Rhys Murphy’s productive loan spell continued after his two superb goals helped Reds to a 3-2 home win over Dagenham & Redbridge in a thrilling League 2 contest at the Checkatrade.com Stadium.
Matt Harrold gave Crawley a 40th minute lead with his fourth goal of the campaign which Murphy doubled with a towering header on the stroke of half-time.
Murphy's third goal – a wonderful strike from 20 yards – was his ninth of the campaign and came either side of goals from Christian Doidge (64) and Jamie Cureton (85) for a Daggers’ team who played their part in a thoroughly entertaining game.
Mark Yates made two changes to the side beaten 3-1 by Carlisle in Reds’ last outing a fortnight ago. Roarie Deacon came in for Josh Emmanuel, with Lewis Young dropping into right-back, and Luke Rooney replaced Simon Walton, who was suspended, t0 make his first League start since September 26.
There was a good tempo to Reds’ early work as they pinned Dagenham back with wide men Gwion Edwards and Deacon looking lively.
The hosts forced four corners in the opening 20 minutes and from one training ground routine Jimmy Smith’s diagonal ball into the box found Harrold, whose header tested Mark Cousins in the Daggers’ goal.
Cousins made another more routine save from a second Harrold header but Dagenham began to get a foothold in the game and top scorer Cureton nearly broke the deadlock in the 25th minute but on, the stretch, he could only divert a great cross by Josh Passley wide of the post.
Veteran Cureton threatened again eight minutes later after Passley had beaten Mitch Hancox and pulled the ball back, but Cureton’s shot was bravely blocked by Josh Yorwerth.
The visitors had got on top but with five minutes of the half remaining Reds broke the deadlock. Justin Hoyte made an awful mess of clearing Edwards’ cross on the corner of the six-yard box and Harrold turned to drill a low shot past Cousins inside the left-hand post.
It got better for Crawley on the stroke of half-time. Hancox galloped into space and picked out Murphy 15 yards out who sent a towering header past a helpless Cousins to make it 2-0.
It had certainly been an end to end first half and there was no change in that pattern after the break.
Cureton should have pulled one back on 55 minutes after another great run and cross by Passley, but his effort from ten yards rattled the cross bar before Rooney calmly headed the rebound back to Darryl Flahavan.
Dagenham had a strong breeze at their backs but they still looked vulnerable defensively and it needed a great clearance by Widdowson, who had earlier been booked for a heavy challenge on Edwards, to prevent Murphy from converting the Welshman’s cross after a great move had torn open the visitors’ defence.
But on 64 minutes Dagenham pulled one back. Moments earlier Harrold appeared to have been wrestled to the ground in the box by Nyron Nosworthy but referee Brendan Malone said no to penalty appeals. The visitors broke and Cureton did well to keep the ball in play before pulling it back into the path of substitute Doidge, whose volley from 12 yards flew past a helpless Flahavan.
Reds made their first change moments later when Shamir Fenelon replaced Deacon and with 15 minutes to go Rooney, victim of a heavy challenge by Josh Labadie who was booked, came off and Ross Jenkins replaced him in midfield.
The hosts went close to re-establishing their lead when Sonny Bradley’s downward header from Jimmy Smith’s corner was nodded onto the roof of the net by Edwards but with eight minutes to go they did make it 3-1.
Harrold’s pass gave Murphy the opportunity to run at a retreating defence and he smashed a right-foot shot past a helpless Cousins from 20 yards which swerved late as it flew inside the right-hand post.
That should have been that but five minutes from time Cureton got the goal he deserved, sweeping home James Dunne’s low cross from the right.
Josh Yorwerth was booked as the game entered five minutes of stoppage time but Reds saw the game out to collect three precious points.