The Reds fell to defeat this afternoon in their first competitive game of the 2020/21 season as Millwall ran out 3-1 victors after goals from Scott Malone, Matt Smith, and a Jordan Tunnicliffe own-goal.
The visitors took the lead after 14 minutes when Malone was alert to tap home after Ryan Woods whizzed a low ball into the area, catching out the Crawley defence. Millwall later doubled their lead when the ball deflected unfortunately off of Tunnicliffe, rolling into the back of the net.
New signing Sam Ashford got the Reds back into the game minutes later with a composed finish past Bialkowski, but on the hour mark it was striker Matt Smith who headed home to regain the Lions’ two-goal cushion.
It was a challenging start to the affair for Crawley as the away side controlled the early phases of possession, showing their class and quick-thinking. This early pressure turned into a goal only a third of the way through the half, when Woods picked out Malone with a low driven, pinpoint cross.
Millwall continued to drive forward with chances for Smith and Mahoney, but it was an unfortunate Tunnicliffe own-goal which doubled the lead of the visitors, after the ball bounced quickly against the defender’s thigh, before rolling slowly across the line, catching Tom McGill out.
But as Crawley began to find their feet in the game, new man Sam Ashford, who scored in our pre-season clash with Crystal Palace, scored again in his first competitive start for the Reds. The No.23 found himself with only the goalkeeper to beat after splitting through the defence, finishing calmly into the bottom-right corner.
Minutes later it was the Reds who looked more likely to score, as Ashley Nadesan picked the ball up on the edge of the area, driving forward before taking a shot which flew only inches past the post.
On the stroke of half-time, Crawley surged forward once more following a Millwall set-piece, but the alert run of Nadesan was cut out unfairly by Wallace who lunged in and took our No.10 out - the half-time whistle blew moments later.
One minute into the second half, the Lions almost doubled their advantage, as half-time substitute Jed Wallace weaved his way into the area from an acute angle, blasting his eventual strike wildly over the bar.
But after looking dangerous within the first-half, it was Matt Smith who scored Millwall’s third on the hour mark, leaping up and connecting with Wallace’s cross with his head, directing the ball past McGill in net.
Smith’s aerial presence again tested the Crawley back-line when McGill sprung into action to push away a powerful header from close range.
The final 20 minutes of the game saw little chances for both sides as the Lions hung on well to maintain their two-goal lead, right up until the final whistle.
The Reds travel to Gillingham on Tuesday to kick off our EFL Trophy campaign, before heading off to Vale Park on Saturday to play Port Vale in our Sky Bet League Two opener.
Crawley Town: McGill, Dallison, Craig, McNerney (Galach 81’), Tunnicliffe; Bulman, Ferguson, Powell (Sesay 58’); Frost, Ashford (German 66’), Nadesan.
Millwall: Bialkowski, Wallace, Hutchinson, Cooper, Malone, Leonard; Woods (Williams 62’), Thompson, Mahoney (Bradshaw 72’), Bennett (Wallace 46’); Smith.