enough.