Notts County 5 Crawley Town 3
Reds shipped in five goals for the first time in a League game since September 2011 on an amazing afternoon at Meadow Lane.
It looked like being a long afternoon for John Gregory’s men and the travelling fans when Crawley fell 3-0 behind after 39 minutes following some uncharacteristically bad defending.
But hope was restored by two goals in five minutes after the break from Gwion Edwards, who scored for the third successive game, and Matt Harrold, with his first for the club.
However, Garry Thompson completed his ha-trick midway through the second half for an impressive Notts side now unbeaten in their last nine games and Gary Jones got the fifth with the aid of a big deflection ten minutes from time.
Marvin Elliott headed a third for Reds on 83 minutes who never gave up and can be pleased with their second-half response as they prepare to host Walsall on Tuesday.
Crawley made three changes to the side beaten by Peterborough. Brian Jensen was recalled in goal while Joe Walsh and Gwion Edwards also returned. Jamie Ashdown, Sonny Bradley and Gavin Tomlin dropped to the bench while Josh Simpson, having recovered from a hamstring injury, was also among the replacements.
County included defender Muzzy Dumbuya, who had a five-month spell with Reds last year.
The hosts had lost just once in their last 11 and it was not hard to see why as they tore into Crawley from the start.
Only a deflection by Izale McLeod which took the ball over the bar prevented Haydn Hollis from stabbing home Stephen McLaughlin’s third minute corner – one of eight won by Notts in the first half – after three minutes.
That set the tone for a depressing first 45 for the visitors who found themselves behind after ten minutes when Garry THOMPSON drilled a low shot through Jensen’s legs after he’d latched onto a simple pass between Dean Leacock and Lanre Oyebanjo.
Reds nearly levelled straight away when Lewis Young’s lob from 20 yards beat Roy Carroll but bounced off the top of the cross bar. Edwards’ diagonal ball then found Young in space but his first touch let him down at the vital moment in the box.
But normal service was soon resumed. Jensen tipped a header from Ismail over the bar but had no chance from the resultant corner which ISMAIL met with a firm header into the top corner, although there was a hint that the final touch came off Walsh.
Hollis charged down Edwards’ drive in a rare Reds’ riposte but the home side’s pace and width was causing Crawley no end of problems and Ismail headed Stephen McLaughlin’s deep diagonal ball wide when he should have scored.
Reds’ best chance of the half fell to McLeod after Edwards found him in the box but he failed to get the ball out of his feet and Notts cleared.
Instead County made it 3-0 after 39 minutes. Jordan Cranston’s deep ball from the left found THOMPSON nipping in between Walsh and Leacock to stab past Jensen, who was hopelessly exposed.
It could have been worse. McLaughlin fired wastefully wide after a strong run from deep and in stoppage time a corner dropped to Shaun Harrad in the box but Jensen managed to smother his shot.
John Gregory responded by bringing on Matt Harrold at the break for McLeod, who had needed lengthy treatment in the first half after colliding with Carroll. It meant a switch to 4-4-2 with Young moving up alongside Harrold in attack.
Reds started the second half on the front foot and got a goal back in the 50th minute when EDWARDS took a pass from Marvin Elliott and advanced before beating Carroll with a powerful left-foot shot inside the left-hand post.
Five minutes later and it was 3-2 after a brilliant counter-attack by Reds started on the edge of his own box by Keith Keane. His pass found Jimmy Smith down the right whose cross picked out Young. He laid it into the path of HARROLD who steered his shot past Carroll inside the left-hand post.
Game on, or so we thought. But on 64 minutes Reds conceded another bad goal when Jensen tried to punch away McLaughlin’s inswinging corner and THOMPSON completed his hat-trick with a header into the empty net.
Reds kept plugging away but ten minutes from time Notts got a fifth, albeit with the help of a big deflection as Gary JONES’ volley from a long throw totally wrong-footed the helpless Jensen.
Crawley didn’t give up though and Smith’s pin-point free kick from the right found ELLIOTT who headed powerfully past Carroll from ten yards with seven minutes to go.
There was nothing wrong with Reds' offensive play, particularly in the second half, but they need to rediscover the defensive resilience that has been missing in the last two fixtures.