Reds suffered their first away loss in Sky Bet League 2 for six games after a second-half collapse at Adams Park.
Thomas Verhedyt had gone close for Reds with an early header and the visitors looked solid again at the end of a goalless first half.
But things began to unravel when Ebere Eze broke the deadlock in the 50th minute before Craig Mackail-Smith took charge with a hat-trick in the space of ten minutes, two of his goals created by strike partner Adebayo Akinfenwa who also had a hand in Wycombe’s opener. It was Crawley's heaviest League defeat under Harry Kewell.
The Head Coach made three changes to the side which drew 1-1 with Forest Green Rovers, although only one to the XI which finished that game. In came Josh Yorwerth and Josh Payne, both second-half subs against FGR, and Arjan Tajbakhsh. Dannie Bulman and Lewis Young dropped to the bench and Jimmy Smith was missing with a hamstring injury.
A pitch slickened by a pre-match downpour encouraged both sides to pass the ball in the early stages and after Payne had volleyed over under pressure Reds created the first chance in the 12th minute. Enzio Boldewijn whipped an inviting cross into the near post which Verheydt headed goalwards, only for Scott Brown to pull off an excellent save at the near post.
Wycombe then had a decent spell and defender Anthony Stewart thought he’d broken the deadlock on 20 minutes when he met Joe Jacobsen’s corner with a powerful header which hit the bar.
Nine minutes later skipper for the day Glenn Morris produced an excellent save with his right hand to deny Stewart again, this time after he had diverted Jacobsen’s corner goalwards from close range.
The home side were beginning to get on top and Wycombe fans were celebrating when Luke O’Nien beat Morris with a looping header, but the referee had already penalised Mackail-Smith for blocking off the Reds’ keeper and the goal was disallowed.
Reds had again looked solid and difficult to break down in the first half but five minutes after the break the hosts were ahead.
Crawley had kept Wycombe’s top scorer Akinfenwa quiet until then but the big striker did well to cushion the ball into the path of Eze and he glided into the box, past a couple of challenges before beating Morris with a right-foot shot into the corner.
It was the first time Crawley had trailed on the road since Stevenage on September 12.
Joe McNerney did well to halt Paris Cowan-Hall’s progress into the box as Wycombe sought a second before Reds made a double change on the hour. Dennon Lewis and Panutche Camara came on for Jordan Roberts, who’d had a quiet afternoon, and Tajbakhsh.
Mackail-Smith wasn’t far away with a drive from 25 yards and with Eke a real threat every time he ran at the visitors’ defence Wycombe had their tails up. Morris was flattened when Wycombe had the ball in the net for a third time but again Mackail-Smith was penalised for a foul. The former Brighton striker then drew a good save from Morris with 20 minutes to go after Reds failed to clear a ball into the box.
Crawley then created a great chance to level. Boldewijn did well on the left to find Payne whose pass gave Yorwerth the space to shoot and his curling effort took a deflection as it rolled agonisingly wide of the post.
It was their best chance of the half and the miss proved costly as Wycombe doubled their lead on 72 minutes. O’Nein was the creator with a header to Akinfenwa and he rolled it into the path of Mackail-Smith who produced a quality side-foot finish into the top corner from the right-hand side of the box, despite Mark Connolly’s efforts to block.
Mackail-Smith got his second on 81 minutes with an excellent strike from outside the box that went in off the underside of the bar after he was set up by substitute Marcus Bean and two minutes later Mackail-Smith had a tap-in from close range after Akinfenwa’s cross had found him unmarked as Reds lost their defensive discipline.
It was a very disappointing second-half display by Kewell’s men but they will have to regroup quickly for Tuesday’s visit of another of the play-off contenders Exeter City.
Reds: Morris; Lelan, McNerney, Connolly, Evina (Randall 81); Yorwerth; Boldewijn, Payne, Tajbakhsh (sub: Lewis 60), Payne; Roberts (Camara 60); Verheydt. Unused subs: Mersin, Bulman, Young, Doherty.
Attendance: 4494 (175 away)
Pictured: Enzio Boldewijn attacks the Wycombe defence.
Photo by James Boardman