Murphy scores on debut but disappointing outcome at Meadow Lane
Rhys Murphy marked his Reds’ debut with a goal but Notts County took the three points from an entertaining Sky Bet League Two encounter at Meadow Lane.
Mark Yates’ men were good value for their 25th-minute lead when Murphy stroked the ball home after Bobson Bawling had charged down County keeper Roy Carroll’s goal kick.
But Mike Edwards and Liam Noble scored in the space of a minute and Notts went 3-1 up three minutes after the break when Noble scored from the spot after Izale McLeod had been brought down.
Edwards got his second with 13 minutes remaining but the scoreline was harsh on Crawley who created some excellent chances and were denied on three occasions by the excellence of Roy Caroll in the home goal.
Despite the absence of six players because of injury and suspension, Mark Yates rang the changes. Bawling made his first start since December 28, there was a first start for midfielder Ross Jenkins and a debut for Murphy while Lewis Young was recalled.
Skipper Sonny Bradley was booked for a late challenge in the 12th minute but it was his side who began to get on top after a subdued first 15 minutes.
Carroll stood up well to block Luke Rooney’s shot after the midfielder burst into the box and on 21 minutes the former Manchester United goalkeeper made an even better save when Murphy made a good connection on Christian Scales’ cross but Carroll again got his angles right to block the shot.
Reds were enjoying their best spell and it was no surprise when they took a 25th minute lead. Bawling charged down Carroll as he attempted to clear and the ball cannoned off him into the path of Murphy, who held off a defender before guiding the ball into an empty net.
At that stage Reds were good value for their lead but Notts turned the contest on its head with two goals inside a minute.
Edwards rose to head the equaliser from six yards on 30 minutes after a corner had bounced inside the box and straight from the kick off Notts attacked again. Noble picked up possession, cut inside Scales and left Woodman helpless for the second time with a curling right-foot shot into the far corner.
Two body blows for Reds, who were suddenly wobbling. Woodman made a great save from Graham Burke’s half-volley from the edge of the box and both Jenkins and Rooney were booked by referee Mark Brown.
But the visitors came again before the end of an entertaining half when Scales’ cross found its way to Rooney but he sliced his shot wide from an inviting position ten yards out.
The next goal would be crucial and Notts got it three minutes into the second half. Scales’ challenge on McLeod looked fair but McLeod tumbled to the deck and referee Mark Brown pointed to the spot, much to Scales’ consternation. Noble stepped up and gave Woodman no chance with the penalty.
Woodman dived to his right to pull off a great save to keep out Gill Swerts’ long-range effort as Notts looked to put the game to bed before Reds made their first change as Lee Barnard replaced Bawling.
The visitors then had two good chances in a minute to get back into the contest. Carroll made a terrific save with his right arm when Bradley headed Rooney’s cross goalwards then Rooney curled an effort from outside the box onto the top of the goal.
McLeod was denied by Woodman with 20 minutes to go when the former Red got goal side of Jimmy Smith as an entertaining game continued to produce good chances at both ends.
McLeod was booked for a foul on Jon Ashton before Walton came on for Rooney with 18 minutes remaining and the hosts put the game to bed with 13 minutes remaining when Edwards surged into the box to meet Noble’s inswinging corner and guided it inside the far post.
Ashton became the fifth Crawley player to be booked by which time Liam Donnelly had come on for Scales.
Despite the result there were positives for Reds. They created some very good chances and if they can rediscover the defensive solidity of a few weeks ago their fortunes will surely pick up.