The Reds defeated Bradford City this evening after a brilliant, hard-working performance. Goals from both centre-halves secured Crawley a deserved 2-0 victory at Valley Parade.
Crawley started the game bright and alert as they looked to hit Bradford on the counter-attack. James Tilley worked the ball well in the midfield and found Sam Matthews wide on the right. Matthews curled towards the far post but put a little too much power on the cross as it cleared Richard O’Donnell’s crossbar.
Jack Powell returned to the starting lineup and almost provided a brilliant assist to a potential Reds opener. Powell picked the ball up in the middle of the park and looked to pick out Tom Nichols with a delightful lofted pass, Nichols only just failing to reach the cross.
Bradford also looked to exploit the aerial ball, including a long throw from Niall Canavan. One of Canavan’s long throws looked to cause the Reds a bit of trouble as Powell and Morris failed to communicate, forcing Jack Powell to clear for a corner before Danny Rowe could swoop in.
The Reds took the lead in the 21st minute after a beautiful sequence of play resulted in a pinpoint header from Jordan Tunnicliffe. A Crawley set-piece was only half-cleared by Bradford, allowing Tom Nichols to pick out Josh Wright on the wing. Wright was able to strive forward and deliver a wicked cross towards Tunnicliffe at the back post, Jordan still had a lot to do as he rose high above his marker and curled a brilliant header into the top corner.
Crawley were then denied what looked to be a certain penalty after Nicholas Tsaroulla was bundled down in the box. Tsaroulla had a cross blocked high into the air and looked to take the ball into his stride, Nick had clearly beaten his man and was simply pushed to the floor in the box, but the referee Martin Coy waved away the Reds’ shouts.
Glenn Morris was then forced into his first meaningful action of the game, making a smart double save from close range. Gareth Evans had the ball at his feet inside the box and fired low towards goal, Morris was able to stick out a leg to deflect before coming across and smothering a second Bradford effort.
Striker Danny Rowe had been quiet by his standards in the first half but almost produced a moment of magic with just over five minutes remaining in the first period. Rowe received the ball on the edge of the box and executed a Cruyff Esque turn, which gave the striker plenty of space to shoot on the fringe of the box, luckily for Crawley, the shot flew just wide of the post.
A bright start to the second half for the Reds as Sam Matthews won a free-kick on the edge of the area giving Crawley a chance to double their lead. James Tilley struck the wall before Matthews fired the rebound wide.
Archie Davies was having a fine game at right-back and almost created and scored a chance of his own. Wright found Davies on the wing in plenty of space as the young full-back took the ball inside on his weaker left foot and curled just over the bar.
Morris was then forced to make a fantastic low save after Gareth Evans broke free. Evans got lucky with a deflection and found himself with space to shoot, Morris brilliantly tipped round the post before parrying away from the resulting corner.
Crawley had to ride wave after wave of Bradford attacks and were doing so brilliantly as the home side had up to four men in a front line. Clayton Donaldson came agonisingly close for the hosts after being sent through over the top. The substitute struck a venomous volley towards goal which came crashing off of the Reds crossbar.
Then came a moment of absolute magic from a Crawley set-piece. Powell whipped in a dangerous ball towards the six-yard box where Joe McNerney rose highest and thumped a
header into the back of the net, unbelievable scenes for the Reds who had battled so hard for the entire evening.
A strong battling performance from Crawley as the visitors came away with all three points. Every single person on the pitch gave it their all as the Reds will return to Sussex as the winning side.
Reds XI: Morris; Davies, McNerney, Tunnicliffe, Tsaroulla, Matthews (Hessenthaler 72’), Powell, Wright, Tilley, Nichols ©, Nadesan (Rodari 82’).