Crawley Town 1, Stevenage 0
Reds ended 2017 by producing one of their best performances of the season as they beat Stevenage despite playing for over an hour with ten men.
Enzio Boldewijn had deservedly put Crawley in front with his third goal in two games in the 33rd minute but two minutes later Josh Payne was shown a straight red card for a badly-timed challenge on Josh Payne.
Reds had to defend diligently in the second half as Stevenage predictably bossed possession but keeper Glenn Morris was only forced into one save of note, a brilliant effort at full stretch in the 87th minute when he tipped over Matt Godden’s header – a stop to rival the one at Accrington last week which also secured three points.
Harry Kewell had made six changes to the line-up including only a second League start at left-back for Josh Doherty. Morris, Boldewijn, Josh Payne, Dannie Bulman and Mark Randall all returned in a 4-3-3 formation.
Reds began on the front foot with Boldewijn and Jordan Roberts going close before the Dutchman ended a superb run from just outside his own box with a shot which was comfortably saved by Joe Fryer. A better option, perhaps, would have been to square it to his unmarked team-mates but Boldewijn was a clean hit away from a goal of the season contender.
Randall was enjoying himself in midfield and his passing continually asked questions of the visitors. One delightful ball found Roberts in space but his first-time volley was well over.
No matter, the goal Crawley deserved arrived when Randall let fly from 25 yards and Fryer could only push the ball out. Boldewijn won the battle with a defender to steer home his fourth goal of the season.
But then came Payne’s moment of indiscretion and the complexion of the game changed. Kewell opted to play Roberts as a willing but lone front man in the second half with Reds happy to surrender possession while keeping Stevenage at arm’s length.
So much so that apart from efforts from Joe Martin and Kennedy, which were straight at Morris, Stevenage could not get behind a well-drilled home defence.
Crawley chased every loose ball, tackled as if their lives depended on it and although Mark Connolly had to have his wits about him to deflect Godden’s angled effort, it wasn’t until Morris made that late save that Crawley’s goal looked as if it might have been breached.
Instead, after four minutes of stoppage time, Reds had their fourth win in seven games and can look forward with optimism to 2018, starting on Monday at Yeovil.
Reds: Morris; Lelan, Connolly, Yorwerth, Doherty; Boldewijn (Meite 83), Bulman, Payne, Randall (McNerney 62), Young, Roberts. Unused subs: Mersin, Evina, Sanoh, Verheydt, Clifford.
Attendance: 2075 (244 away)
Picture: Enzio Boldewijn scores the winner in the 33rd minute. Photo by James Boardman (Telephoto Images)