Reds are up and running in League Two after a superb away performance at previously unbeaten Cambridge United.
Roarie Deacon broke the deadlock on 39 minutes when his deflected shot flew past Chris Dunn in the home goal.
Having opened his account for the club, Deacon added a second two minutes into the second half and although Reds had to play for the last ten minutes with ten men after Liam Donnelly picked up his second yellow card, Gwion Edwards sealed an outstanding victory when he tapped in his third of the season after Dunn failed to hold Bobson Bawling’s shot.
The noisy contingent of 173 Reds’ fans in a crowd of 5,459 certainly enjoyed their afternoon. Crawley were resolute, organised and a real threat on the break with their pace and the aerial threat of Matt Harrold.
Mark Yates made three changes to the team which drew 0-0 with Portsmouth on Tuesday. Midfielders Jimmy Smith and Luke Rooney and striker Lee Barnard dropped to the bench with recalls for Deacon and Harrold while Christian Scales made his League debut and lined up in a back five containing two 18-year-olds, a 19-year-old, a 23 year-old and a 25 year-old. The hosts included Keith Keane, who had a successful loan spell at the start of last season for Reds.
Temperatures at kick off were touching 30 degrees on a sweltering afternoon and Reds lined up with Joe McNerney at right back and Liam Donnelly and Simon Walton in deep-lying midfield roles.
Reds began brightly, forcing four early corners before Harrold met Simon Walton’s long free kick on 13 minutes with a good header which looped onto the roof of the home net.
The visitors, without top scorer Barry Corr, offered little threat in the opening third of the contest as Reds continued to look lively without causing Chris Dunn in the home goal too many problems.
Referee Nigel Miller booked Lewis Young for simulation and George Taft for bringing down Deacon before the hosts roused themselves when Jacob Blyth met Harrison Dunk’s cross but his header was easily saved by Freddie Woodman.
Deacon had a sighter on 29 minutes when his right-foot drive thudded off the cross bar and after Woodman had made a comfortable save from Taft’s flick Reds went in front.
Deacon again let fly, this time from 25 yards, and his shot took a deflection off the back of a home defender and looped over Dunn and into the net.
On the evidence of the first half it was no more than Reds deserved and two minutes into the second half Deacon had his second. He broke into the box in the inside left channel, showed good strength to hold off Taft after Harrold flicked the ball on and guided his shot past Dunn and off the far post, before celebrating in front of the Reds’ fans.
Cambridge almost mustered an immediate response with defender Mark Roberts inches away from making a decisive contact at the far post when the ball was pinged in from the right.
By the hour the hosts had brought on all three subs but Reds continued to look solid at the back, although Woodman saved Taft’s header from a corner well on 63 minutes.
But the visitors were working hard all over the pitch, when they had possession and when they didn’t, and the front two of Harrold and Deacon continued to link up well.
They did so to good effect again midway through the half when Deacon laid the ball into Harrold’s path 30 yards out and the former Cambridge loanee’s strike skidded just wide of the right-hand post.
Bobson Bawling replaced Young with 20 minutes to go and nearly scored with his second touch. Deacon played him in on the right but his first touch took him fractionally wide and he blasted his shot into the side netting.
Deacon came off with 15 minutes to go with Barnard coming on before Reds found themselves down to ten men for the last ten minutes. Liam Donnelly, who had been booked for a foul in the first half, got a second yellow for not retreating at a free kick on the edge of the box which Luke Berry eventually clipped well over the bar.
Instead it was Reds who sealed the victory with six minutes to go. Bawling led a break down the left and when Dunn could only parry his shot, Edwards followed up for a tap-in and his third goal of the season.
Edwards nearly had his second and Reds’ fourth in stoppage time but his shot after Bawling had set him up cannoned off the stanchion at the side of the goal.
No matter. It was still a superb display by Reds and one which will give them great heart ahead of next Saturday’s home game against Wycombe Wanderers.