The Reds slipped to their first defeat of pre-season on Saturday afternoon, losing 6-0 to Premier League new-boys Brighton at the Checkatrade Stadium.
Harry Kewell’s men were unable to contain a very strong Brighton side who are in preparation for their debut season in the Premier League.
First half goals from Solly March, Pascal Gross, Tomer Hemed and Jamie Murphy partnered with Connor Goldson’s and Glenn Murray’s second half strike gave Albion the victory.
Kewell opted once again with a 5-3-2 formation, this time with a back three of Joe McNerney, Josh Yorwerth, Addison Garnett accompanied by Andre Blackman and Dennon Lewis in the wing back positions.
Kaby Djalo and Billy Clifford were on duty in the middle of the park, whilst Moussa Sanoh and Dean Cox played either side of home debutant Thomas Verheydt, who led the line at kick off.
The opposition started well, and took the lead after just three minutes, when Beram Kayal drove through the centre of the Reds’ defence before laying it off to Solly March, who slotted home from close range.
Eight minutes later and March nearly doubled his and his side’s tally, as the winger jinked through the box and shot for the bottom corner, but it was excellently blocked by Clifford.
A third of the way through the first half, Crawley’s shape changed, appearing to revert to a 4-4-2, with Garnett moving to right back, Lewis to right midfield, and Cox up front alongside Verheydt.
Chances were at a premium for the Reds, with Brighton boasting the majority of possession, however Lewis found himself free down the right flank on several occasions, but the Seagulls defended well.
Albion made it two 15 minutes before the break, as from 12-yards out Pascal Gross smartly volleyed home Markus Suttner’s cross from the left wing.
Moments later it was almost three, when Kayal shimmied through the box and took aim for the bottom right corner, but Glenn Morris did well to tip it around the post.
Morris was on call again within the minute, stretching superbly to the right to keep out Bruno Saltor’s cultured effort.
The Reds’ keeper could only do so much, and was beaten again seven minutes from half-time; March’s deflected effort from range rebounded off the boast and fell kindly the Hemed six-yards out, who found the empty net.
Further misery was compounded shortly after the third goal, as Jamie Murphy opened his body up on the left side of the box and curled home into the bottom corner.
Head Coach Harry Kewell made just one change at the break, bringing on Chris Arthur in place of Garnett, whilst Chris Hughton brought out an entire new side, apart from Shane Duffy, who remained in the heart of the visitor’s defence.
The first clear chance fell to the hosts and target man Verheydt, who latched onto a loose ball on the edge of the box, but his outside of the boot effort sailed wide.
The Dutchman did however win a free kick in the process as he was brought down mid strike, but Clifford’s dead ball effort was off target.
10 minutes into the second half, and there was another change, with Panutche Camara introduced at the expense of Verheydt.
Brighton’s only survivor from the half-time side swap Duffy, was replaced after 60 minutes by Uwe Huenemeier.
Three minutes later and the Reds had arguably their best chance of the game, with Cox cleverly sliding Lewis in on the right before he cut back to Clifford who had the goal at his mercy, but the shot flew over the crossbar.
As Kewell’s side missed the target, Hughton’s side found it for the fifth time, with Connor Goldson rising highest from a corner to head home.
Seconds after the goal, McNerney was replaced by Josh Lelan, with Arthur moving to centre half, and Lelan into right back.
With quarter of an hour left, it was six, Murray slotting home from the spot after Djalo brought the striker down in the box.
Enzio Boldewijn saw the last 10 minutes of action, as he came on in place of fellow Dutchman Sanoh.
Five minutes later and the wide man almost notched a consolation for his side, cutting in dangerously from the left and driving for the near post, but Maenpaa parried well.
That ended up being the Reds’ last chance to score, as the referee called time on the game.
The visitor’s Premier League quality shone through, and the Reds spent much of the match without the ball.
Nevertheless, it’s another pre-season workout for Kewell’s men and probably their hardest yet.
The side have an opportunity to return to winning ways on Wednesday night, as they travel to Bognor Regis for the last pre-season game of the summer.
Reds XI: Glenn Morris, Joe McNerney (Josh Lelan, 65), Dean Cox, Andre Blackman, Josh Yorwerth, Addison Garnett (Chris Arthur, 45), Kaby Djalo, Billy Clifford, Thomas Verheydt (Panutche Camara, 55), Dennon Lewis, Moussa Sanoh (Enzio Boldewijn, 80).
Brighton first half XI: Matthew Ryan, Bruno Saltor, Lewis Dunk, Beram Kayal, Tomer Hemed, Pascal Gross, Jamie Murphy, Solly March, Oliver Norwood, Shane Duffy, Markus Suttner.
Brighton second half XI: Niki Maenpaa, Gaetan Bong, Liam Rosenior, Connor Goldson, Shane Duffy(Uwe Huenemeier, 60), Dale Stephens, Jiri Skalak, Steven Sidwell, Kazenga Lua Lua, Richard Towell, Glenn Murray.