The Reds fell to defeat in their opening EFL Trophy Fixture as Gillingham ran out 2-1 victors after goals from Trae Coyle and Vadaine Oliver.
The game started at a rapid pace with an opening five minutes of end to end action. It was the Gills who had the first clear cut chance, Trae Coyle was fed through neatly but was unable to chip over an onrushing McGill.
Just minutes later the Reds struck the woodwork. A quick counter attack following a Gillingham corner enabled Tarryn Allarakhia to burst free and slide through Ricardo German who was one-on-one with Jack Bonham, German however failed to keep the power off of his curling effort and it crashed off of the underside of the crossbar.
The game then began to slow down and became scrappy in periods. The same seemed to be happening on the sidelines as John Yems and Steve Evans had words. Referee Paul Howard was quick to intervene as temperatures soon cooled off.
Midway into the first half the home side began to take control of possession but were still struggling to break down the Reds back four. Trae Coyle had another good chance following a whipping cross from Ryan Jackson but Coyle could only slash at his effort and it trickled out for a Reds throw-in.
The Reds continued to look dangerous on the counter, some great ball control from Allarakhia allowed him to feed Archie Davies on the right wing, but the youngster’s cross was inches behind the feet of Ashley Nadesan. Nadesan had another great chance just seconds later as George Francomb won the ball in midfield and played the striker through but he could do no better than strike the ball into a grateful Bonham in the Gills net.
Just as the Reds started to take control of the half, the hosts took the lead on the counter. Trae Coyle who had caused problems for the Reds defence in the first half was allowed too much space on the edge of the penalty area and after good link up play, had time to tuck his shot into the opposite corner five minutes before the break.
Five minutes into the second half the hosts doubled their lead. Vadaine Oliver headed in after coming on at halftime. A searching ball from Jordan Graham found an unmarked Oliver at the back post who nodded home comfortably to make it two for the hosts.
The Reds could have pulled a goal back just minutes later, George Francomb delivered a delightful ball into the box which found the head of Frost but he glanced his header wide at the far post.
The Reds really started to get a foothold into the game and looked very threatening on the break. Nadesan found himself through on goal in the 63rd minute after a George Francomb header slipped through the Gills defence. Nadesan failed to hit the target as his effort flashed past the post. Tunnicliffe then came close but his header cannoned off of his own shoulder and subsequently his effort sailed over the bar.
The Reds eventually got their goal in the 78th minute. A quick throw-in from Archie Davies sent Tyler Frost on his travels as Frost did excellently to drill a low ball into the Gillingham box which Nathan Ferguson tapped home to make it 2-1.
The Reds continued to press the Gills in search of an equaliser for the remaining ten minutes. They thought they had it in the dying embers after good link up play between Tunnicliffe and Sam Ashford allowed Ashford to nudge it into Nadesan who was inside the six-yard box but he could only poke skywards.
The Reds threw everything at the Gills but the hosts held on to claim a 2-1 victory.
Crawley: McGill, Doherty, McNerney, Tunnicliffe, Davies, Adebowale (Frost 52’), Francomb (Hessenthaler 69’), Fergsuon, Allarakhia (Ashford 69’), Nadesan, German.
Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson, Tucker, Medley (Ogilvie 80’), Willock, Graham (MacDonald 83’), Coyle, Akinde (Oliver 45’), Mellis, Woods, Maghoma.