Emile Sinclair’s first goal in a Crawley shirt earned Reds a hard-fought point at Colchester in the club’s 100th Football League game and stretched our unbeaten run to four games.
Richie Barker made three changes with Joe Walsh and Mike Jones returning to the side while Sinclair was given his full debut up front.
The striker won Reds a first-minute corner but he was offside when he met Nicky Adams’ cross with a header.
But it was the hosts who went in front after six minutes. Jeffrey Monakana’s pass out to Alex Gilbey on the right was swept out to the edge of the box and SEARS hit a low shot just inside
Paul Jones’ left-hand post which may have taken a deflection on its way past the keeper.
Reds nearly made an immediate response but Nicky Adams couldn’t direct his header downwards from Mike Jones’ cross. Reds then forced another corner which fell to Josh Simpson, whose volley wasn’t far away.
Colchester nearly added to their lead on 22 minutes when Monakana hit a ferocious shot on the turn that was deflected for a corner. With some big units in the home ranks Reds needed to be alert at set-pieces as ex-Red Magnus Okuonghae got up at the corner but nodded wide.
Drury’s mis-placed pass nearly cost Reds a second on 27 minutes when his ambitious cross-field volley was intercepted by Sears who teed up Jabo Ibehre for a shot which beat Jones but clipped the top of the crossbar.
Sears was involved again when his chip picked out Ibehre but his header was straight at Jones.
It was end-to-end stuff and on 32 minutes Reds levelled. Mat Sadler kept the ball in play on the left and his cross was headed powerfully past Sam Walker by SINCLAIR from close range.
Reds were denied a second goal in their next attack by the woodwork when Drury’s volley struck the inside of the post and came out to Billy Clarke, but his close-range follow up was superbly saved by Walker.
Adams then hit one from distance that flew just wide of the left-hand post before Sinclair laid the ball into Drury’s path and his first-time shot wasn’t far away.
It had been a breathless first half but the start of the second period was much more cagey with both sides tightening up. Luke Garbutt hit a 30-yard volley wide for the hosts who then went close again on 65 minutes when Monakana’s pass found Gilbey whose shot was crucially deflected by Walsh which made the save for Jones straightforward.
At the other end Walker made a superb save at full stretch to keep out Clarke’s shot before Walsh made an excellent tackle inside the box just as Sears was about to pull the trigger.
By then Jamie Proctor had come on for Sinclair and he tested Taylor before the keeper made another save from Mike Jones’ 25-yarder. Clarke then had the ball in the net from Simpson’s cross but was flagged offside as Crawley began to up the ante.
In the closing stages both sides seem to settle for a point but the 291 away fans rightly acknowledged the Crawley players at the end for their hardworking efforts.