Tomlin misses penalty and Henderson strike late consolation
Reds suffered a hugely disappointing start to their crucial Christmas fixtures after a home loss to Port Vale in Sky Bet League One.
First half goals from Michael Brown and Louis Dodds – his third for Vale against Reds – put the visitors in control.
Crawley wasted the chance to get back into the game when Gavin Tomlin’s second-half penalty against his former club was saved by Chris Neal.
Substitute Conor Henderson scored his second goal of the season with a late volley but the result extended Reds' winless run in League One to seven games ahead of the Boxing Day trip to Leyton Orient.
John Gregory made two changes to the side which had lost to leaders Bristol City a week earlier. Lanre Oyebanjo (calf) was ruled out and Keith Keane had returned to Preston at the end of his loan spell. In came Marvin Elliott, Ryan Dickson and Matt Harrold.
The visitors began brightly and Lewis Price was called on to make a save in the fourth minute when he pushed away Dany N’Guessan’s drive after Dean Leacock had been dispossessed.
Dodds then found space but his low drive was comfortably held by Price as Reds once again struggled to impose themselves at the start of a game.
They did, however, eventually work their way into the game. Jimmy Smith fired a free kick from the edge of the box disappointingly into the defensive wall and on 21 minutes Sonny Bradley had a great chance when he was found by Lewis Young’s cross but he directed a free header over the bar.
Price was still the busier keeper though, pushing out Brown’s shot and then saving a long-range free kick from the increasingly influential Vale midfielder.
It was no surprise when the visitors broke the deadlock on the half-hour. N’Guessan led a counter-attack down the left and then found BROWN with his pass and he gave
Price no chance from just inside the box with his left-foot shot.
As Reds looked for a response Miller had two close-range efforts blocked, one by a defender and the other by keeper Chris Neal.
Instead, Crawley found themselves 2-0 down just before the break. Ben Williamson exchanged passes with DODDS and after Price blocked his first shot, Dodds followed up to drive the ball inside the near post.
Reds made a change at the break as Matt Harrold replaced Young and there was a bit more urgency to their work at the start of the second half, with Neal saving Dickson’s 25-yard volley after the Vale keeper had punched away Smith’s free kick.
Price made a good parry when Williamson produced an excellent turn and shot 10 yards out but on 61 minutes Reds were given a lifeline when N’Guessan was penalised for a shove on Elliott inside the box and referee Robinson pointed to the spot. Vale protests fell on deaf ears but Neal guessed right, diving to his right to keep out Tomlin’s spot kick.
As Reds committed more men forward they were vulnerable to the counter-attack. Brown headed Marshall’s cross wide, then Marshall’s well-struck shot from inside the box flew just wide.
Price then made a crucial double save on 71 minutes when N’Guessan broke into the box, blocking his initial effort and then his follow-up from a tight angle by the left-hand post.
Conor HENDERSON replaced Sonny Bradley with 12 minutes to go and after a couple of sighters he found the bottom corner in the 89th minute after Smith's cross had been headed out to the midfielder, who hit a first-time volley past Neal.
The referee added on five minutes of stoppage time but Crawley couldn't muster another threat on goal as Vale hung on to the three points.