Crawley fell to their first defeat of 2022 this evening at the hands of Stevenage. The hosts took the lead in the first half through Jake Taylor before Tom Nichols levelled the score with an incredible strike on the stroke of half-time. Crawley looked bright in the opening stages of the second half, but a poachers finish from Luke Norris in the 72nd minute sealed the Reds’ fate.
Stevenage got things underway, and it only took the home side four minutes to trouble Glenn Morris in the Crawley goal. Bruno Andrade lined up a shot from distance after receiving the ball inside the Crawley half. Morris was alert to beat away the winger's effort.
Crawley responded with a chance of their own as Ashley Nadesan looked to set up Tom Nichols. Jack Powell fed the ball to Nadesan, who cut the ball back to Nichols on the edge of the box. The ball took a nasty bobble, and Nichols’ effort went way wide of the target.
Nichols then found himself with the ball inside the Stevenage penalty area, the striker looked up and chose the unselfish option to square to Nadesan, but the pass was intercepted. In hindsight, the shot may have been a better option as the ball was eventually cleared for a corner.
Despite Crawley looking sharp on the attack, it was the hosts that took the lead. Zain Westbrooke whipped the ball into the danger area, and after a slight touch from Andrade, the ball was diverted into the path of Jake Taylor, who headed home.
Stevenage controlled the majority of the first half, but with just the two additional minutes to play, Crawley levelled the scoring. It really was a moment of pure brilliance from Nichols, the striker picked the ball up outside the area, and after a couple of touches, lifted the ball brilliantly over Christy Pym into the far corner.
Crawley started the second half on the front foot, and newly introduced Nick Tsaroulla almost gave the Reds the lead shortly after coming on. After a patient build-up, Tsaroulla drove into the box and unleashed a powerful shot at goal, which crashed into the side netting.
Morris was having another classic game for Crawley. The Cat once again kept the score on level terms with a brilliant point-blank save to deny Luke Norris. A moment of controversy then arose as James Tilley and Jake Taylor came together in a strong 50/50 challenge. Tilley won the ball, but the Stevenage players were adamant that the Crawley man should have been dismissed. Referee Will Finnie decided a yellow card was suitable.
Taylor was straight back to his feet and just minutes later provided the assist for Stevenage’s second goal. The former Exeter captain delivered a driven cross into the area, which seemed to stop dead at the feet of Norris, who tapped into an empty net.
Stevenage saw out the remainder of the game, and the Reds fell to their first defeat of 2022.
REDS XI: Morris, Tilley, Francomb, Craig, Lynch, Davies, Payne, Powell, Matthews, Nadesan, Nichols
Attendance: 1942 (210 away)