Reds went down 2-0 to League One Charlton Athletic in their latest pre-season friendly at East Court, East Grinstead, on Saturday.
After Joe Aribo gave Charlton an early lead Josh Payne saw a penalty saved before former Reds’ loanee Karlan Ahearne-Grant sealed Charlton’s victory midway through the second half with a typically composed finish.
For their fourth friendly game in five days Harry Kewell utilised 21 players including seven trialists, one of whom – Andrew Wright – was getting his first pre-season opportunity.
Romain Vincelot was one of the first-half team and Filipe Morais came on for the last 20 minutes in place of Ollie Palmer.
Just as they had on Tuesday against Ipswich, Reds conceded early. They fell behind in the fifth minute when Aribo met a right-wing cross with a looping header which beat Glenn Morris inside his far post.
Crawley responded positively and Andy Driver was close to equalising three minutes later when his shot from Lewis Young’s cross was blocked by a defender.
Morris saved Aribo’s deflected shot and another effort from the Charlton man was blocked by Vincelot as the Addicks looked for a second.
Instead, Reds squandered a great chance to level in the 21st minute. Palmer was brought down inside the box but Charlton goalkeeper Dillon Phillips guessed correctly and pushed away Josh Payne’s penalty diving to his right.
There were half chances at both ends thereafter. Reds worked their way into some promising positions without directly threatening Phillips’ goal. The pitch was playing slower than the players were used to but entirely understandable in the hot conditions.
Nine players came on at the break while Charlton remained unchanged and it was the visitors who unsurprisingly had more fluidity in their play.
They doubled their lead in the 62nd minute after a rare mistake by Dannie Bulman who left his back pass to Yusuf Mersin well short and Ahearne-Grant, a familiar face for Reds fans after his successful loan spell last season, nipped in and coolly lobbed the keeper.
Morais came on and was soon showing his ability. With nine minutes left his pass picked out Dominic Poleon in the box but Phillips reacted quickly to make a good save.
It was another good workout for Reds in sweltering heat. They will spend next week on the training ground before hosting Belgian second-tier club KSV Roeselare at the Broadfield Stadium next Saturday in our final pre-season game ahead of the big kick off at Cheltenham on August 4.
Team – first half: Morris; Young, McNerney, Vincelot, Doherty; Francomb, Milson, Payne, Driver; Grego-Cox, Palmer.
Second half: Mersin, Whelpdale, Turley, Connoly, Sessay; Randall, Bulman, Sessay, Wright, Palmer (Morais 67), Poleon.
Referee: Gavin Ward. Attendance: 450
Josh Payne saw his first-half penalty saved by Charlton keeper Dillon Phillips. Picture: James Boardman (Telephoto Images)