Final score: Crawley Town 2, Mansfield Town 0
Reds are now unbeaten in four at home after claiming back-to-back wins over one of the Sky Bet League 2 play-off chasers.
Second-half goals from substitutes Joe McNerney and Ibrahim Meite ensured a miserable return to the Checkatrade Stadium for Stags’ boss Steve Evans, whose side were beaten for the first time in over two months by a Crawley team who are starting to find some momentum under Harry Kewell.
Reds made two changes to the side that drew 1-1 at Coventry last time out in the league. The injured Panutche Camara and Dannie Bulman, who dropped to the bench, were replaced by fit-again Jimmy Smith and Josh Lelan.
Mansfield were unbeaten for more than two months and could have gone ahead in the third minute. Jimmy Spence’s clever pass found CJ Hamilton free and he rounded Glenn Morris only for Josh Yorwerth to hack the ball off the line.
After that, goalmouth thrills were rare in the first half. Both sides enjoyed some good spells of possession but neither Morris or Conrad Logan in the Stags’ goal were called into action in the first half.
After coming under pressure in the first 15 minutes Crawley settled into some kind of rhythm. Their two best sights of goal fell to Jordan Roberts outside the box. His first shot hit the North Stand roof, his second – after good work by Enzio Boldewijn – only just cleared Logan’s bar.
Mark Randall went down in the box early on but optimistic appeals for a penalty after he’d been sent spinning by Rhys Bennett were turned away by referee Gavin Ward, who later booked Smith for bringing down Alex MacDonald.
In truth it was a first half to forget on an afternoon of bone-chilling cold as both teams cancelled each other out.
Joe McNerney replaced Mark Connolly, who had limped off just before the break, before Reds had a couple of openings from set pieces.
Josh Payne failed to test Logan from a central position 25 yards out before the midfielder went a bit closer in the 54th minute. Found by Randall on the left, he clipped the ball a yard over the Mansfield goal.
With 63 minutes played Reds had yet to get an effort on target but when they did they made it count. Roberts won a corner and when the first was cleared Roberts played it back in from the right and McNerney rose in the six-yard box to head past a flat-footed Logan.
Morris made his first save of the half in the 74th minute, a comfortable take from Alex MacDonald’s low shot but the hosts were playing with a lot more confidence with Boldewijn increasingly dangerous as they looked to stretch the Mansfield defence.
The visitors pushed plenty of players forward in the closing stages but Reds were resilient. McNerney blocked a thunderous shot from sub Krystian Pearce but there were openings for Crawley on the break. One move ended with Payne stinging Logan’s palms before Reds made the game safe in the 90th minute.
Another counter saw Randall release substitute Meite, who had only just come on for Boldewijn. He rounded Logan and then from a tight angle side-footed into the empty net for his second goal in successive home games.
Reds: Morris; Lelan, Connolly (McNerney 45), Yorwerth, Evina; Randall (Bulman 90), Smith, Payne, Young; Boldewijn (Mete 88), Roberts.
Attendance: 1791 (229 Mansfield)
Pictured: Joe McNerney is off to celebrate his first goal of the season. Photo by James Boardman (Telephoto Images)