Reds slipped to a 3-1 league defeat at home to Cambridge United in EFL 2 on Saturday, despite the early boost of a goal from James Collins.
Reds got off to a great start when Collins volleyed home eight minutes in, but Cambridge came back with goals from Greg Taylor, Uche Ikpeazu and Luke Berry. Ikpeazu was a handful all afternoon and Crawley struggled to deal with his physical presence.
Head coach Dermot Drummy used Wednesday’s Checkatrade trophy clash with Southampton to rotate his squad, but he went back to a more familiar set up on Saturday, as Glenn Morris, Lewis Young, Alex Davey, Mark Connolly, Jimmy Smith and Collins all returned to the starting XI.
The Reds found the net after eight minutes, with top scorer Collins on hand to give his side the lead.
The ball was worked down the left to an overlapping Chris Arthur, who dug out a superb cross into the box that was challenged for by Enzio Boldewijn before it dropped kindly for Collins, who volleyed in from close range to notch his eighth of the season.
James Collins is congratulated after giving Reds the early lead
Two minutes later Arthur almost played a part in a goal at the other end when he lost possession in a dangerous area, allowing Cambridge’s Ikpeazu a one on one with Morris, but the striker shot wide.
Crawley were causing some real issues for their visitors when they attacked and Bobson Bawling skinned his man down the left and picked out goal scorer Collins in the box, but his shot was well blocked.
Reds were causing problems of their own making at the other end though and they paid for it with just under 20 minutes gone.
A deep free kick was lofted into the box but Alex Davey failed to clear. Leon Legge played it across the face of goal and right-back Greg Taylor swept it past Morris.
Reds they found themselves behind eight minutes later.
Ikpeazu had been a threat with his immense strength and hold up play, and it paid dividends when a long ball over the top was controlled by the forward as he held off Davey, before looking up and finishing impressively with a delicate lob over the stranded Morris.
The home side struggled to deal with long balls into Ikpeazu throughout and a free kick deep in the opposition’s half ended up with Max Clarke getting a half a sight at goal but he dragged his shot wide.
Crawley’s defensive woes were compounded when Mark Connolly was forced off a few minutes before half time after he clashed with Ikpeazu. The defender was taken to hospital in Brighton with a swollen windpipe. Addison Garnett came on to make his league debut for the club.
The restart did not see a change of fortune for Reds as they went even further behind from a well hit free-kick on 51 minutes.
Davey recklessly chopped Ikpeazu down, giving Cambridge a free kick 25 yards out to the right of the box. Midfielder Berry stepped up and curled the ball home skilfully to Morris’s left.
Immediately after the goal, Head Coach Dermot Drummy made his second change of the game as Adi Yussuf was introduced at the expense of Boldewijn.
Yussuf’s first involvement was to pick up a yellow card for an off the ball barge on Ikpeazu by the touchline, which resulted in heated exchanges between both sets of players
Djalo joined his teammate in the referee’s book after he cynically brought down Berry as disjointed Reds continued to give the ball away.
Yussuf then made a more positive involvement, most noticeably when he skinned two defenders down the right and cut inside but blazed his shot well over.
Jordan Roberts returned to league action following a lengthy spell on the sidelines when he replaced Bawling but Reds continued to struggle to string any dangerous moves together, although did go close to finding a lifeline with eight minutes to go.
Yussuf this time sped down the left flank and picked out a cross aimed for Collins, but the ball glanced off his head before landing to Clifford at the back post and he used the outside of his boot to guide towards the top left corner but it nicked the crossbar and went over.
Crawley couldn’t find a way back in to the game, and the result sees them drop down three positions into 13th.
Next up for the Reds is a trip to Bristol Rovers, in the FA Cup first round replay on Tuesday.