McLeod's fourth of the season settles hard-fought game
Reds returned to winning ways after a second-half goal from Izale McLeod earned his side a hard-fought win over Fleetwood Town.
McLeod’s fourth goal of the season was expertly taken while at the other end Fleetwood created plenty of chances but found the Crawley defence in resilient mood.
John Gregory rung the changes with debuts for loan signings Keith Keane and Josh Wright while Mat Sadler made his return at the start of his loan spell. Joe Walsh was recalled after missing two games through international duty and there was a start for Gavin Tomlin.
There were two familiar faces leading the Cod Army attack in ex-Crystal Palace striker Stephen Dobbie and former Red Jamie Proctor and Dobbie should have put his side ahead inside a minute but he directed an inviting cross from Matty Blair straight at Brian Jensen.
Dobbie then turned provider with a cross which Proctor headed over before Jensen saved a low shot from Gareth Evans as Fleetwood made most of the early running.
The Fleetwood strikers both tried their luck from distance but were off target and although Reds had plenty of possession in the opening third of the contest it wasn’t until the lively Tomlin turned inside the box and fired a couple of yards wide that the Fleetwood goal was seriously tested.
But it proved the prelude to a decent spell for the hosts and they ought to have scored on 39 minutes when Izale McLeod’s cross picked out the unmarked Joe Walsh but he headed wide with only keeper Chris Maxwell to beat.
Dean Leacock glanced a header wide from a corner but the Cod Army were still a threat. Proctor’s shot from 20 yards kissed the outside of the post then Blair played in Conor McLaughlin but his scuffed effort from close in went past the far upright.
Jensen then saved more comfortably than he should have done when Dobbie and Proctor combined but Dobbie’s shot was straight at the Reds’ keeper.
Jensen made another good save four minutes after the break when Proctor dummied a cross but Dobbie’s shot was blocked with the outstretched legs of the Reds’ keeper.
Both sides continued to work hard but there was still a shortage of quality in the final third. Reds made their first change on 68 minutes when Bobson Bawling came on for Conor Henderson, with Jimmy Smith dropping to right back.
Fleetwood brought on David Ball a couple of minutes later and he nearly broke the deadlock with a curling effort that was only a yard or so wide of the far post.
Dobbie was then replaced by Anton Sarcevic and he nearly made an immediate impression as well, but his rising drive from just inside the box was always going over.
With 14 minutes to go Lewis Young replaced Tomlin and then Reds broke the deadlock with 11 minutes to go. Smith flicked on a long ball and McLEOD got in front of Nathan Pond before lifting the ball over goalkeeper Maxwell.
There was still some defending for Crawley to do but they did it well although hearts were in mouths in the final minute of stoppage time when Ball’s cross was diverted by Walsh straight into the arms of the grateful Jensen.
Reds: Jensen; Smith, Leacock, Walsh, Sadler; Tomlin (Young 76), Henderson (Bawling 68), Wright, Keane, Dickson; McLeod. Unused subs: Bradley, Banya, Harrold, Richefond, Ashdown.