The Reds ended their preparations for the new campaign with a narrow 2-1 defeat to Portsmouth on Saturday afternoon at the Checkatrade Stadium.
Thomas Verheydt’s third minute header was cancelled out by a second half brace from Brett Pitman to give Kenny Jackett’s men the win after the hosts had taken an early lead.
Harry Kewell’s men made the perfect start to the game when Mark Randall’s corner from the left was swung to the far post, and after a scramble in the area and visiting keeper Luke McGee missing his catch, Verheydt headed home to put the hosts ahead.
Randall was involved again soon after when he volleyed wide after the visiting defence failed to clear their lines.
Portsmouth’s first chance of the game came when Kyle Bennett cut in from the left, but his low effort was straight at Glenn Morris in the home goal and the stopper easily gathered the shot.
The familiar set-piece combination of Randall and Verheydt linked up again soon after, as the midfielder delivered another dangerous cross which was met by the head of the Dutchman – but Portsmouth managed to scramble the ball away and the chance soon came and went.
Enzio Boldewijn then tried his luck as the game approached the half hour mark- cutting in from the right and shooting narrowly over – it was an effort that had McGee backpedalling as the ball whistled just over his crossbar.
Another golden opportunity soon presented itself for the hosts. Verheydt was involved again, linking up well with Jordan Roberts as the Reds sprung a dangerous counter attack.
Roberts got round the on-rushing McGee, but Tareiq Holmes-Dennis produced a superb goal line clearance to prevent the Reds from taking what would have been a well-deserved 2-0 advantage.
Dutch forward Verheydt was proving to be a real handful – and when the visitors once again failed to clear their lines, he turned well in the area before forcing McGee into another smart stop.
It was an impressive first half from the home side, as they went in ahead at the interval.
HALF TIME: Reds 1-0 Portsmouth
But the lead they held was soon taken away ten minutes after the restart.
Mark Connolly was adjudged to have fouled Brett Pitman on the edge of the area – and the striker stepped up to curl an eye-catching effort into the top corner and out of the reach of the diving Morris.
Crawley were soon back down the other end and on the attack, Boldewijn did well to press the visiting defence high up the pitch, before winning back possession and firing just wide from a tight angle.
But it was the south-coast side who soon had themselves ahead with 15 minutes to play. Substitute Milan Lalkovic did well to spot the run of Pitman in behind the home defence, and the former AFC Bournemouth man did well to keep his composure and lift the ball over Morris to hand Jackett’s men the advantage.
It was a lead they held until the final whistle, as the Reds’ 2017-18 pre-season came to a close with arguably their best performance of the month.
There were plenty of positives to take from the afternoon, and the league campaign kicks off at home next Saturday afternoon as the Reds host Port Vale.
Attendance : 1,603 (778 away fans)
Reds: Morris (GK), Young, Connolly, Lelan, Yorwerth, Evina, Bulman ©, Randall (Payne 67), Boldewijn, Verheydt (Harrold 69), Roberts (Lewis).
Subs not used: Mersin (GK), Arthur, Cox, Blackman, Djalo, Clifford, Tajbakhsh, Sanoh, Camara.