Crawley made a winning start to their Checkatrade Trophy campaign with a deserved 1-0 win over Colchester United.
James Collins scored his second goal of the season to hand Reds a 34th-minute lead, having been denied by the inside of the post earlier in the half.
Colchester had more possession in the second half and Mitchell Beeney marked his debut with an excellent save to deny Denny Johnstone and Reds dug deep in six added minutes to seal a morale-boosting win in Group E of the new-look competition.
Reds rung the changes with six alterations to the side that lost to Notts County on Saturday. Mitchell Beeney and Aryan Tajbakhsh made their full debuts and there were starts for Chris Arthur, Mark Connolly, Bobson Bawling and Adi Yussuf while Lewis Young wore the captain’s armband for the first time.
Reds started brightly and created two early chances. On five minutes Bawling stood up a right-wing cross for Collins to attack but his header was saved by Sam Walker diving to his right.
Three minutes later Jason Banton spotted Josh Yorwerth’s run into the box but the Welshman delayed his shot and ended up scuffing a disappointing effort that was eventually blocked.
With Reds playing well, Colchester were on the back foot in the early stages but Macauley Boone fired inches over from 20 yards in the 18th minute when the visitors mounted their first threat.
Banton was next to test Walker, who got behind his curling effort from the edge of the box after another good build-up involving Bawling and Yussuf before Reds were denied by the woodwork in the 20th minute. Collins played a great 1-2 with Banton before hitting the inside of the post with a powerful drive.
The tempo dropped for a while and Colchester began to look more menacing without testing Beeney before Walker made another save, low to his right again when Connolly let fly from 30 yards.
The Reds deservedly broke the deadlock on 34 minutes. Banton found space on the right and his cross picked out Collins in space at the far post and the striker’s powerful header back across goal gave Walker no chance.
Colchester went closest three minutes later when a well-weighted pass by Tom Lapslie sent Johnstone away. The former Birmingham striker rounded Beeney but his low cross was cleared at the near post by Young.
Walker then pushed out Adi Yussuf’s close-range header, from Bawling’s right-wing delivery, but no Crawley player was able to snap up the loose ball.
Reds continued to pass the ball well at the start of the second half. Banton played a lovely ball to set Young away but his cross was cleared before Tajbakhsh skied an effort from outside the box. At the other end, Sammie Szmodics tested Beeney from 30 yards before the Chelsea loanee produced a stunning save when he pushed Johnstone’s angled effort from the edge of the six-yard box onto the bar in what had been the visitors’ best moment so far.
Young picked out Yussuf on the hour with a terrific pass but the striker’s shot was held by Walker before Reds made a change on 65 minutes when Enzio Boldewijn replaced goalscorer Collins.
The game had become much tighter and with Colchester pressing, both Tajbakhsh and Yorwerth were booked for bringing down Colchester sub Brennan Dickenson.
Andre Blackman, operating on the left of midfield, and Billy Clifford also came on and Reds had to defend their lead determinedly in the closing stages, with Colchester close to an equaliser three minutes from time when ex-Reds loanee Tom Eastman hit a shot just wide after a scramble in the box when Crawley struggled to clear their lines.