Crawley finished 2015 with a disappointing 2-0 defeat at League 2 play-off chasers Wycombe on Bank Holiday Monday.
The Reds had some good spells in a full-blooded encounter but failed to break down one of the meanest defences in the division. Their best chances came in the second half when Gwion Edwards and Lee Barnard were denied in the space of a minute but Mark Yates would have been frustrated that once again the opposition didn’t have to work hard for their goals.
Wycombe scored after just seven minutes by Max Kretzschmar after a mix-up at the back and Sa, Wood had a simple free header at the far post which sealed victory at the start of stoppage time.
Reds made two changes to the side that beat Stevenage on Boxing Day, both up front. Barnard came in for his first start since September 19 in the league alongside Saturday’s match-winner Roarie Deacon. Matt Harrold and Shamir Fenelon dropped to the bench while Wycombe left out both scorers, including ex-Reds’ loanee Paul Hayes, from the 2-0 win over Luton on Boxing Day. They were among the subs as the home side made four changes.
It may have been both teams’ second game in 48 hours but there was no evidence of any fatigue in the opening stages. Stephen McGinn’s goalbound shot was blocked by his own team-mate Aaron Amadi-Holloway in the second minute and a minute later, from their first corner, Sonny Bradley couldn’t direct his header from Simon Walton’s far-post corner on target.
But Reds fell behind on seven minutes and not for the first time this season they were their own worst enemies. Bradley’s header back lacked pace and Jon Ashton was beaten for pace by Kretzschmar who strode through before firing past the exposed Callum Preston.
It was hardly what Reds wanted but Deacon had a decent penalty appeal turned down in the 11th minute after he was sent spinning by Aaron Pierre.
It was another 13 minutes before either side threatened again as play became increasingly scrappy. Jimmy Smith lined up a Barnet-esque volley on the edge of the box but his effort hit the roof of the stand. Five minutes later Edwards, who was having a good tussle with Sido Jombati, beat his man but Anthony Stewart got across to block his cross with Barnard and Deacon waiting in the six-yard box.
Reds had another stronger penalty claim turned down six minutes before the break when Hancox went down under a challenge from Pierre but Mr Drysdale again said no.
Wycombe nearly doubled their lead two minutes before the break after another lack of communication at the back, this time involving Preston and Lewis Young. Sam Wood prodded the ball goalwards but Ashton got back to hook the ball off the line.
There was much more urgency about Crawley at the start of the second half. Hancox’s cross only just eluded Deacon and after Barnard had needed lengthy treatment after he was whacked on the ribs by Ingram, the visitors created two chances in a minute.
Simon Walton’s pass allowed Young to charge into the box and tee up Edwards, whose goalbound shot was brilliantly blocked by Pierre. From the corner the ball fell to Barnard and his low drive from 15 yards was blocked by Jombati.
Reds made a change on 66 minutes with Harrold replacing Bradley. Hancox switched to left back and Deacon moved into left-midfield.
With 20 minutes to go Wycombe, who have the third-best defensive record in the division, appeared to have settled for what they had and Reds continued to probe in search of an equaliser they deserved.
Luke O’Nien became the first player to be booked for a foul on Deacon in the 76th minute but two minutes later the midfielder nearly doubled Wycombe’s lead but his side-footed effort from just inside the box was blocked by Preston, with Yorwerth clearing the loose ball for a corner. Preston then made a hash of things when he came to claim a cross under pressure from Pierre, but Hancox got across to mop up the danger.
Shamir Fenelon replaced Deacon with seven minutes to go before Sam Wood sealed victory in the first minute of stoppage time. Garry Thompson’s cross from the left picked out Wood unmarked at the far post and he buried a close-range header, having missed as easy a chance moments earlier.
The two-goal margin may have flattered the hosts but failure to take advantage during their good spell was costly for Crawley.