- Roberts scores seventh of the season as Reds earn point
- Third goal in a week for striker puts Crawley in front
- McNulty equalises after Boldewijn strikes the bar for Reds
- Crawley stay 17th in the table
Jordan Roberts marked his 100th career start with his third goal in two games as Reds ended a productive week with a good point at the Ricoh Arena.
Roberts followed his double in the 3-1 midweek win over Exeter by putting Crawley ahead in the 42nd minute – only the fourth goal Coventry have conceded at home all season.
Enzio Boldewijn hit the bar and sub Ibrahim Meite might have won it late on after Marc McNulty had equalised with 15 minutes to go.
Harry Kewell had made one change to the starting line-up with Roberts up front after his midweek exploits. Thomas Verheydt suffered a reaction to his recent hamstring injury in that game and dropped out of the squad with Kaby Djalo coming in on the bench.
On a cold West Midlands afternoon, it’s fair to say the game took a long time to warm up.
The hosts had most of the early possession but it took them 18 minutes to create a chance. Duckens Nazon, who had earlier fired over after Lewis Young gave the ball away, was picked out by Stuart Beavon’s pass on the edge of the box and his shot took a deflection past Glenn Morris that fortunately for Reds took it onto the outside of the left-hand post.
Initially Reds struggled to put together any passing moves of note and were often guilty of surrendering possession cheaply, but they began to work their way into the contest.
Josh Payne shot wide in space on his weaker left foot after good work by Mark Randall and Panutche Camara while Randall attempted to curl an effort past Lee Burge from the left-hand side but was off target.
The visitors were growing in confidence without offering a huge threat but in the 42nd minute they scored from their best move of the game so far. Dannie Bulman’s weight of pass allowed Young to burst forward without breaking stride and he pulled the ball back to Roberts ten yards out and his low left-foot shot flew past Burge into the bottom left-hand corner, his third goal in two games.
Coventry changed from five at the back to four at the break in a bid to try and force the pace having been booed off by their fans at half-time.
But it was Reds who were desperately close to doubling their lead in the 47th minute when Randall’s pass found Boldewijn who cut inside and bent a right-foot shot onto Burge’s crossbar.
That scare seemed to lift the Sky Blues who enjoyed their best spell of the game. Mark Connolly bravely blocked Nazon’s shot with his face, Josh Yorwerth kept out McNulty’s effort at close range and from the corner Jack Grimmer lifted a good chance over the bar from 15 yards.
Yet it was Reds who continued to have the clear-cut chances. Roberts, from a similar position he scored against Exeter from, saw his 61st-minute free kick pushed out by Burge after Camara’s charging run had ended in a foul.
With 15 minutes to go it looked as if the hosts had run out of ideas, but then for the first time in the game Reds let their guard down at the back and were punished.
Nazon laid off a left-wing cross from Ryan Haynes and McNulty had too much space 12 yards out to swivel and volley into the top right-hand corner to make it 1-1.
It should have been the signal for a Coventry bombardment and by introducing Kaby Djalo and Joe McNerney, and reverting to a 5-4-1 formation, Crawley were clearly content to hold what they had.
Yet they could easily have won the game two minutes from the end when Ibrahim Meite, who had earlier come on for Camara, connected with Roberts’ cross only for a near-post deflection to take it narrowly wide.
There was still some more defending to do when the redoubtable Connolly blocked a shot by substitute Jordan Ponticelli at the start of six minutes of stoppage time, but Reds could eventually celebrate a deserved point.
Crawley Town: Morris; Young, Connolly, Yorwerth, Evina; Boldewijn (sub: Djalo 84), Bulman (McNerney 84), Randall, Payne, Camara (Meite 76); Roberts. Unused subs: Mersin, Doherty, Lelan, Lewis.