The Sussex derby finished with honours even after Kazenga LuaLua’s second-half free kick cancelled out Collins John’s smartly-taken headed opener for Reds.
Performances rather than results are key in pre-season and there were lots of encouraging signs for John Gregory and the Crawley fans in this performance.
Only a superb display by Simon Walton prevented Reds from winning. Walton was much the busier of the two keepers and there was a real energy about Crawley’s performance with several individuals having good games.
John Gregory fielded just one trialist in his starting XI with John partnering Izale McLeod up front. Ryan Dickson and Matt Harrold were both ruled out by injury but Gavin Tomlin was on the bench for the first time having recovered from a groin problem and Emmett O’Connor was also among the subs having completed a one-year deal just before kick off.
Brighton began brightly and Scotland international Gordon Greer rumbled up from the back to fire over in the fourth minute following a corner.
Reds created a decent chance in the ninth minute when John turned 20 yards out to strike a powerful low shot which Walton gathered low to his right.
The hosts had recovered from a shaky start and after Gwion Edwards had forced Walton to push away his shot they went in front on 15 minutes. Conor Henderson’s corner picked out JOHN and he powered a header past the helpless Brighton keeper.
Brighton had to make a change on 18 minutes when Solly March was replaced by Shamir Fenelon but Walton remained the busier keeper, claiming a dangerous header from Dean Leacock after Henderson’s free kick had picked him out.
The visitors then had to play briefly with ten men while Inigo Calderon was patched up after a clash of heads in the box and returned to the fray with his head bandaged. The defender popped up in the box in the 24th minute but skied his shot from 15 yards. Jake Forster-Caskey then rode a couple of challenges before Lanre Oyebanjo got across to snuff out the danger.
Henderson’s set piece delivery was a persistent threat for Reds. On 29 minutes his corner found Sonny Bradley who powered a header just over the target as the hosts continued to look dangerous in an open and entertaining encounter.
Walton came to the Seagulls’ rescue again two minutes later. Henderson’s pass found McLeod who cut in from the left and forced the keeper to make a reflex save from his close-range shot. Moments later Edwards popped up on the right-hand side but drove his shot a yard wide.
Brian Jensen had not really been tested in the first half but he got down well on the stroke of half-time to keep out a low drive from substitute Fenelon.
The Reds’ keeper was called into action at the start of the second half when he held a swerving long-range effort from Forster-Caskey at the second attempt.
The hosts responded positively and a good spell of pressure ended with Henderson firing over from 25 yards after 52 minutes then Walton made another good stop, holding onto a fizzing low effort from outside the box by Josh Simpson.
Reds made their first changes on the hour when John and Young were replaced by O’Connor and Tomlin and after Henderson’s low free kick had been held by Walton Jensen came off to warm applause to be replaced by Raphael Spiegel.
The West Ham loanee’s first job was to pick the ball out of the net after 73 minutes when he allowed a low free kick from LUALUA to sneak inside his near post. It was harsh on Reds and a bad misjudgement by the Swiss youngster who clearly thought the ball was going wide.
Crawley responded well and Simpson’s deflected shot won them a corner before two further changes were made with Bobson Bawling and Craig Robson replacing Edwards and Leacock before Tomlin’s shot was blocked by Walton for a corner.
Reds made a further change with 10 minutes to go when Jimmy Smith came on for Simpson then Johnny Marsden came on for John.
As the game fizzled out, LuaLua almost won it for the visitors after a mazy run ended with powerful drive which flashed just past the upright.
Reds: Jensen (sub: Spiegel 68), Oyebanjo, Leacock (Robson 73), Walsh, Bradley; Edwards (Bawling 73), Simpson (Smith 80), Henderson, Young (O’Connor 61); John (Marsden 84); McLeod (Tomlin 61).
Mayo Wynne Baxter man of the match: Gwion Edwards.
Attendance: 2874 (1334 Brighton)