A third successive win moved Reds out of the relegation zone for the first time since Boxing Day after an Izale McLeod penalty earned Crawley a 1-0 precious victory over relegation rivals Leyton Orient at the Checkatrade.com Stadium.
The back four and both goalkeepers used soaked up immense second half pressure from Orient and held on for their first clean sheet since December’s 0-0 draw with Colchester – Dean Saunders’ first game in charge.
Dean named the same side that won 3-2 away at Port Vale and Colchester earlier in the week.
There was nothing between the two sides in the opening 20 minutes and both created good chances. Crawley’s first attempt on goal fell to the in-form Mcleod, whose effort scraped just wide after good link up play with Mathias Pogba.
As the half went on Orient began to look more dangerous. Chris Dagnall met Dean Cox’s clever flick-on in the box but couldn’t beat Lewis Price between the sticks.The visitors’ second chance came shortly after when Price made a double save to keep out Darius Henderson’s close-range attempt following a goalmouth scramble.
The resulting corner saw Price tested again as the ball fell to the influential Cox, whose 20-yard effort was tipped over the bar for another corner.
Halfway through the first half Cox found some space and dribbled his way into the Crawley area, teeing up Dagnall who worked Price for the second time, but the keeper prevented the away side from taking the lead.
But it was Reds who broke the deadlock on 32 minutes. McLeod’s superb control from a 60-yard pass by Lee Fowler took him into the O’s area where he was tripped by Luke O’Neill, who was subsequently shown a yellow card. McLEOD stepped up and cooly slotted his 18th of the season down the middle, sending the keeper to his left.
Reds pressed for another before half time and penalty claims were waved on by the referee, after Gavin Tomlin went to the ground. The winger did well, however, laid the ball back to Wordsworth whose curling effort from outside the box was tipped wide by goalkeeper Alex Cisak.
Reds had to make a change at the break. Price suffered concussion after taking a kick to the head and Brian Jensen replaced him.
The half began shakily for Crawley, who made several ill-judged challenges outside the box. Josh Wright and Cox delivered some dangerous balls from the resulting free kicks, but the defence remained solid.
Orient were finding plenty of space down the right flank as they searched for an equalizer. O’Neill and Ryan Hedges were linking up well and finding pockets of space behind Ryan Dickson and Sonny Bradley but lacked quality in the final ball.
In the dying moments Jensen was forced into two saves; the first from a long-range effort from Orient substitute David Mooney. Seconds later Jobi McAnuff’s flick made the keeper get down low to his left and show his reactions with a fine save.
Just as they had done in the last two games, Crawley had to withstand an enormous amount of pressure towards the end of the match. The back four had to deal with a several of long balls and crosses, but they rarely went further than the heads of Bradley, Darren Ward and Richard Wood, who were outstanding.
Crawley’s third win on the bounce means they now have momentum with them which could prove to be decisive in staying in League One. The Reds face Gillingham next Saturday in another must not lose game as they try to climb towards the 50 points mark and to safety.