Gaby Cioffi claimed his third successive home win as Crawley boss after second-half goals from Luke Gambin and Ollie Palmer saw off Cambridge United at the Broadfield Stadium on Saturday to move up to ninth in the League 2 table.
It truly was a game of two halves as Reds turned on the style in the second period, scoring twice after a challenging opening 45 minutes that was controlled by Cambridge. Goalkeeper Glenn Morris kept out several efforts in spectacular fashion and Reds were fortunate to reach the break goalless.
Defensive duo Bondz N’Gala and Mark Connolly returned to the side as Cioffi selected the same back four that kept a clean sheet in his first game in charge of the Reds against Morecambe last month. Joe Maguire and Mark Randall also returned as four alternations were made to the team that lost to Notts County.
After a quiet start Cambridge had the ball in the back of the Crawley net following a set-piece, but the linesman was quick to raise his flag and the angled strike by Liam O’Neil was disallowed for offside. But it was the prelude to a tough half for Reds as Cambridge provided nearly all of the attacking threat.
Morris was at full stretch to deny George Maris and he was called into action again when Ade Azeez’s flick set the energetic Jevani Brown through on goal, but his effort was blocked with his outstretched left arm by Morris.
Just after the half-hour mark Crawley were threatened by two consecutive Cambridge corners. The first was floated towards Greg Taylor whose towering header was tipped over the bar by a leaping Morris and the resulting corner was whipped onto the head of ex-Reds’ youngster Louis John who saw his powered effort hit the side netting.
Crawley’s first chance came five minutes before half-time when Dominic Poleon drove with power down the right flank before firing a low effort past the far post.
Reds changed things at the break to match up with Cambridge’s 4-3-3 formation, but it was still United who controlled things and Morris added two more impressive saves on an afternoon when handling was difficult in the driving rain as he denied Reggie Lambe and then Brown.
But Crawley gradually got their game going. On the hour mark Josh Payne saw a drilled effort parried by David Forde, but sub Panutche Camara was ruled offside on the follow up.
But the deadlock was broken ten minutes later after some fantastic link-up play between Filipe Morais and Lewis Young created some space and Gambin fired low past Forde after some fancy footwork on the edge of the area.
Crawley’s lead was quickly doubled in the 77th minute when talisman Palmer drove forward with power, choosing to ignore the run of Morais in the middle to slot perfectly past the outstretched arm of Forde and inside the right-hand post to make it 2-0 with his seventh goal of the season.
There was still time for Mark Connolly to produce an excellent defensive block when Lambe seemed certain to convert David Amoo’s cross but Cambridge’s confidence levels had visibly dropped and Reds saw out the remaining minutes with relative comfort to move into ninth place in the table.
Next up for the Reds is a challenging tie against League One leaders Portsmouth in the Checkatrade Trophy at the Broadfield Stadium on Tuesday, when the Reds hoping to maintain their form in the competition after a dramatic shootout win over Spurs U23 in their previous group game.
Crawley Town: Morris; Maguire, N’Gala, Connolly, Young; Gambin (Francomb 86’), Randall (Allarakhia 66’), Payne, Morais; Poleon (Camara 58’), Palmer. Unused subs: Mersin, Vincelot, Bulman.
Attendance: 2151 (414 away)