Crawley Town slipped to a 1-0 defeat to Carlisle United on Saturday at the Checkatrade.com Stadium. Charlie Wyke’s strike in the 78th minute was enough to extend Reds’ winless run to eight matches.
Mark Yates named a starting XI with two recognised strikers on the field as he opted to start Lee Barnard and Gavin Tomlin up front together.
The first chance of the game fell to Yates’ side – and it was a guilt-edge one. Jimmy Smith’s good pressure on the visiting defence resulted in the ball running free to Tomlin on the penalty spot, but the Carlisle defence managed to scramble the ball clear after blocking his shot.
The Reds continued on the front foot, and Gwion Edwards’s positive forward running twice threatened the Cumbrian backline.
Keith Curle’s men soon fashioned a chance up the other end, and when the home defence failed to clear their lines Alex McQueen’s shot could only hit the side-netting, but it was a let off for the hosts.
More good work from Edwards to win the ball back in a dangerous area followed, with Barnard the beneficiary of his perseverance. But the striker skewed his left-footed effort wide of the goal as the game began to ebb and flow.
A short corner routine from Carlisle just before the half-hour mark culminated in a contender for miss of the season – but luckily for Mark Ellis the flag was raised and his miss from two yards counted for nothing.
With the visitors growing into the contest they then fashioned their best chance of the game. Jabo Ibhere nodded the ball into the path of the on-rushing Wyke, who saw his shot superbly saved by Jack Rose in the Crawley goal.
Controversy soon followed and the home keeper was in the thick of the action again. This time Rose was adjudged to have held onto the ball too long when Ibhere stood outside the area in his way – referee Gavin Ward gave Carlisle an indirect free-kick that Danny Grainger clipped over and the chance came and went.
That was to be the last of the action in a goalless first half, a 45 minutes during which the Reds had looked dangerous going forward.
There was one change for the home side at the interval as Roarie Deacon replaced the lively Tomlin, who had gone off with a hamstring injury, and the substitute was involved straight away, as he latched onto Rose’s long goal-kick – but the striker could only shoot straight at Mark Gillespie.
Home captain Sonny Bradley picked up a caution when he brought down Grainger midway inside the home half, but the resulting set-piece was punched clear by Rose. The visiting full-back was involved again soon after, shooting high and wide in front of the travelling fans as Curle’s men continued to press for the opener.
McQueen’s strong run down the right-hand side nearly instigated the opening goal, as he swung in a dangerous delivery towards the head of Wyke in the centre. Luckily for the Reds the forward’s header trickled wide.
Crawley continued to look menacing on the break though, and Edwards flew forward down the right before firing in a ball towards Deacon in the centre but his poked effort was parried by Gillespie.
Moments later, Deacon saw his effort blocked behind by Ellis – his impact on the contest had been very noticeable.
But the visitors were soon ahead up the other end, as Wyke opened the scoring in the 78th minute. The home defence failed to clear and McQueen’s hooked ball back into the area allowed Wyke to steer home.
Shamir Fenelon was soon introduced and so nearly had Yates’ side level – his stylish volley sailed over, as frustration grew for the home team. Deacon stung the palms of Gillespie again when he linked up Fenelon, but the former’s shot was palmed behind and the resulting corner came to nothing.
It was to be the last hurrah for the Reds as they failed to fashion any more opportunities – the added four minutes of injury time failed to serve up any signs of an equaliser.
The result leaves Yates’ men in 18th position on 47 points with two games left to play of the season.
Reds (4-4-2): Rose; McNerney, Bradley ©, Ashton (Young 79), Dunne; Edwards, Smith, Walton, Della-Verde (Fenelon 79); Barnard, Tomlin (Deacon 45).
Subs not used: Preston, Bawling, Yorwerth, Sutherland.