Reds failed to turn possession into goals as they went down 1-0 to Notts County despite dominating much of Saturday’s Sky Bet League Two game at the Checkatrade.com Stadium.
County, with new manager Jamie Fullarton in charge for the first time, claimed their first away win since the opening day courtesy of Filip Valencic’s volley in the 63rd minute and did a solid job defensively on Reds who struggled to find the rhythm they had produced in the first half after the break.
Mark Yates named an unchanged starting XI from last week’s 1-0 victory over Cambridge and there was a place on the bench for new signing Chris Atkinson, the midfielder on loan from Crewe, and Josh Yorwerth, who returned from injury.
Reds, who had won seven of their last eight in the league at home, came straight out of the blocks with attacking intent as they prevented County from seeing much of the ball. It was like a repeat of last week against Cambridge in the first 45 minutes, with Reds looking most dangerous when they got the ball to the wide areas.
Gwion Edwards looked menacing as ever down the left and Lewis Young was bombing down the right, overlapping Gavin Tomlin at every opportunity.
The right-back had Reds best chance of the first half as he plucked the ball from the sky with an immaculate touch, before firing a low shot which Roy Carroll parried round the post.
From the resulting corner Sonny Bradley rose tallest to get a clean header at goal, but Ronan Murray produced some last-ditch defending to deny the Crawley captain, clearing off the line.
The fact that centre-back Haydn Hollis was seeing most of the ball for the away side showed how the game was panning out, with Reds looking the dominant force.
County failed to get out of there own half until the 20th minute and showed no threat to Reds back four. All three deliveries into Darryl Flahavan’s box were poor and didn’t make it past the first man.
Reds went into the changing room at half-time in control, but after the restart the quality of the game took a turn for the worse and both teams cancelled each other out and were unable to string together a succession of passes.
Reds fans are all to aware of George Smith’s delivery and attacking attributes, but this time the 19 year-old showed his defensive qualities, chasing back to deny Murray. Adam Campbell then latched on to a poor clearance from Flahavan and fed Murray but the danger was cut out before he could wrap his right boot around the ball.
Reds best chance came on the hour mark when Bradley’s header back across goal found Jon Ashton, whose effort was straight at Carroll from eight yards. Three minutes later the home side were 1-0 down. Veteran Jon Stead knocked down a long ball to the oncoming Valecic, who volleyed into the top right-hand corner from 20 yards.
Reds huffed and puffed in search of an equaliser, bringing on Atkinson and Shamir Fenelon but Carroll was well protected by his back four with County smothering Reds’ biggest threats – Matt Harrold and Edwards – as they protected their lead impressively.