Reds suffered their first defeat of 2019 when they went down 2-1 to Stevenage at the Lamex Stadium.
The outcome was harsh on Gaby Cioffi’s side, who dominated the second half after Dominic Poleon had scored in between two James Ball efforts in the first period.
The visitors hit the bar through Luke Gambin and sub Filipe Morais had an effort cleared off the line as Crawley laid siege to the home goal but could not get the second goal their performance deserved.
The stats told the story with Reds having 21 shots, six on target, and seven corners but the most important statistic told a frustratingly different story.
Unchanged Reds had new signing Tom Dallison and fit-again Morais on the bench.
The hosts suffered an early blow, or so it seemed at the time, when Alex Revell, whose two late goals won the game for Stevenage at Crawley in August, went off injured with Ball his replacement.
Poloen was a threat from the off for Reds. He wasn’t too far away with an effort when Ollie Palmer found him from left, having earlier shot off target from a quickly-taken free kick.
But it was Stevenage who began to get on top and they went ahead in the 26th minute. Luther James-Wildin picked out Ball with a cross from the right and the striker’s header had sufficient power to beat Glenn Morris, although the keeper got both hands to the ball.
Reds responded well and after Panutche Camara’s cross had evaded Poleon and Palmer in the box they levelled on 36 minutes. Palmer, who had just forced keeper Paul Farman to push away his angled effort, broke down the right and found the overlapping Sesay. He picked out Poleon who turned and fired past the keeper for his sixth goal of the season.
But parity lasted just five minutes. Danny Newton fired the ball in from the left and Morris pushed the ball out but straight into the path of Ball who scooped it home from close range.
Newton and Joel Byrom went close for the hosts as they finished the first half on top but the second period was a completely different story as Crawley laid siege to the home goal for long spells.
They were denied an equaliser by the woodwork in the 59th minute when Poleon hit the underside of the bar with a close-range header after Farman had brilliantly parried a fiercely-struck shot on the angle by Luke Gambin.
Four minutes later Josh Payne spotted Sesay’s run and his low cross seemed certain to be turned in by Palmer only for a defender to deflect the ball out of the striker’s path.
Morais and Lewis Young, who has making his 200th appearance for Reds, both came on and in the closing stages the game was played virtually all in the Stevenage half.
On 78 minutes Camara failed to find the target from Palmer’s cross when a true connection would have resulted in a goal. The corner was played out to Morais on the edge of the box and his cross-shot appeared destined for the top corner until it was headed off the line by a defender.
Young shot wide before substitute Reece Grego-Cox dragged a good effort past the post deep into stoppage time.
The home side held on but for Reds there is the consolation that they will play worse many times in the rest of the season and pick up points.
Reds: Morris; Francomb, Connolly, Maguire; Doherty, Payne (Morais 65), Camara, Gambin, Sesay (Young 72); Poleon (Grego-Cox 81), Palmer. Subs: Mersin, Dallison, Bulman.
Pictured: Dom Poleon tries to force the ball over the line during Reds' second-half onslaught. Photo by Steve Lawrence