Crawley fell to defeat at The Memorial Stadium as ex-Red Leon Clarke leapt up to head into the net in the opening minutes of the second half. The Reds created plenty of chances, but travel back to Sussex empty-handed.
The first chance of the game fell to Crawley as the returning Tom Nichols won a free-kick deep inside Rovers’ territory. Jack Powell delivered a fast-paced ball into the box, which was deflected behind by a Bristol head.
The Reds then had two more chances to snatch the opening goal as both Nichols and Frost went close. Tyler Frost had a shot saved at close range by James Belshaw before Tom Nichols glanced a header just wide of the post.
Tom Nichols looked as if he had not been away from the Crawley side as he troubled the Rovers defence time and time again. The striker soon earned himself another chance at goal after a brilliant run was picked out by Tsaroulla. Nichols shaped up for a shot inside the penalty area but saw his effort blocked by Alfie Kilgour.
Jake Hessenthaler nearly added his fourth goal of the season just moments later, a lofted ball was delivered into the box as Hessenthaler’s stabbed effort was saved by Belshaw.
There was plenty to be pleased about in the first half for Crawley as they controlled the majority of the possession and looked the team more likely to grab the opening goal.
Despite this, Bristol Rovers came flying out of the blocks in the second half as ex-Red Leon Clarke headed home just two minutes after the restart. Antony Evans floated a delightful ball into the Reds penalty area where Clarke was unmarked, allowing the striker to send a looping header over Morris to give the Gas the lead.
Crawley looked to continue their first-half pressure after falling behind as Rovers looked contempt with a one-goal lead. Nichols continued to cause trouble as his build-up play created a half-chance for Crawley. Tsaroulla found himself with the ball at his feet on the edge of the area in a good shooting position but failed to get his effort on target.
The newly introduced Ashley Nadesan was then denied a potential equaliser at point-blank range by Belshaw. Jack Powell found the striker with a brilliant ball over the top of the Gas’ defence. Nadesan took the ball and immediately fired an effort towards goal, Belshaw saving well with his feet.
Crawley were really starting to turn on the pressure as Sam Ashford forced another decent stop from Belshaw. Good battling from the striker created space on the edge of the area for a shot, Ashford sent a curling effort towards goal but saw his effort beaten away by Belshaw.
Belshaw again came to the rescue for the hosts, denying Nadesan from inside the box. A fortunate deflection meant the ball fell to Nadesan, who began a charge towards goal. After beating a defender, Nadesan fired an effort towards the near post, Belshaw’s outstretched leg denied the striker.
Crawley will leave The Memorial Stadium stunned that they did not come away with a result as Bristol Rovers held on to claim all three points.
Crawley XI: Morris; Davies, Francomb ©, Craig, Tsaroulla; Frost (Nadesan 67’), Hessenthaler, Payne, Powell; Ashford (Battle 85’), Nichols (Appiah 67’).