Reds produced their best performance of the season to end Peterborough’s unbeaten start to the season.
Gary Alexander’s first league goals since last September midway through both halves secured a thoroughly deserved triumph for the visitors. They were the more creative side throughout and carried the greater cutting edge, despite losing midfielder Mike Jones late on to two yellow cards.
Richie Barker named the side beaten narrowly by Wolves eight days earlier with new signing Emile Sinclair on the bench against his former club with Connor Essam dropping out of the 18.
Reds began positively and Nicky Adams forced Bobby Olejnik to make a scrambling save down to his left in the third minute from his 15-yard shot.
Billy Clarke then forced the home keeper to save his drive from the edge of the box as Reds continue to press.
Reds were in the wars early on. Joe Walsh needed treatment after a foul by Grant McCann earned the Posh midfielder a yellow card before Billy Clarke took a blow to the face.
Reds were fielding a 4-1-4-1 against Posh’s diamond and coping well. They went close again on 19 minutes when Mat Sadler’s pass allowed Clarke to ghost in past a defender and hit a first-time shot which Olejnik parried for a corner.
But Reds didn’t have to wait long to make the breakthrough. Clarke’s angled ball dropped over Gabriel Zakuani and ALEXANDER sent a brilliant volley from an acute angle back and across Olejnik inside the far post. It was the No.9’s second of the season and first in the league since his double against Preston last September.
Paul Jones was tested by his former club for the first time on 28 minutes when a well-worked Lee Tomlin free kick found Zakuani for a header which he directed straight at the Reds’ keeper.
Then from a corner Tommy Rowe got in a header but he was off target.
Mike Jones became the first Crawley player to be booked for a foul on Tomlin then Olejnik was called into action again to save Andy Drury’s shot, which lacked power to seriously trouble the Posh keeper.
It was two bookings in three minutes when Bulman halted Tomlin’s break in the centre of the pitch but Reds were inches away from doubling their lead on 39 minutes. Sadler and Andy
Drury combined down the left and Drury’s ball across the face of goal had just too much power for the onrushing Alexander.
Posh made two changes at half with Danny Swanson and Andy Little coming on and they won an early free kick which McFadzean glanced wide for a corner that Jones punched away in front of the home end before he got behind an angled shot from Little.
McFadzean became the third Crawley player to be cautioned when he halted Tyrone Barnett’s rampaging break after Posh cleared a Reds’ corner. The home side had, as expected, upped the ante and Little cut inside again to get away a shot which Jones was equal to.
Reds threatened for the first time in the half on 54 minutes when Alexander was fouled on the edge of the box and Drury drilled the free kick a yard wide of the left-hand upright.
Drury then put a decent free kick in from the right which found McFadzean, but his volley was blocked by a defender on the angle.
Reds had weathered the storm and on 66 minutes they doubled their lead. Drury’s pass found ALEXANDER 15 yards out and his right-foot shot had too much power as it flew past Olejnik and inside the left-hand post.
The hosts nearly got one back two minutes later when Rowe fired over from 12 yards after a strong burst through the home defence.
Joe Walsh forced Olejnik into another save when he met Sadler’s corner with a neat header then Clarke spotted the keeper off his line 40 yards out and tried a cheeky lob which was only half a yard over the bar.
With three minutes to go Jones got his marching orders for a second booking when he kicked the ball away following the award of a free kick.
Assomobolonga then went down in the box, not for the first time, but the referee waved aside Peterborough appeals for a penalty.
Reds had to get through six minutes of stoppage time and they nearly got a third when substitute James Hurst finished off a breakaway with a strike from 20 yards which flew just wide.