McLeod hat-trick as Crawley thrash Barnsley 5-1
Reds recorded their best ever win as a Football League club after Izale McLeod scored a hat-trick in a 5-1 hamering of Barnsley at the Checkatrade.com Stadium.
Four days after Crawley had conceded five to Doncaster the boot was well and truly on the other foot as Reds ran riot to boost their hopes of avoiding the drop from League One. It was the first time we had scored five in a League game since winning 5-2 at AFC Wimbledon in October 2011.
McLeod broke the deadlock in first-half stoppage time and two minutes into the second half Sonny Bradley scored his first goal for the club to make it 2-0.
Captain Marvin Elliott headed home a free kick from Lee Fowler for the third and after Kane Hemmings had pulled one back McLeod completed his hat-trick with two more goals in the last 16 minutes.
Barnsley keeper Ross Turnbull made several good saves and Gavin Tomlin hit the post to seal Reds’ best League result since they won 5-2 at AFC Wimbledon back in October 2011.
Dean Saunders made three changes to the side beaten by Doncaster on Tuesday. Jimmy Smith dropped to the bench, Lanre Oyebanjo was ruled out by a hamstring injury while Joe Walsh began a three-match suspension.
In came Lewis Young at right-back, Bradley into central defence and Fowler, who made his first start in midfield.
Managerless Barnsley made the brighter start with Lewis Price called into a couple of early saves to turn away a header from Martin Cranie and a 25-yarder by Mason Holgate which the Reds’ keeper got his body fully behind.
The visitors belied their away form, which had seen them beaten in their last six on the road, for the first 25 minutes with Price called into action again when he tipped Holgate’s header onto the bar after he had flicked on Conor Hourihane’s corner.
Reds had made little impression in attack but they finally began to play with some purpose and had their first chance on 33 minutes. Mathias Pogba headed Ryan Dickson’s diagonal back across goal and McLeod wasn’t far away with his overhead kick.
On 35 minutes McLeod lobbed the stranded Turnbull in the Tykes’ goal but Cranie got back to clear and, as the game sprung to life, Hourihane curled a free kick from 25 yards into the side netting.
But by then McLeod and Pogba were causing the visitors problems with their pace and movement and they combined to break the deadlock in first-half stoppage time.
Pogba headed Gwion Edwards’ long pass into the path of McLEOD and the striker lobbed Turnbull into an empty net for his 13th goal of the season.
It was just the confidence boost Crawley needed and two minutes into the second half they doubled their lead. Barnsley could only half-clear Fowler’s free kick and the ball dropped to BRADLEY who side-footed inside the left-hand post with his right foot.
Pogba had to limp off after suffering a dead leg on 59 minutes but seconds later it was 3-0. Fowler delivered a delightful free kick from the left onto the head of ELLIOTT who buried a powerful header inside the left-hand post.
Barnsley made a triple change in response and one of their substitutes pulled a goal back on 64 minutes. Holgate crossed from the left and Kane HEMMINGS stooped to head past Price from close range.
It gave the Tykes hope but McLeod ended them by completing his hat-trick with two goals in eight minutes.
He nearly scored from Anthony Wordsworth’s pull-back, forcing Turnbull to save his shot at full stretch with Gavin Tomlin, who had come on for Pogba, driving a close-range shot against the inside of the post.
But on 74 minutes McLEOD got his second to make it 4-1 when Turnbull got a hand on his shot but couldn’t prevent it going in.
Then he completed his hat-trick at the end of a great counter-attack from a Barnsley corner led by Lewis Young. He ran 60 yards to get a shot away and although Turnbull parried it McLEOD latched onto the loose ball and smashed it into the top corner.
The home fans could hardly believe what they were watching but one thing is clear - Reds are not going to give up their League One status without a fight.