Ahearne-Grant finishes loan spell with ninth goal as Reds hold play-off hopefuls
Reds finished the League 2 campaign with a hard-fought point at the One Call Stadium which punctured Mansfield’s hopes of reaching the play-offs.
The visitors were the more fluent side in the first half and led through an early header from Karlan Ahearne-Grant, the ninth goal in the last game of his spell on loan from Charlton.
Mansfield improved after the break and equalised through Kane Hemmings in the 64th minute, but Crawley stood firm thereafter with Yusuf Mersin making some fine saves in what was only his second League start of the season. Crawley finished the campaign in 14th place, their highest finish since relegation to League 2 in 2015.
Glenn Morris was rested to the bench but Reds were without the injured Thomas Verheydt, Jordan Roberts, Mark Randall, Cedric Evina and Josh Lelan through injury and could only name six subs.
Mersin was called into action after just two minutes when he plunged to his right to make a superb save to deny Lee Angol, who had been put through by fellow striker Hemmings.
But if Stags fans anxiously monitoring events at play-off rivals Coventry and Lincoln while watching their own side thought that was a sign of things to come they were very much mistaken.
In the seventh minute Josh Payne’s pass picked out Panutche Camara on the left and he showed great awareness to find Ahearne-Grant with a lovely dinked cross which the striker headed home from six yards.
Karlan Ahearne-Grant heads Crawley in front at the One Call Stadium
Camara’s pace and trickery caused Mansfield plenty of problems. Another centre teed up Enzio Boldewijn for a shot saved at the near post by Conrad Logan and the striker then picked out skipper Jimmy Smith on the edge of the box, but his shot was blocked.
Mansfield boss David Flitcroft had seen enough. In the 27th minute, with his side struggling to create much, he made a double change with Will Atkinson and Paul Digby replaced by Alfie Potter and Hayden White.
Alex McDonald dragged a shot wide and on the stroke of half-time Angol hit the side netting but Reds, who had used the ball far better, were good value for their lead.
Mansfield needed to respond and they were much more of a threat in the second half as news filtered through that neither of their play-off rivals were winning.
Mersin made two good saves in the space of four minutes just after the re-start to keep out headers from Hemmings and Krystian Pearce as the hosts responded to their fans and began to quicken the pace.
Reds were increasingly restricted to counter-attacks but they nearly doubled their lead from one raid when Logan came out quickly to deny Smith.
But that was a rare moment of concern in the second half for Mansfield. McDonald and Bennett both dragged shots wide from good positions before the hosts deservedly drew level on 63 minutes when Hemmings headed home from close range.
The striker nearly scored again three minutes later but the impressive Mersin pushed away his shot. Then, when the keeper was beaten by White’s half-volley, Josh Doherty headed off the line.
Mansfield continued to huff and puff but that was their last chance of note. At the other end Enzio Boldewijn dragged a late effort wide but Reds defended diligently to ensure the season ended with a hard-earned but deserved point.
Crawley: Mersin; Young, Connolly, Yorwerth, Doherty; Boldewijn, Bulman, Payne (Tajbakhsh 63), Ahearne-Grant; Smith; Camara. Unused subs: Morris, Djalo, Evina, McNerney, Sanoh.
Attendance: 4734 (150 away)
Main picture: Josh Doherty clears off the line in the second half