Reds produced an outstanding performance at leaders Lincoln to deservedly claim their second away win of the season.
An own goal by Michael Bostwick on the stroke of half-time proved decisive and Lincoln’s cause wasn’t helped when Lee Frecklington picked up a straight red early in the second half for a foul on Mark Connolly.
The home fans launched the air raid siren from the stands in the second half which was the signal for the hosts to begin an aerial bombardment on the pitch in the closing stages but Reds dug deep, defended superbly and were well worth their three points.
New Head Coach Gabriele Cioffi was watching in the Sincil Bank stands as Jimmy Smith and Filipe Morais took charge for the last time.
Smith was on the touchlines after being ruled out by the knee injury he sustained at Oldham last week. Romain Vincelot (ankle) was also sidelined and Reds made four changes. Lewis Young returned on the right of a midfield five with Panutche Camara getting his first League start of the season. There were full League debuts for Bondz N’Gala and Joe Maguire while Luke Gambin was on the bench, his first squad involvement since joining from Luton on loan last week. Josh Payne completed his suspension for his red card against Swindon Town.
For the leaders, ex-Reds Harry Anderson and John Akinde were in the line-up.
Palmer was keen to make an early impression against the club he left in the summer and nearly did so. In the first minute he was sent tumbling under a challenge in the box, but the referee wasn’t interested and three minutes later he nearly robbed goalkeeper Grant Smith before the hosts broke and Anderson’s deflected shot was held by Glenn Morris.
Reds should have gone ahead in the ninth minute. Dannie Bulman’s astute pass picked out Lewis Young who pulled a great ball back from the by-line which the diving Palmer just failed to connect with in front of goal.
N’Gala and Bulman were booked for fouls but Reds continued to carry a greater threat. Smith was at full stretch to push away Camara’s effort from distance before Bruno Andrade cut in from the left but dragged his effort wide of the Reds’ goal for the hosts.
Lincoln had their best chance of the first half in the 43rd minute when Andrade picked out Akinde who, slightly on the stretch, curled a right-foot shot wide of the post.
Moments later Crawley had a deserved lead. Andrade claimed he had been elbowed by Young but the referee was having none of it. Morais broke down the right and his cross was flicked on by N'Gala and spectacularly headed over Smith by Bostwick, a former Crawley loanee in our non-league days. It was nearly two when Smith was forced into another save from Camara.
Lincoln started the second half on the front foot and Morris made an excellent save in the 52nd minute when the hosts worked a good corner routine which ended with Jason Shackell being denied before George Francomb’s block kept out Neal Eardley’s follow-up effort.
But the hosts found themselves down to ten men two minutes later when skipper Frecklington was shown a straight red for a studs-up challenge on Connolly, which left the defender needing extensive treatment to his ankle before play continued.
Despite being down to ten men the home side now began to build some pressure, launching several balls towards the visitors’ goal on the back of a stiff breeze.
Connolly was booked for tripping Akinde on the corner of the box but the free kick was cleared before Reds made a change with Josh Docherty replacing Francomb.
Reds began to work their way back into the game and fashioned a great chance in the 80th minute. Camara’s back-heel gave Nathaniel-George a sight of goal 15 yards out but he clipped his shot disappointingly over the target.
By now Lincoln had introduced towering striker Matt Rhead as they pressed for an equaliser. There were six minutes of stoppage time and home heads were in their hands when Akinde won a header in the box and the ball fell to sub Bernard Mensah, but he dragged his shot wide of goal with Morris beaten.
There was still time for Morris to make a low save from Harry Toffolo’s shot after Lincoln worked a nice free kick in the dying seconds before Reds could celebrate a fantastic three points with the travelling fans.
Reds: Morris; Young, Connolly, N’Gala, Garner; Francomb (Docherty 72), Bulman, Morais, Nathaniel-George (McNerney 90); Camara; Palmer. Unused subs: Mersin, Poleon, Gambin, Randall.
Attendance: 8321 (87 away)