Two set pieces helped Crawley’s bid to avoid relegation as they eased passed Notts County 2-0 with goals from defenders Kelly Youga and Darren Ward to move out of the Sky Bet League One relegation zone.
The pair scored their first goals for the club in the space of three first-half minutes and thereafter Reds coped quite comfortably with Notts’ sporadic threat.
With Colchester and Crewe drawing and Leyton Orient losing, Reds climbed to 19th with two games of the season left.
Dean Saunders made two changes to the team that lost 5-0 at Wallsall on Tuesday night as Lanre Oyebanjo, Ryan Dickson and Dean Morgan were dropped to the bench. Ward, Mathias Pogba and Josh Simpson were their replacements with Simpson starting his first game since November 8 following a hamstring injury.
Crawley were finding plenty of space in the County half from the off and were deservedly in front on 17 minutes. Clever work by Simpson down the right resulted in a Reds’ corner when his cross was deflected behind. Anthony Wordsworth took the flag kick and found YOUGA, who finished in style with a spectacular bicycle kick from eight yards.
Reds were two up just three minutes later. Wordsworth whipped in a curling free kick from the edge of County’s area and WARD rose above the defence, glancing his header into the bottom corner.
Brian Jensen was worked for the first time on 27 minutes as he tipped Garry Thompson’s back-post header over the bar. A clever ball from Gary Jones found the striker in plenty of space, but the big Dane easily dealt with his effort.
Simpson was proving to be the Reds’ most creative option on his return and he was linking up well with Pogba and McLeod upfront.
Reds’ claims for a penalty were waved on by referee Lee Collins when skipper Izale McLeod went down following a clumsy challenge in County’s area on 40 minutes. After managing to keep the ball the Reds’ 21-goal top scorer rose to his feet and laid the ball to Gavin Tomlin, whose effort lacked power to trouble the experienced Roy Carroll.
A well-worked free kick by Wordsworth and Lee Fowler found goal scorer Youga for a second time, but this time his acrobatic effort rocketed high into the Bruce Winfield stand.
Jones had the visitors’ best effort just before half time when his volley from the edge of the box forced Jensen into a save.
Crawley began the second half on the attack and were playing some quality, easy-on-the-eye football with the central midfielders bringing the wide men in to play.
Great footwork from Pogba down the right-hand side resulted in the home side’s first attempt following the restart. Pogba sold the left-back, Will Hayhurst, with a great dummy and delivered a quality ball to match, however McLeod’s header flew just wide of Carroll’s post.
There was no real threat coming from the away side, who lacked options going forward. Reds’ back four remained solid as a unit and dealt with every ball that came their way.
Reds should have been three goals to the good with ten minutes left as McLeod latched on to Jordan Williams’ bad touch and raced towards goal. The captain couldn’t apply a finishing touch as Carroll parried the shot to substitute Dean Morgan, whose rebound flew high and wide.
Reds now face an away trip to Peterborough, before their final game of the season when Coventry City visit the Checkatrade.com Stadium on Sunday 3rd May.