Notts County 2 (Audel 73, Forte 90), Crawley Town 1 (Collins 86)
Crawley’s troubles on their travels continued at Meadow Lane where the home side secured their first League win since October.
Ex-Reds loanee Jonathan Forte got the winner in the 90th minute, four minutes after James Collins had equalised from 25 yards with his 15th goal of the season. County had taken the lead through Thierry Audel in the 73rd minute but then had Adam Campbell sent off for his second bookable offence.
Glenn Morris made a string of fine saves for the visitors and although they left it late the home side probably deserved to claim a much-needed three points.
Reds had named an unchanged side for the third successive game while new signing Josh Lelan was included on the bench, with Sanchez Watt dropping out of the squad.
There was a lively start to the contest with chances at both ends. County keeper Adam Collin had to make a smart save from Dean Cox’s shot from just inside the box after Cox had been teed up by Enzio Boldewijn’s header. At the other end Jon Stead’s half-volley took a deflection for a corner which Reds eventually cleared.
Reds saw plenty of the ball in the opening 20 minutes but County were lively too and gained encouragement midway through the half when Adam Campbell’s goalbound volley hit Mark Connolly and was deflected for a corner which Reds eventually scrambled to safety.
Josh Yorwerth and Curtis Thompson were booked by referee Kinseley on the half-hour after a tussle on the touchline and after a bright opening the contest had become increasingly scrappy..
Morris was at his best in the 34th minute though after Jon Stead’s pass had put Forte through on goal, the keeper saving his low shot with an outstretched right boot. Four minutes later Michael O’Connor’s free kick from wide on the left was met by Forte whose header looped onto the top of the net.
Reds responded and Collins was inches away from making a decisive connection in front of goal in the 41st minute. County struggled to clear a corner and when Boldewijn delivered a low cross from the right Collin managed to grab the ball just before Crawley’s top scorer.
Two O’Connor free kicks at the start of the second half caused problems for Reds. Mark Connolly was penalised on both occasions and the County captain curled his first effort just beyond the far post before Campbell stooped to meet his second but his glancing header was comfortably held by Morris.
The Reds keeper made another excellent save on the hour, saving Forte’s rising shot at full stretch after the striker had been found in space on the left-hand side of the penalty area.
Notts were enjoying their best spell and Morris came to Reds’ rescue again with a terrific save from Campbell’s close-range blast. The ball looped up but Rob Milsom hit the bar with his header before Forte nodded wide amidst a cluster of red shirts.
The home fans in a crowd of 5023 were off their feet again with 19 minutes to go when Forte met O’Connor’s corner with a firm header but skipper Jimmy Smith was on hand to clear off the line.
Their mood changed moments later though when Campbell brought down Roberts as he led a counter-attack and was sent off for his second booking of the game. But the ten men finally broke the deadlock in the 73rd minute. Thierry Audel met O’Connor’s inswinging corner and his header went in after bouncing back off the post and hitting the prostate Morris before crossing the line.
On the balance of play it was no more than Notts deserved. Reds had created nothing of note in the second half but they nearly equalised with seven minutes to go. Lewis Young swung in a cross from wide on the right which Yorwerth met with a header which hit the top of the net.
And with four minutes remanining they did draw level through a goal of the season contender from Collins. The striker collected possession 25 yards out and hit a stunning right-foot shot which beat Collin as it went in off the underside of the bar.
It looked as if Reds had rescued a point but with a minute of normal time to go the home side restored their lead. Morris did well to parry a fiercely-struck shot by Haydn Hollis but Forte reacted quickly to stab the loose ball home, as Reds appealed in vain for an offside flag.
The visitors should have equalised deep into stoppage time when Joe McNerney met Bobson Bawling’s cross with a firm header but he directed it straight at Collin.
Conceding so late was harsh on Crawley, but the home side will have felt justice had been done.
Reds: Morris, Young, McNerney, Connolly, Yorwerth, Cox, Payne, Smith, Boldewijn (Bawling 81), Clifford (Roberts 62), Collins. Unused subs: Mersin, Blackman, Djalo, Lelan, Henderson.
Booked: Yorwerth, Connolly
Attendance: 5023 (165 Crawley)