Reds were held to a 3-3 draw by Conference newcomers Eastleigh in Saturday’s pre-season friendly at Silverlakes Stadium.
The visitors led 3-1 at the break thanks to two goals on his first start by Gavin Tomlin and a third from Lewis Young, but the hosts hit back in the second half to draw level, although Crawley had enough chances to have won an entertaining contest played in strength-sapping heat.
John Gregory made two changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Brighton on Wednesday. Jimmy Smith partnered Josh Simpson in central midfield and there was a first start up front for Tomlin alongside Izale McLeod.
Brian Jensen was rested while injuries ruled out Matt Harrold, Bradley Isaacs and Ryan Dickson. The only trialist in the squad was defender Craig Robson.
Eastleigh’s experienced squad included several ex-Reds with Ben Wright, Ben Strevens and Jai Reason in their side with Craig McAllister, the home club’s assistant manager, on the bench.
It was a sweltering afternoon in Hampshire with the temperature 30 degrees at kick off.
The hosts were first to threaten on five minutes when Yemi Odubade’s right-wing cross was met by Jack Midson, but Joe Walsh did enough to put him off and he steered his shot over.
Eastleigh also won a couple of early corners but it was Reds who went in front after 11 minutes. Lanre Oyebanjo and Jimmy Smith combined well down the right and Smith’s pass put McLeod away. He made it to the line before squaring for Tomlin, who tapped in on the line.
Eastleigh were denied an equaliser on 17 minutes when Raphael Spiegel made a terrific save at full stretch to push Jack Midson’s deflected effort around the post.
McLeod was then booked after a badly-timed tackle on Ben Strevens.
Smith’s free kick was blocked by the defensive wall and Dean Beckwith nearly cleared Gwion Edwards’ cross into his own goal. From the corner, Dean Leacock’s header was cleared off the line by Dan Spence.
It was a lively contest with a bit of a physical edge too and Eastleigh drew level on 26 minutes. Odubade’s cross found Reason 12 yards out and he had time to take a touch before clipping his shot in off the underside of the bar.
Reds regained the lead on 32 minutes when Flitney failed to hold onto Simpson’s powerful low drive and Young slammed in the loose ball from close range.
It was 3-1 four minutes before the break. Simpson’s drive from 15 yards was blocked on the line but Tomlin was on hand to score his second from close range.
Young nearly got a second four minutes into the second half when Flitney parried Smith’s shot but Young’s touch betrayed him and the effort went wide.
JG made his first change as Emmett O’Connor came on for Edwards to play on the right. Young then cut inside but side-footed straight the keeper from an inviting position.
Eastleigh pulled one back on 62 minutes when Wright’s low drive skidded past Spiegel and inside the far post. It was against the run of play as Reds had been enjoying a spell of superiority since the break.
Reds then made three changes with Leacock, Young and Smith replaced by Robson, Bawling and Henderson.
Bawling made an immediate impression when his cross-shot was deflected onto the roof of the net then Bradley met a corner from Henderson with a powerful header which flew inches wide.
A fourth change for Reds on 72 minutes saw Ryan Richefond replace Bradley, who had taken a knock, at left back and shortly after Connor Essam came on for Joe Walsh.
As the heat took its toll and the pace dropped Tomlin missed a great chance for his hat-trick when he headed Henderson’s free kick agonisingly wide of the target. It proved an expensive miss as the Spitfires drew level seven minutes from time when Tony Lee produced an excellent finish from 12 yards into the top corner.
Reds: Spiegel, Oyebanjo, Leacock (Robson 65), Walsh (Essam 75), Bradley (Richefond 71); Young (Bawling 62), Simpson, Smith (Henderson 62), Edwards (O’Connor 52); McLeod, Tomlin.