Reds beaten 2-1 by play-off chasing Exeter
Inconsistent Reds slipped to a third successive home defeat against play-off chasing Exeter.
Reds had the edge in terms of a goal threat in the first half but Exeter took control after the break. Ollie Watkins broke the deadlock in the 50th minute with a deflected volley and there was no way back for Crawley when skipper Jordan Moore-Taylor doubled their lead midway through the half. Mark Connolly pulled one back in stoppage time but it proved too little too late.
Reds had made one change to the side which won 2-1 at Wycombe on Saturday with Lewis Young replacing Josh Lelan (hip). There was a place on the bench for Addison Garnett with Jordan Roberts and Matt Harrold still sidelined by injury.
Reds began brightly but gradually the visitors worked their way into their game, their attacking play at times as bright as their luminous yellow shirts.
More than 20 scouts, including representatives from Chelsea and Liverpool, were there to check on Watkins and team-mate David Wheeler and both looked lively, although despite plenty of possession Glenn Morris wasn’t troubled in the first half.
The best chances fell to Reds in a five-minute period. On 34 minutes Dean Cox cut in on his favourite right foot but his cross just eluded James Collins as it grazed the far post.
Collins then cushioned a lovely pass into the path of Enzio Boldewijn who tried to lob Bobby Olejnik, but the Exeter keeper was able to grab it at full stretch.
Kaby Djalo picked up the contest’s first yellow card when he brought down ex-Reds loanee Jake Taylor early in the second half and on 50 minutes Exeter went in front from the first shot on target of the night. Watkins seemed to have been crowded out on the right-hand side of the box but his volley took a deflection off a defender and flew into the bottom corner. From a Crawley perspective, it was a poor goal to concede.
Dermot Drummy brought on Rhys Murphy a few moments later with skipper Jimmy Smith dropping back into midfield and Murphy finally tested Olejnik on 62 minutes when the keeper made a comfortable save from his long-distance effort.
Watkin was inches away from scoring again midway through the half when he held off Andre Blackman’s challenge only to pull his shot wide, but relief for Reds was short lived. Taylor was allowed to cross from the right and Exeter skipper Jordan Moore-Taylor turned it home from close range.
Billy Clifford and Josh Payne came on in the closing stages to try and spark their team into life and Reds pulled one back in stoppage time. Olejnik had just made a save at point-blank range to keep out Enzio Boldewijn’s header but had no chance when Connolly met Clifford’s right wing cross which went in off the underside of the bar. Moments later the Exeter keeper had to back-pedal to push away Payne’s volley from outside the area as Reds mounted a late but ultimately futile offensive.
It was at least a positive end to the night for Reds but they will have to do a lot better against leaders Doncaster, who visit the Checkatrade on Saturday.
Reds: Morris; Young, Connolly, McNerney, Blackman; Boldewijn, Djalo (Murphy 52), Henderson, Cox (Clifford 73), Smith (Payne 77), Collins. Unused subs: Mersin, Yorwerth, Garnett, Bawling.
Attendance: 1826 (362 Exeter)