A new era for the club began with a victory as Matt Harrold’s first-half goal sealed a third League 2 double of the season for Reds.
It was, in fairness, a bit of a smash and grab affair. Harrold’s eighth of the season came from their only shot on target but Reds defended magnificently and will feel they were entitled to some luck, which came when Luton twice hit the woodwork and Lanre Oyebanjo headed Jonathan Smith’s effort off the line.
The back four did a brilliant job of protecting Paul Jones, whose handling was faultless, and although it often seemed to be like a case of attack v. defence there was no doubting the commitment and resolve throughout the team to chisel out a second win in three games.
Mark Yates had made one change to the side which drew with Morecambe last time out. Striker Liam McAlinden, who arrived on loan from Wolves on Thursday, was given his debut with Shamir Fenelon dropping to the bench.
Luton came into the game as live contenders for the play-offs after four successive wins and their confidence was evident early on as they knocked the ball around nicely.
Paddy McCourt was soon pulling the strings in midfield and the hosts were denied by the woodwork in the ninth minute when Smith’s shot from 25 yards took a deflection and struck the right-hand post.
But Kenilworth Road was silenced – apart from the cheers from the away fans – when Harrold struck four minutes later. Frankie Sutherland’s free kick dropped to him 10 yards out and he swivelled to send a low half-volley inside Jonathan Mitchell’s left-hand post.
Reds now had something to defend and they spent large chunks of the first period doing it pretty effectively. Jones made a good save with his feet from Stephen O’Donnell’s cross-shot but for all their possession it couldn’t be claimed that the Reds’ No.1 was overworked.
Alan Sheehan’s shot from 25 yards flashed past the left-hand post but arguably the best chance of the half fell to Reds on 31 minutes. Lyle Della-Verde’s brilliant pass sent McAlinden clear and Scott Cuthbert got across to produce a great recovery tackle to block his shot for a corner. From the flag kick Gwion Edwards worked some space and saw his low drive from the edge of the box miss the left-hand post by a few inches.
Jack Marriott had an effort blocked before half-time after McAlinden had been booked for a foul on O’Donnell.
Luton started the second half as they had played most of the first with plenty of possession as they patiently probed for an opening.
But Reds continued to defend well. Smith stung Jones’ hands in the 53rd minute from just inside the box before Jack Marriott fired just wide of the left-hand post from further out three minutes later.
Luton then had two penalty appeals in the space of a minute, for a handball against Jon Ashton and foul by Sonny Bradley on substitute Joe Pigott, but on both occasions referee Michael Bull said no.
Reds finally broke into the Luton half for the first time in the second period in the 66th minute. Sutherland led the break and found McAlinden, whose pass gave Harrold a sight at goal but he dragged his shot well wide of the right-hand upright.
But it took some brilliant defensive work by Crawley to prevent the hosts from equalising with 20 minutes to go. Jones made a brilliant save from the first shot by Pigott and when Smith followed up, Oyebanjo headed the ball off the line as the home fans behind the goal were ready to celebrate.
They were up again in the 76th minute but this time the woodwork rescued Reds when Paul Benson headed fellow substitute Danny Green’s cross against the crossbar.
Reds made their first change with ten minutes to go when Simon Walton came on for McAlinden but still the pressure on their goal was non-stop. Bradley sliced a cross across the face of his goal for a corner but the visitors held firm.
Reds made another switch when Roarie Deacon came on for Della-Verde and moments later, after great work to win the ball back by Sutherland, Harrold let fly from 20 yards and his shot flew just wide.
Luton huffed and puffed but Reds were not to be denied a superb victory.