Reds suffered a harsh 1-0 defeat at promotion-chasing MK Dons in Saturday’s League 2 clash.
Kieran Agard scored his 17th goal of the season just before the break to settle a tight tussle in which Crawley had some good opportunities to take something from an evenly-fought contest.
George Francomb hit the bar early on and Ollie Palmer was off target with two good chances either side of the break, but the goal their play deserved didn't come.
Reds remain 18th in the table, nine points clear of the relegation zone, but just four goals in nine games is a worrying statistic and Gabriele Cioffi will be anxious to get back to winning ways at home to Grimsby next Saturday.
There were two changes to the side held by Macclesfield with Reece Grego-Cox and Panutche Camara coming in for Josh Payne and Dominic Poleon, who dropped to the bench.
Reds made a positive start and nearly took the lead in the third minute. David Sesay won a corner off ex-Reds defender Joe Walsh and Francomb curling effort from the left came back off the bar.
Dons’ keeper Stuart Moore then saved Sesay’s shot and Panutche Camara teed up Matty Willock for an effort which was off target as Crawley took the game to their hosts.
Glenn Morris blocked an 11th-minute effort from Chuks Aneke when Dons threatened for the first time but Reds have a decent account of themselves in the opening half-hour. They went close again in the 26th minute when Palmer met Lewis Young’s cross but his near-post flick hit the side netting. Grego-Cox then teed up Palmer on the left of the box but he shot over from 16 yards.
The hosts then enjoyed their best spell to date. Morris made a good save from Jake Hesketh’s effort, Alex Gilbey hooked a corner over from a good position and Conor McGrandles was also denied by Morris.
But just when it looked as if the visitors would get through to the break unscathed, they conceded a poor goal in the 42nd minute. Keeper Moore’s clearance was allowed to bounce over him by Dannie Bulman and Agard, making his 200th appearance for MK, was in quickly, beating Morris before squeezing the ball home from a tight angle by the left-hand post. After a promising 40 minutes or so it was a big blow for Cioffi’s men.
They responded well after the break and Palmer squandered a great chance in the 46th minute. Grego-Cox found him 15 yards out but his shot was blocked by Moore’s legs.
Five minutes later Francomb drilled an effort from the corner of the box through a crowd of players but it was just off target.
Dons carried less of a threat in the second half but they nearly profited from a bad mistake by Joe McNerney on 55 minutes. The defender had his head in his hands after guiding a back pass beyond Morris but fortunately it rolled just wide of the open goal.
Willock gave way for Nathaniel-George just after shooting a yard wide after the impressive Grego-Cox had set him up.
In the closing stages the hosts seemed content to hold what they had and try to pick Reds off on the break, but there was controversy in the 80th minute when the referee blew for a foul on Young inside his own half with Grego-Cox running through on Moore’s goal. Cioffi’s protests to the fourth official earned him a yellow card.
Poleon came on in the closing stages but MK stood firm and nearly added a second deep into stoppage time when Gilbey raced into the six-yard box only to lose his footing with only Morris to beat.
Reds: Morris; Francomb, McNerney, Dallison; Young, Bulman, Willock (Nathaniel-George 63), Camara, Sesay; Grego-Cox (Poleon 87); Palmer. Subs not used: Mersin, Payne, Maguire, N’Gala.
Attendance: 6889 (246 Crawley fans)
Pictured: Reece Grego Cox is challenged by Russell Martin (James Boardman)