Jamie Proctor’s contender for goal of the season counted for little as Reds were beaten by Crewe in SkyBet League One at the Checkatrade.com Stadium.
The striker’s fifth of the season – a right-foot strike into the top corner from 20 yards – drew Crawley level after Uche Ikpeazu had given the visitors a half-time lead.
But as Reds pushed forward in search of a winner, Brad Inman won it for the visitors on the counter attack leaving the hosts badly needing to stop the rot at promotion-chasing Brentford on Tuesday night.
John Gregory made three changes with Kyle McFadzean, Gary Dicker and Sergio Torres replacing Paul Connolly, the suspended Dannie Bulman and Andy Drury, who was ill, from the team which lost 2-1 at Port Vale on Tuesday.
Both sides struggled to get going in the early stages and when Crewe went in front on 16 minutes it was from the first shot on target by either side.
Reds failed to stop Mathias Pogba’s run into the heart of the penalty area and when he shot Paul Jones could only get a hand on it and IKPEAZU was on hand to score from a couple of yards.
The hosts nearly manufactured an immediate response when Torres picked out Billy Clarke on the left of the penalty area and his drive was tipped over by Ben Garratt.
In truth it was a rare moment of alarm for Crewe in a first half littered with errors on both sides and free kicks. Three Reds – Rory Fallon, Dicker and McFadzean were all booked while the only other opening of note for the hosts came on 35 minutes when Mike Jones got into the box but dragged his shot into the side netting.
Garratt came out to gather at the feet of Clarke after Dicker’s pass had split Crewe’s central defenders but it was a poor first 45 minutes by the home side.
Crewe were first to threaten after the break. Pogba cushioned a header from Byron Moore’s cross into Chuks Aneke’s path but the Arsenal loanee fired his volley straight at Jones.
The crowd tried to lift the side and when Crewe could only half-clear a corner, Torres fired through a crowd scene but wide of the target. Jones then found space for a drive from 20 yards, which wasn’t far away.
It was his last action as Jeffrey Monakana replaced him on 57 minutes with Jamie Proctor coming on for Clarke at the same time.
The changes made a difference. The pair combined to win a corner which fell to Connolly whose shot struck a defender and rolled onto the post. Dicker then found Proctor but he failed to keep his header don. Moments later Fallon chested the ball into Proctor’s path but Garratt got right behind his shot.
The pressure finally paid off on 68 minutes when PROCTOR took possession 20 yards out a few yards to the right of the penalty area and smashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
Crewe were still a threat though and Moore was inches away from restoring their lead on 75 minutes when Reds failed to stop him getting in a right-foot shot from 15 yards that beat Jones but went just the other side of the post. Matt Tootle then got forward from right back but his shot was well wide of the target.
The visitors restored their lead with 11 minutes to go. A Reds’ move broke down and Crewe countered through Moore. His pass found INMAN, who beat the offside trap and slid his shot past Jones as the keeper came out.
Reds tried to muster another response and Connolly saw his effort through a packed penalty area deflected for a corner, but Crewe dug in to leave Crawley contemplating a fifth successive defeat.