Smith, Payne and Connolly on target in record-breaking fifth successive home win
Reds chalked up their fifth successive home win as their upward momentum continued with a deserved victory over Lincoln City.
The hosts only had Jimmy Smith’s goal to show for their first-half superiority and Lincoln drew level early in the second half through Matt Green.
But two goals in four minutes put Crawley back on track for their eighth win in ten games and lifted us up to ninth, just two points off the top seven.
Josh Payne converted a penalty after Enzio Boldewijn was fouled before Mark Connolly got on the end of a free kick from substitute Jordan Roberts in the 71st minute to seal victory from close range.
Josh Doherty, Josh Yorwerth and Thomas Verheydt returned to the starting line-up as Harry Kewell made three changes to the side beaten at Luton in midweek.
Reds were on the front foot from the start and the only surprise at the end of the first half that they only had one goal to show for their dominance.
Playing out from the back confidently, the hosts constructed some superb moves with the pace of Boldewijn and Karlan Ahearne-Grant stretching Lincoln down the flanks while Smith and Mark Randall were willing runners from midfield.
Smith, Randall and Boldewijn all had sights of goal in the first 12 minutes and on 16 the deadlock was broken. Man of the match Lewis Young made a great run down the right and as the space opened up he hit a right-foot shot that struck the underside of Ryan Allsop’s bar and came back out to Smith who tapped in from close range.
Reds looked to build on their advantage and had a great chance in the 28th minute when Ahearne-Grant’s clever cross found Boldewijn unmarked at the far post but he failed to keep his volley on target.
Green, already booked for a foul on Josh Yorwerth, fortunate not to pick up a second yellow for a late challenge on Young before Boldewijn set up Ahearne-Grant at the end of a counter-attack but the Charlton loanee’s shot was parried by Allsop, who then made another decent stop this time to thwart Randall.
Lincoln only threatened once before the break when Connolly dived to head away Tom Pett’s shot and the half ended with tempers frayed. Luke Waterfall and Allsop were both booked before Lincoln boss Danny Cowley was sent to the stands by referee Trevor Kettle after an exchange as the teams trooped off. Seven players were booked in total.
Verheydt limped off at the break and was replaced by Jordan Roberts and Cowley clearly had words with his side at the break. They began the second half strongly. Pett glanced a header from Neal Eardley’s cross onto the top of the bar before they levelled in the 53rd minute. It was route one stuff but highly effective as Scott Wharton’s punt split the Reds’ central defenders and Green nipped in to finish calmly from a tight angle past a helpless Morris.
Having been outplayed in the first half, Lincoln now had the bit between their teeth and at the halfway point the second period it was anyone’s game to win.
And it Reds who regained the advantage in the 68th minute. Roberts won an important flick-on to release Smith in the box. As Boldewijn went to get on the end of the cross he was fouled by Scott Wharton and referee Kettle awarded a penalty which Payne side-footed into the bottom right-hand corner as Allsop dived the other way.
Four minutes later it was 3-1. Roberts was fouled on the right and whipped in a fantastic free kick which Connolly, steaming in at the far post, smashed into the roof of the net.
Lincoln introduced fresh legs up front as Rhead and Green were replaced but Crawley’s confidence had been restored after that dodgy 15 minutes and Ahearne-Grant flashed a brilliant ball across the face of goal which only needed someone to get a toe on for a goal.
Reds still needed to be alert defensively and Harry Anderson, the former Crawley Academy player, missed a great opportunity to get his side back in it in the 82nd minute when he skipped past two challenges but, with men unmarked, elected to try and find the target and the ball went beyond the far post.
Pett fired wide in stoppage time but by then the points were safe and Reds were moving ever closer to the play-offs.
Reds: Morris; Young, Connolly, Yorwerth, Doherty; Boldewijn, Payne (Bulman 83), Randall (Tajbakhsh 85), Smith, Ahearne-Grant; Verheydt (Roberts 45). Unused subs: Mersin, McNerney, Lelan, Evina.
Man of the match: Lewis Young
Pictured: Jimmy Smith celebrates Reds' opening goal. Photo by Steve Lawrence