Reds slipped to their first defeat in four when they went down 2-1 to an impressive Crewe side at The People’s Pension Stadium on Tuesday.
Bez Lubala put Crawley ahead with his fourth goal in four League starts but Ryan Wintle levelled before the break and Paul Green headed Crewe’s winner ten minutes into the second half.
Gaby Cioffi had made three changes to the side which drew with Scunthorpe on Saturday. Josh Payne, Ashley Nathaniel-George and Josh Doherty came in with Dannie Bulman, Nathan Ferguson and Josh Dacres-Cogley dropping to a strong bench.
In the corresponding fixture last season Crewe were left to rue a catalogue of missed chances in the first half and it felt like Groundhog Day in the first six minutes when Reds had two let offs.
After two minutes Paul Green drilled the ball goalwards after Crewe worked a corner routine. Glenn Morris managed to palm the ball out and Daniel Powell couldn’t adjust his feet in time and ball went just wide.
There was another let-off four minutes later when Reds struggled to clear on their left. The ball dropped to Charlie Kirk in space on the right and his effort was spectacularly headed off the line by Jordan Tunnicliffe.
Powell was a big threat for the visitors. He tested Morris with a powerful shot and in the and the keeper came to the rescue again in the 13th minute when he palmed out Kirk’s curler and Chris Porter couldn’t convert the rebound. Chris Porter then met a corner and headed just over.
Reds just couldn’t get a foothold but all of a sudden on 16 minutes they were in front. David Sesay won the ball on the left and found Ollie Palmer. He cleverly laid the ball into the path of Lubala who brushed off two challenges and fired right-footed past Will Jaaskelainen. Totally against the run of play but the home fans weren’t complaining.
Crewe were soon back on the offensive though. Powell dragged a shot wide from a good position then Porter couldn’t keep a long-range header on target, but Crewe looked shaky when Reds ran at them and in Lubala and Nathaniel-George they had players happy to try and stretch the visitors.
The visitors got the goal their pressure deserved on 29 minutes. Powell again found too much space down the left to pick out Kirk. He cleverly looked up and teed up Wintle who drove a low right-foot shot past Morris into the bottom corner.
Payne responded with a long-range effort that dipped just over the bar then Reds worked a good opening from left to right which left Nathaniel-George in space 12 yards out but he found fresh air when a solid connection would probably have led to a net-bulger.
The wide man was involved again when he fed Sesay in the box. His cross was deflected out to Lubala but this time he failed to keep his effort down.
Reds made two changes at the break with Reece Grego-Cox and Nathan Ferguson replacing Nathaniel-George and Ashley Nadesan.
Lubala picked up a booking for a late tackle on Tom Lowery early in the second half before Crewe took a 54th-minute lead. Kirk stood up a cross to the par post and Green arrived unmarked to nod into the net. Morris got a hand to his effort but couldn’t prevent it from going in.
Reds almost responded with an equaliser two minutes later. Grego-Cox delivered a lovely cross from the right which Palmer headed goalwards only for Eddie Nolan to deny him with a clearance off the line.
It galvanised the home crowd and Reds won a couple of corners as they started to build some pressure. But Crewe remained a real threat and Morris did well to parry Powell’s thunderbolt before he combined with Jordan Tunnicliffe to keep out Porter’s header.
In the closing stages Crawley did all the pressing. Grego-Cox was a real threat and Ferguson forced Will Jaaskelainen to parry his long-range header away and Tunnicliffe’s stoppage time header dropped agonisingly wide but the equaliser wouldn’t come and Reds must now re-group ahead of Saturday’s trip to Leyton Orient.
Crawley: Morris; Sesay (Dacres-Cogley 55), Dallison, Tunnicliffe, Doherty; Nathaniel-George (Grego-Cox 45), Payne, Camara, Lubala; Nadesan (Ferguson 45); Palmer. Unused subs: Luyambula, Morais, Bulman, Galach.
Attendance: 2006 (207 Crewe)