Reds went out of the Sussex Senior Cup after some calamitous defending was ruthlessly punished by Bostik League Haywards Heath at the Broadfield Stadium.
The visitors were 2-0 up after 30 minutes before Dominic Poleon pulled one back but Heath restored their two-goal advantage before the break and the game was effectively over for Crawley when David Sesay was sent off just before the hour mark for his second bookable offence. The hosts had a lot of the ball with ten men but rarely looked like getting back into the game.
Head Coach Gabriele Cioffi gave some of the youngsters in the squad an opportunity but only Reece Grego-Cox offered much of a threat while the two under-23s brought in - Morgan Bruce de Rouche and Germain Dua – struggled badly at times.
The tone for a frustrating night was set after seven minutes when Reds fell behind in comical fashion. Kieran Rowe’s cross should have been cut out but instead Dua’s attempt at a clearance flew spectacularly into the top corner.
Heath knocked the ball around nicely in the opening stages and although Reds gradually began to find their feet neither Sesay, who had been booked earlier for a late challenge, or Grego-Cox tested the keeper from outside the box.
And the hosts found themselves 2-0 down in the 20thminute when goalkeeper Yusuf Mersin brought down Callum Saunders after Dua, playing in central defence, was left hopelessly exposed by a ball down the side. Saunders stepped up to drive the penalty down the middle.
Reds got a route back into the game in the 30thminute after more comical defending at the other end. Heath got into a terrible tangle trying to clear Grego-Cox’s right-wing cross and Poleon accepted the chance to score from virtually on the line.
But the home fans in a crowd of 278 who hopes that the goal would spark Reds into life were soon disabused of that notion. This time it was De Rouche who gave the ball away in the 40thminute and Max Miller raced through a gaping hole in the home defence to make it 3-1.
Brian Galach was also booked for a foul towards the end of a first half which ended with the visitors comfortably and deservedly in charge.
Not much changed after the break and in the 56thminute Reds went down to ten men when Sesay was shown his second yellow card for a foul and sent off.
Poleon saw his shot blocked by Ender but it was a rare moment of alarm for Heath, who got men behind the ball when danger threatened while Reds continued to give possession away needlessly at times, much to the growing frustration of Crawley’s supporters.
The ten men pushed men forward in search of a way back but were left vulnerable on the break and Mersin saved Laing’s shot at full stretch and Miller cut inside only for the keeper to block his effort.
Reds enjoyed lots of possession in the closing stages and Poleon had the ball in the net in the 89thminute after Grego-Cox’s thunderbolt was parried by Elder, but the flag was up for offside. It summed up a dispiriting night.
Reds: Mersin; Sesay, Dua, McNerney, Doherty; Galach, Bulman, De Rouche, Alarakhia, Grego-Cox, Poleon.
Picture: Dominic Poleon scores Crawley's first-half goal. Photo by Steve Lawrence