Tomlin equaliser and McLeod sent off in thriller
Gavin Tomlin scored his first goal for the Reds in an entertaining 1-1 draw against last season’s League Two champions Chesterfield to extend Crawley’s unbeaten run to six league games.
After going behind to Gary Roberts’ 56th-minute goal Reds rallied and midfielder Gwion Edwards found himself in space inside the opposing half.
The Welshman played a defence splitting ball and Tomlin composed himself before coolly chipping the ball over Spireites ‘keeper Tommy Lee as he went to ground to equalise on 70 minutes.
Both sides finished with ten men after Izale McLeod and Dan Jones clashed near the dugouts and were both shown straight red cards.
Reds were unfortunate to find themselves a goal down after midfielder Keith Keane lost possession in the centre of the park and the opposition quickly capitalised. The experienced and ever dangerous Roberts burst down the left-hand channel and unleashed a clinical left footed drive from the edge of the area into the bottom right corner past ‘keeper Lewis Price.
Boss John Gregory had made just one change from last week’s side with Lanre Oyebanjo replacing Sonny Bradley as the right-sided centre back in the favoured 5-3-2 formation. On loan signing Shaun Miller started on the bench.
Reds got their game going after early Chesterfield pressure and on 15 minutes Jimmy Smith and Bobson Bawling linked up well down the right with Smith hitting a powerful right footed drive against the woodwork.
Crawley kept up the pressure with the crowd sensing their side were gaining confidence and once again found themselves unlucky not to take the lead when Edwards’ cross from the left was met by Ryan Dickson who found himself in unfamiliar territory inside the penalty area but saw his header hit the far post.
Chesterfield were always a threat going forward with the wily Roberts and skilful Jay O’Shea looking for space in and around the Crawley back five. Oyebanjo, returning from injury, was at the heart of some last ditch defending including a goal line clearance after 35 minutes from Sam Clucas’s effort.
The visitors lost their influential captain Ian Evatt after a clash of heads on 54 minutes and he was replaced by Austrian Georg Margreitter. Tomlin then squandered a great chance seconds before Chesterfield scored after McLeod’s header picked him out inside the box but he delayed his shot and Chesterfield cleared.
After 65 minutes Gregory brought on Lewis Young for Bawling and reverted back to a more attacking 4-4-2 with Oyebanjo shifting to right back.
Like last week against Scunthorpe this had an immediate impact with Young giving the home side natural width while creating more space for the likes of Edwards to make an impact in the final third.
Despite Town looking more dangerous as the game wore on the Spireites were always looking to counter through Roberts and the league’s top goal scorer Eoin Doyle. On 77 minutes Roberts stung the palms of Price with another powerful drive after good link up play with Daniel Jones down the left.
The entertaining encounter was slightly soured in the final minutes when Mcleod tangled on the floor with Spireites’ left back Jones. After consulting with his assistant referee Graham Horwood showed both players a straight red card which means an automatic three-match suspension for Crawley’s top scorer.
Reds will look to continue their unbeaten run in two weeks with a tough away trip to league leaders Bristol City.