Smith and Roberts sent off on disappointing afternoon for Reds
Crawley’s revival ended at Gresty Road and to compound their disappointment they finished the game with nine men after skipper Jimmy Smith and Jordan Roberts were both sent off.
For 40 minutes Reds competed well at a venue where five previous visits had yielded just one win.
But two goals in five minutes before the break by Callum Ainley and Chris Dagnall put the hosts in charge.
Smith was shown a straight red by referee Ben Toner after an incident spotted by the officials but missed by the players and Roberts was sent off for two bookable offences, both late tackles. Dagnall then added a third for the hosts deep into stoppage time.
Dutch pair Thomas Verheydt and sub Moussa Sanoh both struck the woodwork but it was an afternoon to forget for Harry Kewell’s men, who are next in action on Monday at Hastings United in the Sussex Senior Cup.
Reds made one change to the side which beat Mansfield 2-0 last Saturday. Striker Verheydt came into the team with Josh Lelan dropping to the bench. Joe McNerney dropped out of the squad because of a knee injury.
The big Dutchman nearly gave Crawley an early lead as Reds made a bright start. Josh Payne let fly from outside the box and his shot took a deflection off Verheydt and struck the bar with keeper Ben Garratt beaten.
The visitors had started confidently but Crewe began to work their way back into the game, although both sides found it difficult to play passing football on a heavy pitch which had passed a pre-match pitch inspection by referee Toner after morning rain.
Jordan Bowery ought to have at least hit the target in the 16th minute when he was found by Dagnall’s diagonal ball, but he volleyed wide at the far post before dragging another effort wide after George Cooper set him up.
Glenn Morris then smothered Cooper’s long-range strike and the Reds keeper then had to make an instinctive block with his legs to deny Tommy Lowery as the hosts got on top.
Morris joined Josh Yorwerth – cautioned earlier for dissent – in the book when he rushed out of goal after Lewis Young’s loose pass had put Reds in trouble, forcing the keeper to bring down Chris Dagnall.
Eddie Nolan lashed the resultant free kick over while at the other end Jimmy Smith fizzed an effort just wide.
But with five minutes of the half remaining Alex broke the deadlock. Cooper’s pass floated expertly over young and Ainsley did superbly to beat Morris from a really tight angle.
And it was to get worse for Reds when Crewe doubled their lead before the break. Jordan Roberts conceded a free kick on the left which found Dagnall who rose highest to guide a header past the helpless Morris and establish a 2-0 lead at the break for the hosts.
Harry Kewell made a change at the break with Ibrahim Meite replacing Enzio Boldewijn and the substitute almost made an immediate impact. After Roberts had seen a 20-yarder deflected for a corner Reds recycled possession and Young flashed an inviting ball across the face of goal which Meite was inches away from connecting with.
Crewe still looked a threat at set pieces and Eddie Nolan almost got a decisive touch on Ainsley’s inswinging delivery.
But on 61 minutes Reds’ task was made even harder when skipper Smith was shown a straight red for an offence committed in front of the dugouts. There were no protests from the home players but referee Toner was adamant and Smith had to go.
Morris denied Dagnall when he got in a shot on the turn before Crawley made a positive change with Cedric Evina replaced by Sanoh midway through the half.
It was hard to see a way back into the game for the ten men and Josh Yorwerth had to have his wits about him to clear the danger when Dagnall raced onto a long ball.
But they were denied by the woodwork again with 13 minutes to go when Sanoh cut inside and unleashed a swerving left-foot effort that beat Garratt but cannoned back off the bar.
A dispiriting afternoon got worse for Crawley with five minutes to go when Roberts, who had been booked earlier in second half for a foul, brought down Dagnall and referee Toner had little option but to show him a second yellow card.
Dagnall then made it 3-0 in the fourth minute of stoppage time, sliding the ball past Morris after substitute Conor Grant’s pass put him through.
Reds: Morris; Young, Connolly, Yorwerth, Evina (Sanoh 68); Boldewijn (Meite 45), Randall, Payne, Roberts; Smith; Verheydt. Subs: Mersin, Bulman, Lewis, Lelan, Doherty.
Booked: Yorwerth, Morris, Roberts, Meite. Sent off: Smith, Roberts
Referee: Ben Toner
Attendance: 3155 (69 Crawley fans)