Striker misses penalty then grabs late leveller
Matt Tubbs made amends for a rare penalty miss with a stoppage time equaliser as Reds extended their unbeaten League run to seven games against struggling Stevenage.
The visitors fully deserved the half-time lead given to them by Bira Dembele but the second half saw almost constant Crawley pressure, although their best chance appeared to have gone when Matt Tubbs saw a 74th minute penalty saved by Chris Day.
But Tubbs produced an emphatic finish in the first minute of stoppage time after good work by man of the match Kyle McFadzean to make it six goals in five games.
The manager made four changes to the side that beat Peterborough on Saturday. Hiram Boateng came into midfield alongside Andy Drury to make his Reds’ debut while Paul Connolly made his first start at right back. Billy Clarke returned to the attack with Sullay Kaikai dropping to the bench. Joe Walsh and Rory Fallon were both absent on international duty.
After a cagey start the visitors had a great chance to take the lead on seven minutes. A fortunate bounce enabled ex-Reds’ loanee Michael Doughty to get into the box and pull the ball back for Francois Zoko but he side-footed his shot straight at Paul Jones.
Zoko missed another great opportunity on 20 minutes when Zoko was played in but Jones stood up well and the Stevenage striker fired his shot straight at the keeper, who blocked it for a corner.
But the reprieve didn’t last long. A minute later defender Bira DEMBELE rose to plant an unchallenged header past the helpless Jones from Jimmy Smith’s inswinging corner.
On the balance of play it was no more than the visitors deserved with Reds struggling to get any sort of momentum at that stage of the game.
Luke Freeman tested Jones on 35 minutes with a low drive from 25 yards that fizzed just wide while Reds were finding it difficult to create anything at the other end despite some occasionally promising approach play.
They nearly conceded again four minutes before the break when Doughty’s pass put Lucas Akins in but he couldn’t get a shot away with only Jones to beat and when Zoko hit a follow-up effort into the box it hit Akins’ heel and went wide. Zoko then spun past Kyle McFadzean but his shot was comfortable for Jones.
Reds were happy to reach half-time only a goal down and get the chance to re-group while Stevenage would have been frustrated not to have built an even bigger lead.
It was no surprise that the boss made changes at the break with Jamie Proctor and Dannie Bulman replacing Boateng and Simpson. Clarke moved into midfield with Proctor partnering Tubbs up front.
Reds suddenly found a spark and they had a good penalty claim turned down on 51 minutes when Tubbs fell to the ground as he came under a challenge from two defenders but referee Williamson gave Stevenage a free kick instead.
Jon Ashton was then booked for a clumsy challenge on Clarke and as the pressure mounted Proctor galloped into space but his pull-back was hacked clear with Tubbs about to pull the trigger.
Curtis Obeng was then booked for a foul but although Reds were now looking more of a threat.
On 65 minutes Proctor did well to find a yard of space in the box for a low cross which only just eluded Clarke as he came in at the far post.
Drury then went down under a challenge from Dembele but once again the referee waved away Reds’ penalty claims. Jones then found Tubbs 20 yards out but his shot on the turn was always going wide.
Proctor was the provider again on 72 minutes when his cross eluded everyone except Clarke at the far post but the angle was too tight and he blazed his shot over.
The pressure looked to have paid off on 74 minutes when the referee awarded Reds a penalty when Drury was brought down in the box by Dembele, but Tubbs’ spot kick down the middle was blocked by the legs of Day.
Crawley continued to threaten and Mike Jones blazed over from a good position as Stevenage battened down the hatches for the closing stages by making two defensive substitutions and going 5-3-2.
But Reds should have levelled moments later when Proctor and Bulman led a break. Bulman elected to find Proctor instead of shooting himself and although Day was beaten Proctor, who had to check his stride to get his shot in, failed to get enough power on his effort and Dembele cleared in front of an empty goal.
With eight minutes to go Stevenage failed to clear a cross and the ball fell to Tubbs 10 yards out but he snatched at the chance and failed to hit the target with his left foot. It looked as if Reds had run their race.
There was five minutes of stoppage time and in the first of them Crawley finally drew level. McFadzean flicked a long ball into the path of TUBBS and his emphatic finish flew past the helpless Day. It was no more than the home side deserved and it nearly got even better when Mat Sadler’s low drive produced an equally good save from Day as a breathless second half reached a thrilling climax.