Reds climbed out of the Sky Bet League One relegation zone after a comfortable 2-0 win over Oldham Athletic at the Checkatrade.com Stadium.
It was a happy Easter Monday for the home side who took control thanks to first-half goals by Izale McLeod – his 20th of the season – and Richard Wood, whose two young sons had accompanied him onto the pitch as match mascots.
Oldham had plenty of the ball with ex-Crawley midfielder Mike Jones their man of the match but Brian Jensen was rarely tested as Reds kept a third clean sheet in their last four games.
Dean Saunders made four changes to the side which held Crewe to a goalless draw on Good Friday.
Striker Dean Morgan made his first start and Ryan Dickson, Lewis Young and Marvin Elliott returned. Dean Leacock was ruled out with a groin injury and Anthony Wordsworth started a two-match ban while Gwion Edwards and Mathias Pogba dropped to the bench.
Top scorer Jonathan Forte was missing for the Latics but the visitors did include two ex-Reds in Jones and Mat Sadler.
In bright Spring sunshine Morgan almost made it the perfect start. He controlled an excellent diagonal ball from Dickson in the fifth minute and saw his shot from 12 yards turned around the post at full stretch by Latics’ keeper Joel Coleman.
Morgan was involved again nine minutes later when McLeod’s header found him in space but his shot was blocked. It was a great chance but no matter as moments later Reds were in front on the quarter-hour. Gavin Tomlin produced a superb cross from the left and McLEOD rose unchallenged ten yards out to glance his header past the helpless Coleman.
The visitors looked to respond and Connor Wilkinson had a yard of space inside the box midway through the half but his shot on the turn hit Wood and Lanre Oyebanjo booted the ball to safety.
That sparked a spell of Oldham pressure but Reds held firm and doubled their lead on 34 minutes. Sadler ended a flying run by Lewis Young by bringing him down 20 yards out and was booked. Lee Fowler whipped the free kick into the box and WOOD reacted inside the six-yard box to sweep it past Coleman.
Jensen made a superb save on 43 minutes to preserve the two-goal advantage after Oyebanjo had brought down Joseph Mills 25 yards out. Jones’s right-foot free kick was heading for the top corner until the Dane got across to turn it around the post.
Jensen was called into action again four minutes into the second half. Carl Winchester got in behind Reds on the right and pulled the ball back to Rhys Wilson but Jensen tipped his half-volley over the bar.
Reds went down the other end and nearly scored a third. Morgan’s pass slipped McLeod into space on the left. He picked out Tomlin but the midfielder could only propel the ball goalwards with his thigh and Liam Kelly got back to clear off the line.
Oldham made their first change on the hour with Winchester replaced by Dominic Poleon and the visitors had another chance moments later when Wilkinson let fly from 20 yards and Jensen was grateful to see his effort dip just over the bar.
Jones tried his luck again on 70 minutes but Jensen got behind his shot from distance. At this stage Oldham were enjoying plenty of possession and as the visitors committed more men forward Crawley needed to stay alert defensively.
A corner from Mills flashed across the face of the home goal before Saunders made his first change on 74 minutes with Gwion Edwards replacing Morgan and moving alongside McLeod up front.
Oldham made a final switch with 13 minutes to go when Jacob Mellis replaced Mills then Jimmy Smith came on for Tomlin moments after Mills had leathered a 30-yarder wide of Jensen’s post.
Smith’s first contribution was to find McLeod with a lovely pass seven minutes from time. The striker unselfishly teed up man of the match Young as he broke into the box but Coleman was equal to his shot, which he saved with his legs.
McLeod made way to a standing ovation and Pogba replaced him with six minutes to go.
Reds saw the remaining minutes out relatively comfortable and can now look forward to crucial back-to-back away games at Scunthorpe and Walsall as the bid for survival continues.