Crawley Town 3 Leyton Orient 2
Reds recorded their first home win of the season in a breathless encounter against high-flying Orient.
It looked like being another tough afternoon for the home fans when Jay Simpson gave the visitors an early lead.
But the contest was turned on its head by three goals in 18 minutes. Roarie Deacon scored for the second successive league game to make it 1-1, Mitch Hancox netted the first goal of the his career and
Simon Walton’s penalty made it 3-1 on the stroke of half-time when O’s defender Alan Dunne was sent off.
The ten men enjoyed long spells of possession in the second half and Simpson’s second with nine minutes to go made for a nerve-shredding finale but Crawley got the job done to maintain their 100% record in four home meetings with the Londoners.
Victory lifted Reds up to 18th in the table ahead of Saturday’s home game against Luton Town.
Mark Yates made three changes to the side that went out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on Tuesday with Matt Harrold and Rhys Murphy restored to the attack and Lewis Young replacing Luke Rooney.
Jon Ashton returned after missing three games with an ankle injury but had to settle for a place on the bench. Orient’s side included former Reds defender Connor Essam while Lloyd James, who had a spell on loan at the club in 2012, was among their substitutes.
The home fans were in good voice at the start but it was Orient who settled first and Dean Cox had already gone close with a free kick from 35 yards when they took an 8th minute lead.
Adam Chicksen’s cross was met by the head of Ollie Palmer whose effort hit the post. Callum Preston tried to scramble the ball away but Simpson was first to react and slide the ball into the net.
Bradley Pritchard had two efforts at goal and Simpson was inches away from a second after a mix-up in the Crawley defence when his chip landed just wide of the target after he had been picked out by Cox.
Reds were struggling to get any impetus at this stage and Orient were playing like the home side. Murphy had a half chance when Simon Walton’s free kick was flicked on but the assistant already had his flag up for offside.
But out of nowhere Reds conjured up an equaliser on 27 minutes. Murphy’s pass found Deacon and he cut inside his marker and side-footed the ball past Alex Cisak, the ball going in off the inside of the post.
Reds nearly went ahead four minutes later. Gwion Edwards led a break down the left and found Harrold whose deflected shot was pushed around the post for a corner by Chicksen with Murphy about to pounce.
The mood had completely changed. Hancox forced Cisak to push his shot around the post for a corner but the full back had his moment seconds later. His initial corner was cleared but Hancox made a couple of yards before beating Cisak at his near post to make it 2-1.
For the first time at home this season Reds were playing with a swagger. Hancox found Harrold with a deep cross which Alan Dunne headed over for a corner.
On the stroke of half-time they made it 3-1 and Orient found themselves down to ten men. Hancox produced a superb pass from the left that put Murphy clear and as he bore down on goal Alan Dunne brought him down. The defender was shown a straight red and Walton sent Cisak the wrong way from the resultant penalty.
Orient brought on John Marquis at the break and switched to a 3-5-1 formation and five minutes into the second period Deacon was booked for a late challenge on Chicksen.
Cisak made the first save of the half on 58 minutes when Murphy’s right-wing cross was met by a firm downward header from Harrold which the Orient keeper pushed away.
At the other end Preston stuck out a boot to deflect Marquis’s header wide after a good ball into the box by Pritchard.
Joe McNerney was replaced by Ashton on 63 minutes and as the visitors probed for a way back into the game Preston turned a thunderbolt from Sammy Moore over the bar.
Orient pulled one back with nine minutes left when Marquis got the better of Sonny Bradley and teed up Simpson, whose volley inside the left-hand post gave Preston no chance and set up a nervous
finale for the home fans.
Orient threw countless balls into the mixer in the closing stages but Crawley held firm and in the sixth minute of stoppage time Fenelon nearly added a fourth for Reds but Cisak produced a superb save from his right-foot shot and moments later the home fans could start their celebrations.