Adi Yussuf made a headline-grabbing impact from the bench as Reds claimed back to back League 2 wins to climb to 11th place in the table.
The Mansfield loanee put Reds ahead within two minutes of coming on as a 69th minute substitute before creating further goals for James Collins and Jimmy Smith. Morecambe twice pulled a goal back through Michael Rose and Cole Stockton but Reds emerged from a breathless last 20 minutes with a win they thoroughly deserved, notwithstanding some heart-stopping moments in their own box in the dying seconds of the contest.
Not surprisingly, Dermot Drummy named the same side which had produced Reds’ best performance of the season so far a week earlier against Luton Town. Josh Yorwerth replaced the injured Jordan Roberts on the bench.
On a blustery afternoon on the Lancashire coast the game started quite brightly. Lewis Young did well to recover after Paul Mullin has beaten him and was threatening to shoot before Jason Banton and Billy Clifford combined and Clifford’s drive from 25 yards was pushed out by Shrimps’ keeper Barry Roche.
Collins then found the side-netting under pressure from a defender before the hosts enjoyed their best spell of the half.
Clifford was penalised for a high boot in the 15th minute and Rose’s free kick from just outside the D was smartly pushed away by Glenn Morris.
Andre Blackman was booked for dissent to the assistant referee after he’d been penalised for a foul on Tom Barkhuizen, who then teed up Mullin for a close-range volley in the 28th minute which the experienced midfielder put wide when he should have at least hit the target.
Reds finished the half on top though. Appeals for a penalty, after Collins appeared to have been whacked on the back of the head contesting a corner, were ignored by the referee but the striker went close in the 44th minute with a header from Kaby Djalo’s deep corner which Roche pushed out for another corner. Clifford swung it in from the left and this time Joe McNerney got his head on the end of it and Roche again made the save.
Peter Murphy had two sights of the Crawley goal early in the second half without testing Morris and Reds gradually began to dominate, particularly in midfield with Djalo increasingly influential.
Collins ought to have done better when he met Djalo’s corner but headed wide from ten yards but midway through the second half there was little hint of the goal feast to come.
It was sparked by the appearance of Yussuf in the 69th minute when he came on for Banton and scored with virtually his first touch two minutes later. Djalo was again involved. His shot from 25 yards hit a defender and YUSSUF was quickest to react to the loose ball, steering it coolly past Roche.
Rather than sit back Reds hunted more goals. Collins dragged a chance wide after Enzio Boldewijn’s pass found him in space then following a patient build-up then Clifford curled an effort from the left-hand side of the box onto the roof of the net.
Clifford was replaced by Davey and on 85 minutes Reds doubled their lead. Yussuf’s pass found COLLINS and he side-footed confidently past Roche from 15 yards for his fifth goal of the season.
Game over – or so everyone thought. Instead, the hosts roused themselves. McNerney was penalised for bringing down substitute Cole Stockton in the 88th minute and Rose curled a left-footed free kick from just outside the left-hand corner of the box around the defensive wall and past Morris to make it 1-2.
The referee signalled four minutes of stoppage time and during the first of them Reds re-established their two goal lead. Collins’ cross from deep on the left was intelligently laid into the path of SMITH by Yussuf and the skipper stroked home his second of the campaign.
Game over – again – but no, the Shrimps came back again and Stockton gave them hope with the best finish of the afternoon, a volley on the turn into the top corner.
There was still time for McNerney to make a brilliant tackle to block Stockton’s close-range shot and in the fifth minute of time added on Reds somehow cleared their lines after Rose’s free kick from the right-hand corner of the box caused pandemonium. Seconds later, it was all over and the travelling fans could look forward to an enjoyable journey home almost a year since we last hit three away from home at Newport County.
Reds celebrate James Collins goal in the 3-2 win at Morecambe. Picture: John Marsh