Gwion Edwards made a spectacular return to the side with two goals as Reds ended a run of four defeats with a comfortable win over Newport County on their first visit to Rodney Parade.
Edwards lit up the first half with a spectacular long-range opener on 36 minutes before adding a second six minutes later. Matt Harrold then sealed a thoroughly deserved win for the visitors just past the hour.
Josh Yorwerth made an accomplished debut in central defence as Reds kept a welcome clean sheet to claim a win that will lift the morale of players and fans ahead of a testing trip to Plymouth Argyle on Saturday.
Mark Yates had made three changes. Yorwerth came in having joined on a month’s loan on Tuesday morning from Ipswich Town. Edwards and Lewis Young were also selected with Simon Walton, the injured Jon Ashton and suspended Luke Rooney dropping out.
Newport came into the battle of the League’s bottom two boosted by their first win of the campaign at Carlisle on Saturday, but it was Reds who dominated long spells of the first half.
At times the play was scrappy and error-strewn but when they stitched together decent moves Reds looked a real threat.
Rhys Murphy’s overhead kick and a powerful 30-yard drive by Christian Scales tested County keeper Joe Day in the early stages while Freddie Woodman’s only save of the first half was a comfortable claim when Lenell John-Lewis’s met a corner with a firm header. It turned out to be County’s only effort on target.
Matt Harrold directed a free header from 10 yards wide but the game desperately needed a moment of quality and it came on 36 minutes, courtesy of Welshman Edwards.
Winning possession on the left, he advanced at a retreating County defence and then unleashed a powerful drive from 25 yards that flew past Day into the top corner.
That was his fourth of the season and the fifth arrived six minutes later. Edwards found space on the left-hand side of the box, cut inside his marker and then beat Day with another powerful low drive into the bottom corner.
Having only scored one goal in their previous six games it was no wonder that the 75 travelling fans in a gathering of 2,137 enjoyed the celebrations and Edwards turned provider ten minutes after the break when he found Murphy in the box and his volley was blocked with an instinctive parry by Day.
But Edwards wasn’t to be denied an assist. On 61 minutes he had time and space to measure his cross from the left and Harrold met it at the far post with a looping header back past Day, his first goal for the club since last October.
Edwards’ work was done and he was replaced by Bobson Bawling midway through the second half and on 77 minutes Roarie Deacon came on for Murphy.
Ross Jenkins was booked for bringing down Tyler Blackwood and became the first Reds’ player to be booked and ten minutes from time Crawley made their final change when Walton came on for Smith, who had a good night in central midfield.
There were ribald cheers from the home fans when Woodman was tested again late on, for only the second time in the game, when he held a header from Matt Partridge, shortly after Liam Donnelly had been booked.
Deacon was a half a yard away from adding a fourth goal in the 89th minute when Lewis Young’s effort deflected into his path but his angled drive flew just beyond the far post.
Reds coasted through to the final whistle and will hope that this win, as well as lifting them up the table, will be the start of a productive spell.