Reds beaten 6-1 after Palmer's penalty puts them in front against Crewe
Reds endured an afternoon to forget as they slumped to a 6-1 defeat to Crewe at the Alexandra Stadium, their heaviest in the Football League for more than seven years.
It was all going well for Gabriele Cioffi’s side when Ollie Palmer scored his 16th goal of the season to give them a 12th minute lead from the penalty spot and the striker was twice denied a second by Crewe keeper Ben Garratt’s reflexes.
The roof fell in during a seven-minute spell before half-time when Crewe scored four goals including an own goal by Tom Dallison.
Charlie Kirk and Owen Dale added to Reds’ misery after the break and to make things worse substitute Ibrahim Meite became the seventh Crawley player to be sent off five minutes after coming on as a substitute.
Cioffi had made two changes to the side which held Mansfield in midweek with Dannie Bulman and Filipe Morais restored to midfield with Josh Payne and Panutche Camara dropping to the bench.
Reds got the ideal start when Palmer struck from the spot in the 12th minute. Reece Grego-Cox was pushed in the back by Perry Ng and after a moment’s deliberation referee Stockbridge awarded the penalty which Palmer struck down the middle past Garratt.
For the next 20 minutes or so all looked good for Reds who could easily have extended their lead. Midway through the half Palmer worked a yard of space but Garratt was equal to his effort, pushing the ball past the near post.
Then on 28 minutes Reds worked a free kick from left to right and Lewis Young played in Palmer for another powerful effort which Garratt blocked with his face.
All seemed to going well, then Crawley caved in.
Crewe equalised in the 35th minute although Reds were furious that a handball by Ng in the build-up wasn’t spotted by the officials. Ng found Jordan Bowery in too much space and his angled effort went in off the far post.
A minute later the hosts left. Morris tried to push out Charlie Kirk’s left-wing cross but failed to make contact and the ball cannoned off the back-pedalling Tom Dallison and into the net.
Reds were in disarray and on 40 minutes it was 3-1. Morris did well to parry a shot from Kirk but it rolled invitingly into the path of Chris Porter who, played onside by Dallison on the goal-line, had a tap-in from two yards.
If there had been an element of fortune about a couple of Crewe’s goals Reds were their own worst enemies when it became 4-1. Joe McNerney was dispossessed by Paul Green who raced in on goal before sliding a right-foot shot past Morris.
Incredibly, Garratt made another superb save just before the break when he parried Young’s effort after Morais had set up the chance.
Reds at least had the strong wind behind them in the second half and needed to strike quickly to have any chance but on 47 minutes they found themselves 5-1 down. Morris had already made a save from Bowery when Crewe recycled the ball down the right and Ng’s cross was swept home by Kirk as the visitors appealed for offside.
Despite the scoreline Garratt remarkably continued to in good form, saving from Sesay and Palmer before Reds made their first change on 56 minutes when Grego-Cox was replaced by Ricardo German.
Crewe sensed more goals against demoralised opposition in the closing third of the contest and at times it was only the brilliance of Morris that kept them out. He denied Oliver Finney twice and Ryan Wintle and when he was beaten Green’s spectacular volley came back off the bar.
Panutche Camara and Meite came on but to make the afternoon even worse Meite was sent off five minutes after coming on in the 74th minute. Nicky Hunt was booked for bringing down the striker on the edge of the box but after some jostling involving Meite in the defensive wall the referee showed him a straight red, presumably for raising his hands to an opponent.
Crewe got their sixth in the 83rd minute when substitute Owen Dale beat Morris from just inside the box, his right-foot shot taking a deflection on its way past the keeper.
With all three subs on, Reds finished the game with nine men after George Francomb limped off with injury in stoppage time.
It put the tin hat on a miserable afternoon for Crawley, who must now regroup before facing leaders Lincoln City at The People’s Pension Stadium next Saturday.
Reds: Morris; Francomb, McNerney, Dallison; Young, Bulman, Morais (Meite 74), Willock (Camara 71), Sesay; Palmer, Grego-Cox (German 56). Unused subs: Mersin, Payne, N’Gala.
Attendance: 3220 (79 away)
Picture: Ollie Palmer puts away his 16th goal of the season before it all went wrong for Reds. Photo by Richard Parkes