Exeter City 1, Crawley Town 3
Reece Grego-Cox scored his first goals for the club as Reds made it back-to-back away wins with a 3-1 victory at play-off chasing Exeter in the Good Friday sunshine.
Filipe Morais put Crawley ahead on 27 minutes and Grego-Cox got his first goal six minutes later.
Exeter pulled one back early in the second half through Ryan Bowman but Grego-Cox made it 3-1 on the hour and was only denied a hat-trick in stoppage time by the woodwork after his shot came back off the post.
That was the only disappointment on a great day for Gabriele Cioffi’s side, who withstood strong Exeter pressure either side of half-time and enjoyed another good away day in the south-west.
Reds had made one change to the side which won at Yeovil with David Sesay replacing Joe Maguire in a 3-5-2 formation.
A warm sun was beating down in Devon at the 1pm kick off and the Easter heat may have been a factor in a sluggish start by both sides. Reds had good possession but neither keeper had to make a save in the opening 25 minutes or so.
Then it changed in a positive way for Reds. Having lost possession Panutche Camara did well to win it back and break into the box down the left. His cross picked out Morais 15 yards out and although a defender half-blocked his right-foot shot it still had sufficient power to beat keeper Christy Pym.
That was on 27 minutes and six minutes later Reds led 2-0. Lewis Young’s right-wing cross found its way to Grego-Cox who nipped in ahead of his marker to guide a low right-footed shot past Pym from close range.
Exeter responded and nearly got one back in the 35th minute when Jake Taylor glanced his header wide from Lee Holmes’ cross.
They went even closer just before the break. Glenn Morris pushed out Holmes’ shot but only to Hiram Boateng who scooped his effort onto the underside of the bar. The ball fell to Nicky Law but Joe McNerney got in an important block before Reds cleared the danger.
Exeter began the second half like a team possessed and the goal they deserved arrived in the 50th minute. Boateng’s pass picked out the run of Bowman and as Reds appealed in vain for offside the striker calmly hammered the ball into the roof of the net.
He was denied an equaliser six minutes later when Morris plunged to his right to push away the striker’s header. Exeter won the ball back, but Bowman was off-target with a shot from 12 yards.
It had been all Exeter either side of the break but then on the hour Reds struck on the counter-attack. Camara won the ball in midfield to find Morais. His pass found Grego-Cox in space 15 yards out and his low shot sped past Pym to make it 3-1 – a great goal royally celebrated by the Reds fans who had the perfect view of it.
There was still time for an Exeter fightback but the third goal seemed to knock the wind out of their sails. Reds brought on Maguire, Willock and Ashley Nathaniel-George, switched to 4-4-2 and managed the closing stages, including seven minutes of stoppage time, remarkably well.
Taylor drove wide from the edge of the box and late on Morris made another good save from Bowman’s header but Grego-Cox so nearly left the pitch with the match ball after being denied by the post deep into added time. His flick beat Pym but bounced off the inside of the upright before the home defence cleared.
No matter, Reds have won two away games on the spin for the first time since January 2018 and can surely look forward to League 2 football again next season.
Reds: Morris, Young, McNerney, Grego-Cox, Palmer (Nathaniel-George 68), Francomb (Willock 77), Dallison, Sesay (Maguire 68), Bulman, Morais, Camara. Unused subs: Mersin, Gambin, N’Gala.
Crowd: 5054 (81 Crawley)
Pictured: Reece Grego-Cox scores his first goal. Photo by Graham Hunt