Reds ease to victory over Billingshurst
Reds made a winning start to pre-season with three of the ten summer signings – Matt Harrold, Conor Henderson and Izale McLeod – on target against County League Billingshurst at the Jubilee Fields on Friday night.
The home side competed well until they conceded four goals in four minutes just before the break and it was one-way traffic for much of the second half too although, to their credit, Billingshurst came close on a couple of occasions in the second half to getting a consolation on the counter-attack.
John Gregory fielded five trialists in the first half: Dean Leacock, Bodson Bawling, Lewis Young, Johnny Marsden and Emmet O’Connor and the visitors soon got into their stride.
Matt Harrold twice, Marsden and Joe Walsh, who captained Crawley in the first half, all went close before Reds broke the deadlock on 20 minutes when Harrold met O’Connor’s cross with a powerful header into the top corner.
Billingshurst keeper Tom Betts then made a string of superb saves to twice deny Jimmy Smith and Marsden but Reds stepped up a gear with four goals in the space of four minutes.
Henderson smashed a free kick from the right-hand edge of the box into the top corner (36’) and in their next attack the midfielder teed up Young for a simple finish.
Reds scored again from the re-start when Young’s cross looped up over Betts and O’Connor had a tap-in and with the home side in disarray Henderson picked his way through to make it 5-0.
By then Jake Kempson and Rico Gomez, two more trialists, had come on.
Three more appeared in a much-changed second-half line up with goalkeeper Chad Collins, midfielder Simon Heslop and defender Craig Robson getting a run-out along with Josh Simpson, Lanre Oyebanjo, Ryan Dickson, Sonny Bradley and Izale McLeod.
The hosts won a couple of corners but Simpson was denied by Andy Barr when he got through and it was 6-0 on 57 minutes when Oyebanjo made a powerful run down the right and into the box before teeing up McLeod for a side-foot finish.
Two minutes later Dickson showed his prowess down the left before setting up Kempson for a confident finish to make it 7-0. He was immediately replaced by Ryan Noble, the 11th trialist used by Crawley. Bradley Isaacs then replaced Gomez on the hour.
The eighth goal came on 67 minutes when Noble picked his way through and set up O’Connor for a composed close-range finish.
Noble got himself on the scoresheet with ten minutes to go when he headed in Bradley Isaacs' cross and home keeper Andy Barr made terrific saves to deny McLeod and Simpson the goal that would have taken Reds to double figures.
Still a satisfying start to the season for Reds, who face Oakwood at Tinsley Lane in their next friendly on Tuesday night (7.45pm).
First half: Brian Jensen, Bodson Bawling, Ryan Richefond, Dean Leacock, Joe Walsh, Emmet O'Connor, Jimmy Smith, Conor Henderson, Lewis Young (Rico Gomez 42), Matt Harrold, Johnny Marsden (Jake Kempson 35).
Second half: Chad Collins, Lanre Oyebanjo, Ryan Dickson, Sonny Bradley, Craig Robson, Josh Simpson, Simon Heslop, Rico Gomez (Bradley Isaacs 60), Izale McLeod, Jake Kempson (Ryan Noble 56).