Harry Kewell’s Reds battled hard to claim a 2-2 draw with a physical Swindon side after Ollie Palmer converted a last-minute penalty on a dramatic night at the Broadfield Stadium.
Swindon played with nine men for more than 40 minutes after Toumani Diagouraga and James Dunne were shown straight red cards in the space of three minutes.
In between, Ollie Palmer made it 2-1 before scoring from the spot in the ninth minute of stoppage time after Reds’ sub Josh Payne was also shown a straight red for bringing down Swindon sub Steven Azante.
Crawley came into this fixture after three consecutive losses with the most recent being a 1-0 defeat to Port Vale at Vale Park on Saturday.
However they controlled possession early on as Palmer stormed forward but he was held by a strong sliding challenge by Sid Nelson. Dominic Poleon then saw a low shot saved from the edge of the area after turning swiftly past two Swindon defenders. Minutes later Ashley Nathaniel-George picked the ball up on the edge of the area and saw a gliding shot sail inches past the post.
But Swindon opened the scoring within 13 minutes gone when Rob Milsom’s back pass fell short and was latched onto by Dunne who poked it through the legs of Glenn Morris.
Swindon were close to a second when a low whipped ball was met by Dunne who blasted yards over from inside the box. Towards the end of the first-half Crawley produced more promising spells of attacking play, with Palmer going close once more. Despite this, Swindon doubled their lead when Keshi Anderson was given space on the edge of the area to drill his effort hard and low to Morris’s left after 37 minutes.
On the brink of half-time brilliant combination play between Dominic Poleon and Ashley Nathaniel-Smith led to a low, drilled cross being met by Milsom whose powerful shot was saved bravely by Lawrence Vigouroux.
The game exploded into life in the space of four minutes at the start of the second period when Swindon had two men sent off.
Diagouraga was shown a straight red for a late challenge on Milsom. A minute later the ball fell loose to Palmer whose powerful shot from inside the box glided past the hands of Vigouroux to make it 2-1.
In an incredible opening to the second half, Diagouraga’s midfield partner Dunne was shown a straight red for his crunching tackle on Jimmy Smith, meaning Swindon were down to nine in a dramatic turn of events. Smith recovered quickly to see his effort hit the crossbar minutes later, with the momentum now firmly with Crawley.
In a storm of late attacking pressure Crawley threw plenty of balls into the box from open play and corners but Swindon stood firm and Vigoroux was in top form when the home side did find a way through.
Substitute Reece Grego-Cox’s energy down the right flank caused Swindon problems as Crawley were awarded a flurry of late corners.
But there was still time for late drama. Payne was shown a straight red for his late, two-footed challenge on Alzate. Ex-Premier League midfielder Matty Taylor’s thunderous free-kick struck the crossbar but the Reds immediately charged down the other end and Palmer was pulled down in the area by Ollie Lancashire and the Reds’ striker converted the penalty to claim his fourth league goal of the campaign in dramatic fashion.
Crawley will next take on a mid-table Bury side at Broadfield this Saturday, August 25.
Crawley Town: Morris (GK), Francomb, Connolly, Vincelot, Doherty; Morais, Smith © (Camara 75’), Milsom (Payne 72’), Nathaniel-George; Poleon, Palmer.
Attendance: 2050 (439).
Picture: Ollie Palmer converts the stoppage-time penalty which rescued a point for Reds