Crawley Town extended their unbeaten home run with a well-deserved victory at home to Bradford City on Saturday afternoon.
Will Ferry gave the Reds the lead in the 39th minute with his first goal for the club. The man on-loan from Southampton volleyed home Jake Hessenthaler’s low cross past the wrongfooted Richard O’Donnell.
Crawley’s lead was doubled in the second half by Nick Tsaroulla who – similarly to his last-minute screamer against Carlisle United earlier in the season – found himself with space on the edge of the penalty area and took aim and hit his target like a veteran striker.
Bradford pulled one back through Callum Cooke who had too much space to smash the ball home from close range but the Reds held on for all three points.
Reds’ manager John Yems made two changes from the side that drew against Harrogate Town on Tuesday night for Saturday afternoon’s fixture. Both players who went off injured in the last fixture were left out of the squad; Joel Lynch and George Francomb being replaced by Ludwig Francillette and Archie Davies respectively.
The opening ten minutes belonged to Crawley who looked dangerous from the first whistle as they utilised the pace of Tom Nichols and Sam Ashford to cause the Bradford defence troubles. After a couple of unconverted crosses, the Reds found themselves in a great position when Ashford was dragged down by the last man, Oscar Threlkeld, for a freekick on the very edge of the penalty area. The City right-back received a booking that would put him on thin ice for the rest of the game, and Jack Powell tried rolling the free-kick under the wall but, again, failed to convert.
The rest of the first half-hour saw Bradford regain some power in the game and the ball spent most of its time inside Crawley’s half. The Bantams put in some dangerous crosses during this period, but Glenn Morris remained untested thus far.
Crawley were playing good football under the Saturday sun but were reduced to little more than playing out from the back and counter-attacks. This, combined with Bradford’s limited efforts at goal, led to the game becoming one starved of chances in the final minutes of the first half.
It was, for this reason, that Ferry’s opener came as such a surprise to the stadium. With five first-half minutes left to play, Crawley once again found joy exploiting an opponent down the right-wing. Hessenthaler beat his man and put in a low cross that found the boot of 20-year-old Ferry who produced a cultured volley to give the Reds the lead.
Eager to return to the dressing room with a half-time lead, Morris exhibited exactly why his nickname is ‘The Cat’ with a fantastic reaction save to claw Yann Songo’o’s close-range header away from goal.
It was almost two just moments later when Francillette met Ferry’s dinked cross with a powerful header that smacked the crossbar before being gratefully claimed by City ‘keeper O’Donnell.
The second half began at a similarly fast pace to which the first period had ended but, again, both sides struggled to create chances. This was due to a pair of outstanding performances by the sides’ number ones who were controlling their boxes and making things hard for their opposition’s attackers.
However, controlling his box was not enough for O’Donnell who could do nothing as he watched Tsaroulla’s 73rd-minute effort curl past his defence and into the bottom right-hand corner of his net from 20 yards out.
Crawley were well in the ascendancy now, their two goals to the good had put them on a new level of confidence, however, this didn’t last long as Bradford pulled one back just five minutes later. Substitute Oliver Crankshaw put in a low cross that travelled too far across the Reds’ penalty area before being smashed home by Cooke from 10 yards.
This led to a nervy last few minutes for all inside the stadium but the Reds held on to secure another home victory.
Attention now turns to next Saturday away at Tranmere Rovers before the Reds return to the People’s Pension Stadium on Tuesday 5th October to face Leyton Orient in the Papa John’s Trophy.
REDS XI: Morris, Davies, Dallison, Powell, Nichols, Francillette, Ferry (56'), Ashford (Marshall 82'), Tsaroulla, Payne, Hessenthaler
UNUSED SUBS: Jones, Gallacher, Craig, Khaleel, Bansal-McNulty
Attendance: 2435 (448 away)