Accrington Stanley 2, Crawley Town 3
It was a case of double Dutch for Christmas as Reds maintained their good record against the League 2 play-off chasers with a thrilling win over Accrington Stanley.
The visitors were 3-0 up five minutes before the break thanks to an own goal and a brace from Enzio Boldewijn, who scored his first goals since the opening day of the season and managed two in a game for the first time in his Crawley career.
Billy Kee reduced the deficit from a penalty in stoppage time and when Ben Richards-Everton made it 3-2 ten minutes into the second half it was tin hat time for the visitors.
But they defended superbly, were always a threat on the break, and could rely on keeper Glenn Morris to make important saves when he was needed.
Head Coach Harry Kewell had made three changes to the side beaten at Crewe. Two of them were enforced with Jimmy Smith and Jordan Roberts banned. Thomas Verheydt dropped to the bench with Dannie Bulman, Josh Lelan and Ibrahim Meite, who made his first League start since the goalless draw at Grimsby on October 14.
It was back in 2012 when Reds last won at the Wham Stadium on the day promotion to League One was clinched.
On the last Saturday before Christmas there were considerably fewer fans on the away terrace but they were celebrating after just 11 minutes by which time Reds had gone 2-0 in front.
They got a helping hand with the opener on ten minutes. Lewis Young made a great run down the right on the overlap and his cross, which was aimed for Meite, was turned into his own net by Jordan Clark.
It got better for the visitors. Josh Payne’s long ball found Boldewijn on the counter and he produced a cool finish past keeper Aaron Chapman.
Accrington were stung into action. They switched to a 3-5-2 formation to match Reds in midfield and Cedric Evina had to make a goal-line clearance in the 20th minute to keep out a volley from Seamus Conneely.
Although the hosts enjoyed some decent spells of possession and Mark Randall and Josh Yorwerth picked up bookings the visitors were always a threat on the break with the pace of Meite and Boldewijn.
And it was used to devastating effect four minutes before the break. Bulman curled a pass with the outside of his foot to Boldewijn on the left. He cut inside a defender before applying a cool finish past the helpless Jordan.
Reds were in dreamland with a 3-0 lead against one of the top three but Stanley got themselves a lifeline in stoppage time when Yorwerth brought down Kee in the box and they were awarded a penalty, which Kee fired past Morris to make it 3-1 to the visitors at the break.
It gave the hosts a foothold in the game but five minutes into the second half Reds squandered a great chance to increase their lead. Bulman was played in by Meite but the midfielder went for placement instead of power and Chapman got down to his left to keep the ball out.
It was a big moment and two minutes later was looking even more so when Stanley got a second. Defender Ben Richards-Everton, who had come on at half-time, got possession following a corner and hit a hard, low shot through a ruck of players and past a helpless Morris.
Now it was a different ball game. Reds were pinned back and reliant solely on counter-attacks to relieve the pressure. Morris made good saves to deny Clark and McConville while Wilks squandered two good chances, the second a free header in the 73rd minute from six yards which was straight at the Crawley keeper.
It was all hands to the pump for Reds but they had a handy outlet in the pacey Meite. He nearly got away with five minutes to go only to be thwarted by the efforts of two Stanley defenders.
Billy Clifford, who had come on for Mark Randall, fired tamely at the keeper in another counter-attack before Stanley had two great opportunities in stoppage time. Richards-Everton rumbled forward but headed a McConville set-piece wide before, in the final of five minutes of stoppage time, Hughes was denied by a brilliant save by Morris.
Seconds later the travelling fans could celebrate one of the best wins of the season, which sets Reds up nicely for two home games starting against another of the high-fliers Colchester United on Boxing Day at the Checkatrade Stadium.
Crawley: Morris; Young, Connolly, Lelan, Yorwerth, Evina; Bulman, Payne, Randall (Clifford 80); Boldewijn, Meite. Unused subs: Mersin, Sanoh, Doherty, Tajbakhsh, Verheydt, Lewis.
Booked: Randall, Yorwerth, Meite, Boldewijn, Clifford.
Attendance: 1295 (80 away)
Pictured: Enzio Boldewijn celebrates one of his two goals at the Wham Stadium. Picture: James Boardman (Telephoto Images)