Dermot Drummy’s tenure as Reds’ Head Coach began in disappointing fashion against Dagenham & Redbridge.
The visitors played some good football in a goalless first half but were undone by two goals in two minutes by Christian Doidge, who had scored for the Daggers when they lost 3-2 at the Checkatrade Stadium in December, the second after a bad misjudgement by goalkeeper Callum Preston.
There would have been some encouragement for the new boss at the way Reds knocked the ball around in the first half but conceding goals in the 15 minutes either side of half-time has been a problem all season. These two made it 19 for the campaign and in a run of seven successive defeats Reds have scored just two goals.
Dagenham netted a third through Ashley Hemmings late on.
His team selection was affected by the absence of four players – Matt Harrold, Gwion Edwards, Lanre Oyebanjo and Jon Ashton – through injury and Andy Bond’s suspension but it was an attacking 4-3-3 line-up against a Daggers’ side playing their last home game of the season following relegation to the National League.
Drummy may have only had two training sessions with his new squad but in the first half at least there was a notable change in the way Reds approached the game. There was a fluidity to their play in a flexible 4-3-3 formation with Lee Barnard dropping deep to pick up possession and Gavin Tomlin and Jimmy Smith dovetailing well in central midfield with the team encouraged to keep possession and pass the ball.
As a result, Reds had much the better of first-half possession and the better chances to break the deadlock in the opening 45 minutes.
Daggers’ defender Clevid Dikamona blocked an early Barnard effort that was on target for a corner and then Lyle Della-Verde threaded a great pass down the inside left channel to Liam McAlinden whose shot was deflected for another defender.
With nothing riding on the result, the visitors seemed to enjoy the opportunity to pass the ball and try and keep possession while Dagenham rarely threatened.
Crawley’s best chance of the half came in the 35th minute when Tomlin’s clever diagonal ball picked out Barnard, whose low volley was turned around the post by Mark Cousins.
Dagenham didn’t register a shot on target in the first half but within eight minutes of the re-start that changed as the home side scored twice.
Reds failed to clear a ball in from the right in the 50th minute, Jamie Cureton found Doidge and his shot went through bodies and past an unsighted Callum Preston.
Two minutes later it got worse for Reds and Preston in particular. Doidge tried a speculative effort from distance which the keeper thought was going wide and watched in horror as the ball flew inside the right-hand post to give the home side an unexpected 2-0 lead - and the young goalkeeper a moment to forget.
Preston did get his bearings right in the 57th minute when he pushed away Frankie Raymond’s drive.
Dagenham threatened again when Cureton got goalside of Joe McNerney but fired just wide with his right foot.
Reds finally responded in the 65th minute when Barnard’s pass released Fenelon in the inside right channel and his cross-shot missed the far post by inches.
Drummy made his second change with Frankie Sutherland replacing Tomlin, Bobson Bawling having come on when the second goal was conceded for Liam McAlinden.
Reds made their final change with 16 minutes to go when Josh Yorwerth came on for McNerney, moments after Cousins had got down to turn Barnard’s shot from just inside the box round the post.
But it was Dagenham who scored again in the 80th minute. Hemmings got the wrong side of Yorwerth in the inside left channel and produced a composed finish past Preston into the far corner.
Bawling forced Cousins to make a save late on after a good run and shot by the replacement but it was an afternoon to forget for Reds.
Attendance: 1643 (278 Crawley fans)