Yesterday proved to be the toughest test of pre-season so far as we drew with a physical Burgess Hill side who played some excellent football down at the More Than Tyres Stadium. Jake Hessenthaler capitalised on a defensive mishap to give Crawley the lead in the first-half but the Hillians equalised quite deservedly late on in the game.
It was a spirited start for the hosts as they almost took the lead in the opening five minutes. Good work from a Burgess Hill winger earned the Isthmian League outfit a free-kick right on the edge of the Crawley penalty area. The ball was eventually whipped in with serious pace and was met well by a Burgess Hill head, the effort just flying over Alfie Jones’ crossbar.
The Burgess Hill goalkeeper was then forced to make a smart double save from Sam Matthews. The Reds winger was sent one-on-one with the goalkeeper twice in quick succession, but saw both of his shots smartly saved at the near post.
Crawley began to really turn on the style and eventually took a deserved lead through Jake Hessenthaler. The midfielder was quick to capitalise on a defensive mishap and smartly rounded the hosts goalkeeper before tapping into an empty net.
Alfie Jones was then called into action, making a fantastic save at close range to keep Crawley ahead. Burgess Hill sent another set piece into the Reds penalty area as the ball fell kindly at the feet of the hosts’ striker, Jones was forced to rush out and block a powerful effort at his near post.
A completely changed Reds XI entered the fray in the second half, including new signings Owen Gallacher and Jack Payne.
The second-half team were very quick to get a feel for the game and started putting together some neat passages of play in the early stages. Zaid-Al Hussaini came very close to giving Crawley a two-goal cushion after latching on to a loose strike from Tom Nichols, the young attacker failed to find the target with an attempted lob.
Tony Craig who was returning for the 21st pre-season of his career then went close following a corner after good work from Owen Gallacher on the left-wing. The centre-back sent a bullet header just wide of the post.
The hosts then drew level in bizarre fashion as Glenn Morris appeared to be fouled after coming out to collect a through-ball. The Reds number one was pushed to the floor resulting in the ball coming loose leaving an empty net for a grateful Burgess Hill forward. Despite the strong protests from the Crawley players the referee deemed the challenge on Morris to be a fair one.
First-half XI: Jones; Davies, Trialist, Trialist, Dallison; Matthews, Hessenthaler, Khaleel, Frost; Nadesan, Trialist.