Lacklustre Reds had no answer to Swindon striker Eoin Doyle whose hat-trick helped the visitors to a thumping League 2 victory.
Crawley’s performance matched the cheerless weather at The People’s Pension Stadium and they will certainly need to do a whole lot better when Colchester arrive on Tuesday with a place in the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup at stake.
Irishman Doyle had his treble after 61 minutes – taking his tally for the season to 12 – and apart from a shot by Nathan Ferguson which struck the post, Reds created little of note against a powerful, well-organised Swindon side. Crawley conceded again late on when Jerry Yates made it 4-0.
Ashley Nadesan and Panutche Camara came into the side which drew at Newport on Tuesday and Ollie Palmer made a welcome return on the bench but the tone was set from the start. Reds started sluggishly and were punished in the fifth minute. The powerful Anthony Grant, who’d already had a shot blocked by David Sesay, found space on the right to pick out Doyle who scored for the fourth successive game with a tap-in unmarked a couple of yards out. It was an easy finish and Doyle’s afternoon would get even better.
The visitors dominated early on. Sesay needed lengthy treatment after his nose connected accidentally with Grant’s boot before ex-Red Michael Doughty clipped a left-foot free kick wide. In wide areas, particularly through Lloyd Isgrove on the right, they looked a real threat.
Reds finally got into gear on 20 minutes when Ashley Nathaniel-George fired a low shot from 20 yards just wide of the right-hand post. Reece Grego-Cox then pulled a great ball back to the edge of the six-yard box but there was no team-mate to take advantage of a great opportunity.
On a wet and wild afternoon it at least got the home crowd engaged and it became a more even contest for a time. Five minutes before the break Mason Bloomfield threaded a good pass into Josh Doherty’s path, but the defender shot over under pressure from a defender.
Instead Swindon doubled their lead on 44 minutes. Sub Keshi Anderson back-heeled the ball into the path of Dion Donohue on the left and his cross was headed powerfully past Morris from ten yards by Doyle. It nearly got even worse when Doughty hit a first-time shot onto the bar after Anderson’s pass found him in space. The woodwork was rattled again in stoppage time when Ferguson’s 25-yarder thudded against the post, but it had been a poor first 45 by the home side.
Reds made an early second-half change as Nadesan gave way for Tarryn Allarakhia which meant a switch to 4-5-1 from 4-4-2 and not long afterwards Panutche Camara was replaced by Gyliano van Velzen.
But those changes made little difference with Reds struggling to make any impact against a well-organised Swindon defence who, in the first hour, had allowed Crawley few opportunities inside the box.
And the game was over when Doyle completed a stylish hat-trick just past the hour. The striker timed his run to perfection to get on the end of Anderson’s pass and finished with aplomb.
With 13 minutes to go Ollie Palmer came on after six games out with ankle trouble in place of Nathaniel-George but there was little the talismanic striker could do. Swindon had the points sewn up and even a few Reds fans applauded Doyle when he came off a few moments later, his work for the day done.
But Swindon weren’t finished and three minutes from time substitute Kaiyne Woolery pulled the ball back from the right by-line and Jerry Yates tapped in on the line.
A bad day at the office for Crawley who will need to respond big-time on Tuesday.
Reds: Morris; Sesay, Dallison, Tunnicliffe, Doherty; Grego-Cox, Ferguson, Camara (van Velzen 54), Nathaniel-George (Palmer 77), Nadesan (Allarakhia), Bloomfield. Unused subs: Luyambula, Young, Sendles-White, Galach.
Attendance: 2601 (621 Swindon)
Pictured: Josh Doherty challenges Swindon's Kaiyne Woolery. Photo by James Boardman