Battling point in Dean Saunders' first game in charge
Dean Saunders say Reds battle to a goalless draw in his first game in charge against Colchester to lift them out of the Lesgue One relegation zone.
With five players injured and Matt Harrold going off at the break Crawley were down to the bare bones and they rode their luck with Colchester hitting the woodwork four times and having a goal disallowed.
But Brian Jensen made some outstanding saves was well protected by those in front of him with man of the match Joe Walsh outstanding in the centre of defence and although Reds seldom tested Colchester keeper Sam Walker there is no doubt that the players put in a good shift for their new interim manager.
Saunders’ first team selection showed two changes from the side beaten by Leyton Orient on Boxing Day. Lewis Young and Izale McLeod, back after a three-match ban, came in with the injured Ryan Dickson and Dean Leacock joining a lengthy injury list.
It left the back four with a makeshift look as Bobson Bawling and Lewis Young filled the full-back roles with Marvin Elliott alongside Joe in the centre.
Not surprisingly Reds took time to settle and it was Colchester who made all the early running.
Young made a timely intervention in the eighth minute just as Sammy Szmodics was lining up a shot and a minute later George Moncur hit a side-foot effort from the edge of the box against the base of the left-hand post with Jensen getting a vital touch to push it onto the woodwork.
Gavin Massey’s strike from outside the box was only just wide while at the other end Reds failed to extend Sam Walker in the first half.
The hosts did have some good moments though. A counter-attack on 22 minutes ended with McLeod’s shot deflected for a corner then five minutes later Conor Henderson’s corner was cleared as far as Gwion Edwards, who volleyed wide.
But Reds had another reprieve on the half-hour when Freddie Sears hit the underside of the bar from close range - Jensen again getting a vital touch - before he was flagged offside as he prodded the rebound into an empty net.
Jensen made a comfortable save from Tom Eastman’s long range free kick while Shaun Miller responded at the other end with a long-range effort that wasn’t testing Walker as the half ended pretty scrappily.
Reds had the first chance of the second half after McLeod was brought down on the edge of the box but Henderson failed to keep his free kick down and it went over the bar.
But Colchester then hit the woodwork for the third time on 55 minutes through the luckless Sears. The striker had just seen his snap shot beaten away by Jensen when he volleyed against the base of the upright from the edge of the box after Tom Eastman’s pass had found him in a pocket of space.
Gavin Tomlin had come on for Harrold at the break and he wasted a decent opening on 71 minutes, failing to make any sort of contact when Henderson’s deep corner dropped to him just beyond the far post.
With 12 minutes to go Charles Banya replaced Edwards as Reds looked to hit their visitors on the break but Colchester nearly won it in the 90th minute when Eastman met a corner with a powerful header which hit the post. The loose ball came out wide on the right to Massey whose low drive was superbly blocked by Jensen as Crawley hung on for a point.