Crawley battled their way to a hard earned 0-0 draw against League 2 title favourites Portsmouth after a resolute defensive performance in front of 4,003 fans at a vibrant Checkatrade.com Stadium.
There was an electric atmosphere for the season’s first midweek game with 1,706 Pompey fans in full voice but the home fans also made their share of the noise as they cheered on their team to a well-earned point.
Both teams have had different fortunes in their opening games with Reds looking for their first victory and Pompey looking to make it four wins out of four. Paul Cook’s side impressed last week knocked out one of the Championship favourites Derby out of the Capital One Cup and are tipped by many to achieve automatic promotion from League 2.
Ex Reds talisman Matt Tubbs made his return to the club where he netted 57 goals in two spells and he had the best chance of the first half on 17 minutes when Tubbs beat the offside trap but fired straight at Freddie Woodman.
Crawley’s game plan was clear and they executed it perfectly. Yates set up the team with ten men behind the ball when Pompey were in possession leaving Barnard with the tricky task of holding up possession. Reds restricted Pompey to few clear-cut chances, although Tubbs dragged his shot wide in the first half after beating the offside trap.
The wide men, Lewis Young and Gwion Edwards, did their job up and down the flanks, trying to support the strikers and showed their defensive capabilities too when Crawley were under pressure. Edwards also had Reds' besy opportunity just past the hour mark when he found space for an angled drive that flashed into the side netting.
The loudest roar from the away fans came when Tubbs ran off celebrating after a clever dink over Freddie Woodman but his effort was ruled off side much to the delight of the Crawley faithful midway through the second half.
The game opened up on 70 minutes, with Bobson Bawling making an immediate impact from the bench, linking up well with Lewis Young and sub Matt Harrold, who had taken on Barnard’s tough task of the lone striker.
Tubbs was replaced by Jayden Stockley with 10 minutes left and came off to applause from both sets of fans.
Reds could have nicked it with minutes spare as Young’s pace took him out of sight of the Pompey defence, but the winger couldn’t apply a finishing touch as Brian Murphy parried his effort away from goal.
Reds had to negotiate some late Pompey pressure but did so without too many alarms and were cheered off by a home crowd delighted with the spirit, determination and organisation shown by their team.