- Reds hold league leaders to draw
- Clean sheet kept against division's top scorers
- Harry Kewell's men also have huge chances to take all three points
The Reds picked up a more than deserved point at home to league leaders Luton Town on Saturday afternoon.
Harry Kewell's men put in a gutsy and admirable performance, and in truth could've taken all three points.
Both sides had their share of chances, but Crawley perhaps had the better ones, with Jimmy Smith and Jordan Roberts somehow failing to turn in a Cedric Evina cross at the back post.
Roberts was also denied twice more by Marek Stech, first brilliantly parrying the winger's curled effort from range before coming out on top in a gilt edged one on one.
Head Coach Kewell made two changes from the side that lost to Chesterfield in midweek, with Josh Yorwerth returning from suspension and Panutche Camara being tasked with leading the line, at the expense of Billy Clifford and Dennon Lewis; both of whom dropped to the bench.
Along with a change of personnel came a change in shape, as Kewell deployed Yorwerth in a holding role in front of the back four and just behind Smith and Dannie Bulman to form a 4-1-4-1 or 4-1-2-3. Enzio Boldewijn and Jordan Roberts provided width either side of Camara.
Solid shape, solid start…
The Reds were clearly aware of the threat that the free scoring visitors were going to bring to the game, as they began the game well drilled and solid to withstand some early pressure. As the first half grew older, Crawley began to grow into the game themselves and were giving the Hatters’ back four food for thought. Roberts and Boldewijn were alternating wings, with the former winning a couple of free kicks in dangerous areas.
The wide man also gave Marek Stech a moment of panic just before the half hour mark, when his driven shot took a deflection and forced the keeper into a frantic scramble. The Reds were beginning to press higher up and that almost paid dividends in the 35th minute when Bulman dispossessed a defender on the edge of the area, allowing Camara a close-range strike that was responded to by Stech.
Crawley were remaining switched on at the back, and specifically Glenn Morris who sprang into action to smother an onrushing Jack Stacey after he had found a way in behind down the right.
Strong into the break…
As the first half entered the final 10 minutes, it was the hosts who were on top. Evina ghosted down the left flank superbly and towards the box and earned a free kick in a dangerous area. The resulting set piece led to a 20-yard volley from Yorwerth, which in the end was saved comfortably. The visitors did have a flash of goal despite the Reds being in the ascendency, with the returning James Collins fluffling his lines at the back stick with a header from a corner.
Start as you mean to go on…
The interval proved no distraction from the Reds gameplan, as they came back out and continued to give a great account of themselves. Camara, who had impressed all afternoon with his endeavour, smart feet and link up play was proving a thorn in Luton’s side.
Collins did get another sight of goal; however it was eclipsed by the more prominent chances that Crawley were fashioning. Yorwerth had a huge chance to open the scoring when he was teed up by Smith after the skipper had controlled a Boldewijn cross, but the strike was brilliantly charged down.
Roberts had another go from distance, curling the ball towards the bottom right corner, but Stech got down very well to deny him.
Ride the wave…
The Reds were having a right go, however 20 minutes into the second half the Hatters did begin to sustain some pressure and give the hosts a reminder of their league position. Morris was forced into a save from point blank to keep out a powerful header and Josh Lelan cleared the ball fantastically with a flicked header to deny Collins a golden opportunity.
Chances to take all three points…
The game was becoming end to end stuff, with both sides having opportunities to find the net. The Reds had the two best chances of the game fall to them in quick succession, the first coming in the 76th minute when Evina once again marauded down the left side. The full back flashed the ball across the box, which somehow eluded Smith and Roberts who both had an empty net at their mercy. Moments later, Bulman drove at the Luton defence before cutely sliding Roberts in on goal and one on one with Stech, but the keeper came out on top.
There was then pinball in the Luton box, as the resulting corner ricocheted off multiple bodies and somehow failed to fall to a red shirt. The visitors were still causing problems of their own, and were inches from a goal, when substitute Elliot Lee’s curled effort from the left side just clipped the base of the post. Camara had arguably his best game in a Crawley shirt, such was the youngster's confidence he attempted a chip from roughly 40 yards, that only narrowly sailed off target.
The hosts continued to go in search of a winner, not happy to settle for a point, but were unable to find a way through as the final whistle blew and the players left the field to an emphatic applause from the home crowd.
Reds XI: Morris, Lelan, McNerney, Yorwerth, Connolly, Evina, Smith, Bulman, Boldewijn, Roberts, Camara.
Unused subs: Mersin, Doherty, Tajbakhsh, Djalo, Payne, Lewis, Clifford.
Attendance: 3,494 (1,642 away).