Luton Town v Crawley Town
James Collins scored his 17th goal of the season but Reds then conceded twice in four minutes as they suffered a harsh defeat at Kenilworth Road.
Collins struck from the edge of the box midway through the second half but Danny Hylton, a scourge of Crawley’s in the past with Aldershot and Oxford, scrambled in the equaliser before he struck what turned out to be the winner in the 73rd minute.
A disappointing outcome then but there was much to commend Crawley’s performance. Jordan Roberts hit the bar and went close in the second half while skipper Jimmy Smith, on his 100th start, was inches away from scoring on two occasions.
Reds had to make a late change to the starting line-up after Joe McNerney hurt his hamstring in the warm-up. Josh Lelan moved into central defence with Lewis Young restored to the side at right back. Reds other alteration on a Baltic afternoon in Bedfordshire saw Enzio Boldewijn replace Andre Blackman with Roberts at left back.
There was a good tempo to the early exchanges with Reds giving as good as they got against the promotion chasers.
There was a moment of alarm for Luton in the fourth minute when Jack Senior’s attempt to clear Enzo Boldewijn’s cross cannoned off a team-mate into the grateful arms of goalkeeper Matt Macey.
At the other end Glenn Morris made the first of two outstanding first-half saves to keep out a volley from Pelly-Ruddock Mpenza at full stretch. He made an even better one in the 28th minute when Hylton’s pass sent Isaac Vassell clear but the Reds keeper spread himself well to block the shot.
Reds had their moments too. Smith volleyed just wide from Young’s quickly-taken throw and was inches wide with a volley in the 22nd minute when Collins’ cross was chested into his path by Dean Cox.
Roberts hit the top of the bar with as left-wing cross and Luton were being made to work hard to impose themselves all over the pitch.
They suffered a blow in the 35th minute when Jordan Cook had to receive lengthy treatment on the pitch for a head injury after an innocuous tussle with Conor Henderson. He was replaced by Ollie Palmer.
Smith went close again in the fourth of eight minutes added on at the end of the first half. Cox found Djalo and Smith met his left-wing cross with a header which bounced inches wide of the left-hand upright.
Lelan had been outstanding in the first half but he was booked three minutes after the break for a challenge which sent Hylton spinning.
Reds broke the deadlock on the hour when Collins struck again. The finish itself, from the edge of the box, was impressive enough but he will no doubt have applauded the work of Smith and Cox in the build-up. Smith looked as if he would score after Cox’s ball put him in space but Macey made a block. Smith managed to smuggle the ball back to Collins and he smashed it between two defenders on the line.
The 225 Reds fans enjoyed that and they were applauding again in the 69th minute when Morris flung himself to his right to push away Mpenza’s well-struck volley from the edge of the box.
But from the resultant corner Luton drew level with Hylton applying the final touch from virtually on the line after a bout of pin-ball inside the six-yard box.
Luton had the bit between their teeth but Smith was inches away from restoring the advantage in the 73rd minute when he fired into the side netting from the left-hand side of the box after a quick counter-attack and pass by Young.
The home side were celebrating again though with 14 minutes to go. Reds failed to clear a left-wing cross and Hylton was left with time and space to send a volley from 12 yards inside the left-hand post.
Reds made their first change with Rhys Murphy replacing Djalo as they hunted for an equaliser. It nearly came when Roberts let fly from 25 yards but Macey threw himself to his left to push his drive around the post. Moments later Collins found space on the edge of the box but his curler was a yard wide of the target.
Josh Payne and Bobson Bawling came on for the last seven minutes and Payne had three strikes at goal which were all blocked.
Five minutes of stoppage time meant the final whistle wasn’t blown until 5.04pm on an ultimately disappointing afternoon for Reds.
Crawley Town: Morris; Young, Connolly, Lelan, Roberts; Henderson (sub: Payne 83), Djalo (Murphy 78), Boldewijn (Bawling 83), Cox. Unused subs: Mersin, Blackman, Clifford.
Attendance: 7316 (228 Crawley)