Reds began a new era with a hard-fought but deserved win over Wycombe in the sunshine at the Checkatrade Stadium.
The decisive goal came from skipper Jimmy Smith on the hour and rewarded a bright, attacking display by the hosts, who had other chances to add to their advantage.
Wycombe threw plenty of balls and bodies into the box but Yusuf Mersin had relatively little to do as Crawley maintained their proud record of never losing a game on the opening day of the Football League campaign, despite finishing with ten men after Andre Blackman collected his second yellow card in stoppage time.
The Reds’ line up included seven debutants and three making their Football League bows –Mersin, Enzio Boldewijn and Andre Blackman.
Wycombe’s sub goalkeeper Barry Richardson, who celebrated his 47th birthday on Friday, played against Reds for Northampton in the FA Cup – in 1991.
The start was predictably frenetic. Jason Banton, who played in this fixture for Wycombe last season, fired over then Mersin made a comfortable save from Darryl Southwell’s snap shot after Andre Blackman gave the ball away.
Wycombe had to make an early change when Myles Weston was injured before Reds produced some unbelievable defending to keep the ball out with Aaron Pierre and Southwell denied by brilliant goal-line clearances from Joe McNerney, Mark Connolly before Mersin saved low down from Pierre’s thunderbolt 10 yards out.
Wycombe were the better side in the first quarter of the contest with Crawley unable to get into their stride but they went close in the 22nd minute when Banton released James Collins whose first-time shot was pushed away by Scott Brown in the visitors’ goal.
Brown was forced into action again three minutes later when he pushed away a powerful snap shot by Roberts from the corner of the six-yard box after Crawley worked an opening down the left-hand side.
Mersin stuck out his right hand to deflect Pierre’s header from a free kick before Reds had a good spell with Roberts goalbound shot deflected for a corner.
It was certainly a surprise that the first period had ended goalless given the chances created at both ends.
Roberts had the ball in the net in the 48th minute after Boldewijn had robbed Joe Jacobson but the ball had gone out of play when he delivered his cross.
McNerney was then inches away from making a decisive connection to Smith’s corner before Blackman was booked for a foul on Garry Thompson.
On the hour Reds broke the deadlock and the goal owed a lot to the persistence of the skipper. Wycombe failed to deal with a ball into the left-hand side of the box and Smith held off a defender before steering a right-foot shot past Brown into the far corner.
Wycombe introduced Adebayo Akinfenwa after 63 minutes then Reds broke after a spell of visitors’ pressure and Pierre had to make a desperate clearance to prevent Roberts from getting on the end of Banton’s left-wing cross.
Smith nearly had a second midway through the half when he curled a side-footer from Boldewijn’s lay-off just wide then Jacobson was booked for hauling back Boldewijn with 13 minutes to go. He was followed shortly afterwards by Banton for a late challenge on Marcus Bean.
Reds made their first change with nine minutes to go when Banton was replaced by Billy Clifford, the fourth Crawley debutant of the day.
Blackman nearly created a second goal for Reds when he wriggled past two defenders but his effort was blocked in front of goal by Pierre before the hosts squandered a great chance to seal it. Boldewijn robbed an opponent and went through on goal but his attempted chip lofted over Brown – and the crossbar.
Matt Harrold then came on for Collins, who had worked tirelessly all afternoon, just before the referee signalled six additional minutes.
Reds had to see them through with ten men after Blackman picked up a second yellow card and was sent off. Harrold was booked for a late challenge, Adi Yussuf became the fifth debutant when he came on for Boldewijn and it was all hands to the pump in the closing moments before Crawley could celebrate three points.
Jimmy Smith celebrates three points with the help of his son, two-year old Henry