Town endured an unhappy time on their travels this afternoon as an Aramide Oteh brace in the opening half and a Jordan Mutch strike just after the hour condemned Simon Weaver’s side to a 3-1 defeat at the Broadfield Stadium.
Town had come into the game having been defeated just once in the past seven games whilst victory saw Crawley put an end to a run of six successive defeats. But Oteh’s opener within the first ten minutes set the tone with Town unable to turn the game around.
Town had made one change to the side that triumphed 2-0 at Doncaster in midweek. Alex Pattison, who netted the second goal in the victory, was restored to the side with Danny Grant dropping to the bench.
The home side named James Tilley in the starting line-up for the first time since his return from injury. He was one of three changes alongside Ludwig Francilette and Mazeed, who replaced Jack Lynch, Brandon Mason and Ryan Johnson from the eleven that fell to a 3-0 defeat at Sutton in midweek.
The hosts had the brighter opening with Oteh creating some space on seven minutes that allowed him to play Dom Telford in, but good positioning from O’Connor saw him able to block the effort.
But just a minute later the ball was given away by Town in midfield which allowed Telford to this time turn provider and he teed up Oteh on the edge of the area who curled his effort wide of Mark Oxley’ right hand into the bottom corner.
Kellan Gordon then flashed a ball across the six-yard box beyond Oxley and only the alertness of O’Connor saw Town able to clear the danger.
The hosts by now were on the front foot with the early advantage and Town were struggling to make inroads into the home defence.
Crawley had a big shout on 25 minutes when the lively Telford went down in the box under Jack Muldoon’s challenge following a long-throw. The referee waved away protests though much to the chargrin of the home side.
Ashley Nadesan was the first name in the book when he received a yellow card for thwarting Levi Sutton’s forward run.
Sutton then had a half-chance just inside the area but a heavy first touch saw him easily disposed by the Crawley defence.
Tilley was then cautioned for simulation when he attempted to hoodwink the referee on the edge of the area.
A swich in formation saw Pattison move further forward and his persistent play down the right saw him combine with Muldoon to get a snap shot away but Correy Addai comfortably dealt with the effort
Town had begun to show sparks of life heading to the break but their task was made doubly harder two minutes before half-time when the ball was given away cheaply. Tom Eastman missed his tackle and Gordon squared for Oteh to easily slot home to make it 2-0.
The hosts had a good opportunity to go further ahead early in the second-half when Francilette had a free header from a set piece but directed his effort narrowly wide.
Town then threatened a two on one breakaway when Muldoon advanced into the Crawley half but he overran his pass to end the threat.
Muldoon then broke down the opposite side but with both Armstrong and Pattison advancing on goal his pass was frustratingly underhit and the danger fizzled out.
Simon Weaver made a change on the hour mark when George Thomson and Matty Daly replaced Sutton and Muldoon, with Crawley taking off Tilley and introducing youngster Tom Fellows.
Toby Sims burst through to the edge of the area but dragged a shot wide. It was a signal though that Town were very much still alive if they could find a quick foothold back in the game.
Substitute Thomson then split the defence with a pass down the right hand side for Pattison who teased a perfect ball in to Daly, but with the goal at his mercy he couldn’t apply the finish.
And to add insult to injury, just thirty seconds later the game was put to bed. Hesitancy again in the Town defence saw a loose ball fall to Mutch on the edge of the area and he made no mistake in firmly striking the ball home.
O’Connor’s header back to Oxley was too short and Nadesan pounced on the ball and was only stopped by the onrushing Town keeper who raced from his goal.
The home side then introduced Academy prospect Rafiq Khaleel in place of skipper Telford before Foulds had a headed effort at goal from Thomson’s corner.
With the clock ticking down Oteh had a golden opportunity to seal his hat-trick and only a smart save from Oxley, Town’s stand out player, denied him the match ball.
And to make matters worse, with time ticking down both Folarin and Pattison received yellow cards before Sims was shown a red car for throwing the ball at Nadesan who impeded him taking a throw in.
O’Connor bundled the ball home from Armstrong’s flick-on deep into injury time but it was too little too late on a disappointing afternoon for Town.
The defeat saw Crawley reduce the gap to Town to six points with two games in hand as the sides now head into the final quarter of the season.
CRAWLEY: Addai, Gordon, Conroy, Mutch (Spong, 86), Tilley (Fellows, 60), Powell, Nadesan, Francilette, Telford, (Khaleel, 77), Oteh, Mazeed.
Substitutes: Schofield, Mason, Johnson, Roles.
Booked: Nadesan (25), Tilley (32), Powell (36), Gordon (83)
Goals: Oteh (8, 43), Mutch (68)
TOWN: Oxley, Falkingham (Folarin, 80), Olaigbe, Sims, O’Connor, Pattison, Sutton (Thomson, 60), Muldoon (Daly, 60), Armstrong, Foulds, Eastman.
Substitutes: Giles, Mattock, Burrell, Grant.
Booked: Folarin (87), Pattison (88).
Sent off: Sims (90)
Goals: O’Connor (90+5