Crawley were forced to settle for a point against Bradford City this evening despite a dominating performance in which the Reds enjoyed the larger share of possession.
The Reds earned the first real chance of the game after neat link-up play between Tom Nichols and Sam Matthews. Nichols delightfully brought down Powell’s lofted ball and set the ball off to Matthews on the edge of the Bantams area, Matthews shot lacked any conviction and rolled through to Richard O’Donnell.
Nicholas Tsaroulla then found himself with plenty of room on the left flank as he delivered a dangerous low cross which Watters looked poised to tap in at the far post. The cross was well-read by Anthony O’Connor who slid in to intervene.
Despite the early Reds pressure, it was the visitors that took the lead. A ball was whipped into the box which Glenn Morris looked sure to deal with, with the ball whipping away from the goalkeeper the best Glenn could do was parry into the path of Lee Novak who gratefully tapped into an empty net.
This opened up a period of tricky play for the Reds with Bradford often not leaving a man up and playing a deep defensive line. Making it all the more difficult for wing-backs Tsaroulla and Davies to pick out a man in the box. As Tsaroulla delivered several dangerous crosses into the box in the opening stages.
The Reds persistence did not stop as they found a deserved equaliser in the 25th minute. Crawley won a freekick wide on the right flank, Sam Matthews stood over the ball and whipped a cross in with ferocious pace, Harry Pritchard attempted to clear the ball at the near post but instead diverted the ball into his own net and in doing so levelling the score.
Bradford almost responded instantly as goalscorer Lee Novak burst free on the counter, good defending from Tom Dallison forced the striker wide but he managed to manoeuvre a cross towards the far post, which would have made for instant redemption for Pritchard who was unmarked but Jake Hessenthaler was on hand to scoop away.
Crawley really began to turn up the pressure and looked to earn a certain penalty, Tom Nichols utilised his brilliant footwork in the box to swivel away from his man before being thrown to the ground. Despite the strong claims from the entire Reds team and stadium referee Sam Purkiss waved away the protests.
Bradford began to settle into the game early into the second half and forced a brilliant fingertip from Glenn Morris. Austin Samuels cut inside of his man just inside the Reds penalty area and drilled a shot towards the bottom corner which Morris did brilliantly to tip round the post.
Morris was then forced into action another two times in quick succession, Pritchard was fed through and was one on one with Morris who stuck out a hand to block the wingers shot. Novak then had time to shoot inside the area which Morris was able to divert wide with his outstretched leg.
The Reds then began to mount some pressure of their own, substitutes Ashley Nadesan and Nathan Ferguson looked lively after coming on, Ferguson dragging a shot wide with just over twenty minutes to play.
Crawley almost took the lead following a fluke deflection off of Tom Nichols, Ferguson volleying from the edge of the box as it cannoned off the back of Nichols and almost bounced into the net after O’Donnel was sent flying the other way. Archie Davies then fired at goal from a similar position, this time the effort was blocked by a Bradford man.
Ferguson then picked out Watters brilliantly in the box but the striker was forced wide and as a result, his shot flashed across the face of goal. The Reds were looking more likely to steal the winner. Many in the stadium thought Crawley had snatched it in the dying embers as Jack Powell curled a ball into the back post as Tony Craig rose highest but his header floated just over.
Reds XI: Morris; Tsaroulla, Dallison (Nadesan 61’), Craig, Tunnicliffe, Davies; Hessenthaler, Powell, Matthews (Ferguson 61’); Watters, Nichols (Ashford 81’)