The Reds’ opening game of the 2017-18 season ended in a 3-1 defeat to Port Vale on Saturday afternoon at the Checkatrade Stadium.
First half goals from Michael Tonge and Antony Kay put the visitors two goals ahead, before Enzio Boldewijn halved the deficit eight minutes after the restart. But Daniel Turner’s late header restored Vale’s advantage and that’s how the score remained.
The opening goal of the afternoon came when referee Charles Breakspear awarded the visitors a free-kick on the edge of the area – and Tonge stepped up to fire an effort towards goal.
It took a big deflection, wrong-footing Glenn Morris completely, and Michael Brown’s men were ahead.
The home side responded well though, and Dannie Bulman had their first chance of the game.
Lewis Young’s marauding run down the right ended in him delivering a dangerous cross, and when the Vale defence failed to clear their lines, Bulman fizzed a shot wide of Robert Lainton’s goal.
But the visitors were soon two goals ahead through captain Antony Kay.
Another set-piece was awarded, this time out on the left-hand side. The ball was whipped into the area and Kay rose highest to glance a header out of the reach of Morris and into the far top corner of the net.
The second strike still didn’t hamper the home side’s spirit though, and they were straight back on the attack.
Jordan Roberts found Enzio Boldewijn - he drove brilliantly into the area and his shot was blocked, before the arriving Randall volleyed over.
The former Newport County man was involved again soon after when he found Mark Connolly arriving at the far post – only for the defender to be flagged offside.
The final chance of the half also went Kewell’s sides’ way, Josh Yorwerth exchanged passes with Thomas Verheydt on the edge of the area before firing over as the half came to a close.
The Reds came out strongly at the start of the second half, and a lovely cross from Evina went all the way agonisingly across goal, with a red shirt unable to get on the end of it.
But the hosts soon got the goal their display had deserved, and it came through Boldewijn.
A great team move, started well inside the Reds’ own half, ended with the Dutch winger cutting in from the left-hand side and burying a low drive beyond Lainton to give the home side hope.
Two quick chances to pull level soon presented themselves as the Reds began to take control of the game.
Roberts turned sharply inside the area and fired over, before Young arrived at the far post to volley wide.
Boldewijn then came equally close to his second of the afternoon as he took on Lawrie Wilson before curling a shot narrowly wide of the far post.
But all the side’s hard work was undone seven minutes from time, as Vale got their third of the game to kill off the contest.
Substitute Daniel Turner found himself unmarked in the middle of the area, heading in a cross from the right-hand side past Morris and sealing the win for the visitors.
Attendance: 2,270 (432 away fans)
Referee: Mr Charles Breakspear
Assistants: Mr Michael Webb and Mr Samuel Ogles
Fourth Official: Mr Andrew Laver
Reds: Morris (GK); Young, Connolly, Yorwerth (Payne 54), Lelan, Evina; Bulman ©, Randall, Boldewijn (Lewis 75), Verheydt, Roberts (Cox 64).
Subs not used: Mersin (GK), Blackman, Harrold, Djalo.