A crowd of 3,905 saw an entertaining Sussex pre-season derby end in a narrow win for Brighton at The People’s Pension Stadium.
Taylor Richards settled the game with an 84th-minute penalty, but the outcome was a little harsh on Reds who created some good chances, particularly in the second half.
Gabriele Cioffi named a strong starting XI with three of his summer recruits, Mason Bloomfield, Bez Lubala and Nathan Ferguson, included. The visitors had Tomer Hemed up front, but it was primarily an under-23 side named by the Seagulls.
On a wet night, Reds enjoyed lots of possession in the early stages although it wasn’t until the 19th minute before Brighton keeper Christian Walton was tested when he struggled to keep out Dannie Bulman’s dipping volley from 25 yards. The ball fell to Joe McNerney but from a tight angle the defender’s cross-shot flashed across goal and out to safety.
Brighton gradually began to see more of the ball and Glenn Morris made a solid save when Viktor Gyokeres cut inside from the left to fire in a shot, but in truth the opening third of the game was standard pre-season fare with only sporadic moments when the pace quickened and the challenges meant something.
At least both sets of fans were in good voice, the attendance boosted by 1850 Brighton fans who were nearly celebrating in the 35th minute when Tudor Baluta’s volley was well saved by the ageless Morris. At the other end Walton was at full stretch when he tipped over Ashley Nathaniel-George’s flick after he was found by Ferguson’s driven cross from the right. Lubala then had a sight of goal but Walton made a much more comfortable save on this occasion.
Reds made their first change in the 54th minute when Lewis Young was replaced by Josh Doherty with David Sesay switching to right-back. Ten minutes later Ferguson’s drive from outside the box picked up pace off the damp turf but flew just wide of the left-hand post.
Substitute Ollie Palmer was soon putting himself about and one lay-off set up David Sesay for a powerful shot from 20 yards that was only a yard wide of Brighton’s goal as the home side began to look more likely to break the deadlock.
Palmer was involved again with 13 minutes to go. He robbed a defender on the left and picked out substitute Reece Grego-Cox in space, but his effort took was deflected wide by keeper Robert Sanchez, although no corner was awarded.
The deadlock was broken in controversial fashion with seven minutes to go. A free kick from Max Sanders hit an outstretched arm in the defensive wall and referee Gavin Ward gave a penalty which Taylor Richards chipped down the middle as Michael Luyambula dived to his left.
Reds tried to respond and Tarryn Allarakhia’s powerful drive took a deflection but it finished 1-0 and Crawley now turn their focus to Saturday’s friendly against Horsham at the Camping World Stadium.
Reds: Morris (Luyambula 80); Young (Doherty 54), McNerney, Dallison, Sesay; Lubala (Allarakhia 80), Camara, Bulman (Payne 75), Ferguson (Powell 80), Nathaniel-George (Grego-Cox 75); Bloomfield (Palmer 60).
Attendance: 3905 (1850 Brighton)
Picture: Ollie Palmer can't believe it as a second-half chance goes begging. Photo by James Boardman