Crawley Town suffered yet another agonising defeat at home on Tuesday night in what was a tale of two halves against Exeter City.
The Reds started fantastically and took the lead on the half-hour mark through Kwesi Appiah who did well to head the ball home after fantastic work from Ashley Nadesan.
Nadesan was then sent off just before halftime for an apparent dive, which earned him a second yellow – his first earned after a 50/50 challenge – and fortunes began to turn.
Matt Jay equalised for the Grecians with a stunning long-range effort before Nigel Atangana headed home from close range just two minutes later.
Exeter added a third in the 90th minute when Sam Nombe tapped home from a couple of yards and condemned the Reds to defeat.
Crawley Town manager John Yems made one change to the side who lost narrowly against Sutton United on Saturday, replacing Will Ferry with Nadesan and dropping the youngster to the bench.
The People’s Pension Stadium was a cauldron hosting a concoction of shouts and chants when the game got underway as all four sides of the ground sang their hearts out on a cool Tuesday night under the lights.
The Reds began the stronger of the two sides, their metaphorical stirs causing the concoction to become a more coherent eruption of noise from the home end. Tony Craig was the first to stir the pot, blasting a shot wide of the mark from 12 yards after receiving the ball from Appiah in the fourth minute.
Appiah was involved again just three minutes later when he headed the ball down to Nadesan who attacked the Grecian’s backline, driving from the halfway line to the byline and winning a corner for the Reds.
The two linked up again on the half-hour mark as Nadesan showed off his terrific pace to chase down Tom Nichols’ lumped ball forward. The Exeter ‘keeper was the first to the ball but could only smash it into the oncoming Nadesan, who collected the ball and whipped it perfectly onto the head of Appiah who diverted it home into an empty net.
The cauldron of noise boiled over at this point, and it looked like it couldn’t get much better for the Reds, who were in clear control and cruising.
This was until the 44th minute when Nadesan went through on goal and then went down after Dawson slid in to make a challenge. The referee adjudged this to be a dive and, therefore, had to brandish a second yellow card and give the man who had been the best player on the pitch his marching orders.
The first half action wasn’t over as yet more drama unfolded when Atangana and Nichols clashed on the floor inside the six-yard box. This began a different kind of boiling over as a mild brawl broke out, somewhat inexplicably resulting in Jake Hessenthaler and Atangana receiving yellow cards.
Crawley began the second period a goal up but a man down, and the shift in momentum was clear to see as soon as the game restarted. The lead lasted just nine second-half minutes as Jay rocketed in an equaliser from 20 yards that left Glenn Morris with no chance.
Things went from bad to worse for the Reds as, just two minutes later, Atangana headed home from inside the six-yard box to put City in the ascendancy.
The two sides levelled out in the final half an hour. Exeter’s Nombe went close before Crawley substitutes Joel Lynch and Mark Marshall began causing the Grecians’ defence their first trouble of the half. Jake Caprice fired a fierce effort straight into the chest of Morris but neither side could find the back of the net.
That was until Nombe converted from close range in the 90th minute to seal the deal and secure all three points for the visitors.
Attention now turns to next Saturday’s match-up away at Scunthorpe United.
REDS XI: Morris, Francomb (C) (Marshall 72’), Craig, Dallison, Powell, Nichols, Nadesan, Appiah, Tsaroulla (Lynch 61’), Payne, Hessenthaler (Ferry 61’)
UNUSED SUBS: Curtis-Henry, Ashford, Bansal-McNulty
ATTENDANCE: 1960 (357 away)