Reds will face League One Southend in a replay at the Broadfield Stadium on November 20 after a late own goal by John White kept Gabriele Cioffi’s side in the Emirates FA Cup.
The visitors were fortunate to only trail by Michael Kightly’s early goal at the break as Southend squandered chances to put the tie to bed.
Crawley came into the game in the last half hour and after Joe McNerney’s header hit the bar White diverted Filipe Morais’s cross into his own net, an equaliser Cioffi’s side enjoyed as much as the boisterous 323 fans in the away end.
Reds made one change to the side beaten 4-0 by MK Dons last time out. Ashley Nathaniel-George dropped to the bench and McNerney came into a 4-1-4-1 formation as Cioffi looked to tighten up at the back after conceding nine goals in two games. Fit-again Bondz N’Gala and Reece Grego-Cox were among the subs for Reds’ first visit to Roots Hall since 2012.
The hosts started strongly and Simon Cox had two good chances in the first six minutes. A second-minute effort was well parried by Glenn Morris but the ex-Southend keeper ought to have been left for dead when Cox met a free header six yards out from Kightly’s cross but directed it over the bar.
Southend made their pressure tell in 10thminute. Cox was provider this time, laying the ball into the path of Kightly who took a touch and beat the helpless Morris from the edge of the box with a clinical sweep of his right foot.
The siege was finally relieved when Josh Payne tested Mark Oxley from distance but Southend continued to look much more threatening and Sam Mantom, a goalscorer against Reds in his Walsall days, cut inside in the 22ndminute after a counter-attack before Theo Robinson found Stephen McLaughlin who curled a left-foot shot inches past the far post.
Reds thought they had equalised in the 35thminute when Ollie Palmer met Luke Gambin’s cross with a glancing header past Oxley but his celebrations were cut short by an offside flag. Cioffi’s protests as what seemed a marginal call by the assistant resulted in the Italian receiving a yellow card.
There was no lack of effort in the first half by Reds but they were fortunate to reach the break only one goal down and five minutes after the re-start they should have conceded again. Lewis Young gave possession away to Cox who advanced but saw his side-foot effort fly just past the far post. Two minutes later Robinson had a sight of goal inside the box but his effort ended up on the roof of the stand. It turned out to be Southend’s last threat of the game.
Cioffi made a change on 56 minutes with Nathaniel-George replacing George Francomb and for the next ten minutes or so Reds had a decent spell. Mark Connolly headed Gambin’s corner over then Oxley was forced to make his first save when he kept out an effort from Camara with his legs.
Southend were not carrying anything like the same threat as the first half which further encouraged Reds and the away fans who sung non-stop throughout the second half. Camara, who was having more and more influence, flashed a ball from the right across the face of goal which just eluded Palmer and Nathaniel-George before Filipe Morais burst into the box from the left only to lose his footing just as he was going to pull the trigger.
With ten minutes to go Reece Grego-Cox replaced Gambin and in the 84thminute came Reds’ best chance to date. Payne played a diagonal ball following a free kick onto the head of McNerney whose effort looped over Oxley but struck the bar.
But in the 85thminute Reds were level. Morais beat his man on the left and when he pulled the ball back defender White stuck out a left leg and the ball rolled into an empty net.
Palmer hit a rising volley from the edge of the box just over in five minutes of stoppage time as Reds finished strongly – and secured the replay their second-half exertions deserved.
Reds: Morris; Young, Connolly, McNerney, Maguire; Payne; Francomb (Nathaniel George 56), Morais, Camara, Gambin (Grego-Cox 79); Palmer. Unused subs: Mersin, Bulman, N’Gala, Doherty, Vincelot.
Picture: Ollie Palmer remonstrates with the assistant after an offisde flag denied him a first-half goal