Reds are through to the third round of the Parafix Sussex Senior Cup after overcoming a spirited Bognor side at the Checkatrade Stadium on Tuesday.
Goals from Billy Clifford, Ibrahim Meite and substitute Enzio Boldewijn did the trick on Halloween night while Kaby Djalo missed the chance to add further gloss to the score-line when he saw a second-half penalty saved.
The big talking point pre-match was the return of Dutch striker Thomas Verheydt after two months out with a knee injury. Lewis Young also returned following a lay-off with a groin strain as Head Coach Harry Kewell made 11 changes to the side which drew at Lincoln City in League 2 on Saturday.
This was the third meeting between the teams this year. Reds needed extra time to beat Bognor in the semi-final of last season’s competition and were extremely fortunate to win the pre-season friendly at Nyewood Lane.
And the Rocks proved capable opponents again. Reds had the lion’s share of possession in the first half but found the visitors’ high-pressing game hard to penetrate.
Verheydt was a toe-length away from connecting with Young’s inviting cross but Bognor had the best chance in the first third of the contest when Joe Lea skied his shot over from eight yards in the 25th minute.
Mark Randall had to come off with injury but Reds regrouped and towards the end of the half they began to create chances. Dan Lincoln made a good save at his near post to block Dennon Lewis’s shot but from the corner Billy Clifford climbed highest to head home from close range seconds before half-time.
Ibra Sekajja’s header early in the second period forced Yusuf Mersin to make his first save but Reds doubled their lead in the 57th minute. Patient build-up ended with Meite finding space 12 yards out to rifle a right-foot shot into the top corner.
Verheydt could be pleased with his contribution and came off on 63 minutes with Panutche Camara taking his place.
Bognor gave themselves a lifeline in the 73rd minute when substitute Ollie Pearce picked his way past two challenges before firing into the top corner.
Reds had a quick chance to restore their two-goal advantage when Camara was brought down in the box but Djalo’s poorly-struck penalty was easily saved by Lincoln.
However, with ten minutes to go it was 3-1 after the best goal of the night. Josh Doherty, who impressed at left-back, produced an inviting cross and substitute Boldewijn got across his marker to guide a low shot into the far corner and secure Crawley’s place in the last 16.
Reds: Mersin; Young (sub: Boldewijn 70), Doherty, Garnett, Tajbakhsh; Clifford, Randall (Meite 26), Payne, Djalo; Lewis, Verheydt (Camara 63). Unused subs: Morris, Connolly.