Crawley opened the 2021/22 league campaign with a narrow defeat to newly promoted Hartlepool United at Victoria Park. Gavan Holohan’s 88th minute winner meant that the home side snatched all three points on a rainy afternoon.
Hartlepool had a very bright start to proceedings as they looked to mark their return to the Football League with a goal inside the opening five minutes. Owen Gallacher conceded the first corner of the game, which allowed the hosts to initiate a quick routine. Mark Shelton picked up the ball and drifted past Tyler Frost before curling inches past Glenn Morris’ post.
Hartlepool were starting to take a firm grip on the tie as they continued to look dangerous on the attack. The Reds defence remained strong as both Tony Craig and Jordan Tunnicliffe were forced to get stuck in with some strong challenges.
The Pools continued to dominate as they came close again through Luke Molyneux. A dangerous ball was fired into the Crawley penalty area as a loose ball fell kindly to the feet of Molyneux. The striker opted for a full volley which flew just past the Crawley goal.
The Reds were slowly building into the game as Tyler Frost started to cause the Pools defence some issues. The Crawley winger was getting a lot of joy on the left flank as he was able to take on his marker and take a run at goal. Frost’s continued persistence won the Reds a free-kick in a very dangerous position wide on the left-hand side as Craig was just unable to convert the resulting delivery.
Crawley then had a brilliant chance to snatch a 1-0 lead heading into half-time as Hessenthaler broke away from his marker. A loose Reds pass looked to be contained by a Hartlepool defender, but Hessenthaler was able to round his marker and snatch the ball inside the penalty area. The midfielder attempted a cut-back which fell just behind Nadesan, who could only spoon a weak effort towards goal.
Nadesan was almost gifted a goal in the early stages of the second half as the Reds looked to capitalise on some early pressure. A wayward backpass was almost intercepted by the Reds striker, but Killip was able to slide in and clear the ball to safety.
The game then began to settle down as neither side looked to threaten going forward. Both sides appeared to be content with possession inside their own half. John Yems turned to his bench in search of some inspiration and opted for Will Ferry and James Tilley to replace Owen Gallacher and Sam Matthews.
The hosts were still enjoying the majority of possession, and it was eventually awarded as Gavan Holohan turned in a very well taken finish. Jamie Sterry scooped a ball into the box, which Holohan brought down with his back to goal, the Pools forward held off his man and converted past Morris into the bottom corner.
The hosts held on to claim all three points in their first game back in the Football League. Crawley will face League One’s Gillingham on Tuesday night in the first round of the Carabao Cup.
Reds XI: Morris; Gallacher (Ferry 61’), Craig, Tunnicliffe (Dallison 32’), Davies; Payne, Powell, Hessenthaler; Matthews (Tilley 74’), Frost, Nadesan.