Matt Tubbs was Crawley’s saviour yet again with a 92nd minute equaliser to rescue a late point against a plucky Stevenage side.
The on-loan Bournemouth striker made up for an earlier penalty miss by firing home his sixth goal in six Crawley games as John Gregory’s side only just made it seven games unbeaten.
Reds had been woeful in the opening 45 minutes and struggling Stevenage should have been more than the one goal up at the break after Bira Dembele’s header.
Credit to the way Crawley improved after half-time changes and their late point moves them up a place to 13th in the League One table.
John Gregory shuffled his pack from the weekend win over Peterborough with four changes. In came Billy Clarke after his two-game suspension, along with Andy Drury in midfield. Paul Connolly and Hiram Boateng were handed their full Reds debuts, for on-loan Palace teenager Boateng it was a first appearance in the Football League
The game’s first chance arrived after ten minutes and was a good one for the visitors. Reds left back Mat Sadler gave the ball away to Michael Doughty and the midfielder, who had a loan spell at Crawley, bundled down the right and picked out Francis Zoko, who could only shoot weakly at Paul Jones when he should really have scored.
Stevenage carved out an even clearer chance ten minutes later when Kyle McFadzean failed to properly clear and a header back put Akins in the clear but Reds keeper Paul Jones was out to make the save.
Boro though kept the pressure on and from a corner Dembele too easily out-jumped Sadler to glance a header into the bottom corner to put Graham Westley’s side ahead on 22 minutes.
Having taken the lead Westley shifted his formation from 4-5-1 to a more attacking 4-4-2 with Akins pushed up alongside Zoko in attack.
And with Reds struggling to string a pass together it so nearly worked when Freeman burst through a gaping hole in the middle of midfield and slipped in Akins, who looked destined to double the lead only for Sadler to get in a vital block.
Crawley were a shambles from midfield right through to the back, and a mistake from McFadzean let in Akins again but he didn’t get hold of his shot.
Reds had been completely overrun in the middle in the opening 45 minutes so it was no surprise to see 18 year old Boateng replaced by Dannie Bulman at the break, with skipper Josh Simpson also replaced by striker Jamie Proctor.
The hosts immediately looked more comfortable from the restart and a Drury flick on sent Tubbs bursting through the middle, but defender Jon Ashton got back to cover and as Tubbs went down screaming for a penalty a foul was given the other way.
It was all Reds for the opening 20 minutes but Boro packed their box to prevent a clear sight at goal. That was until Proctor ran purposely at the defence before playing a one-two with Mike Jones, and he drilled a shot through a crowd which missed the far post where Tubbs was just a yard away from tapping in.
Both the changes were making a real difference, Proctor in particular as Reds looks much more of an attacking and his curling cross from the right in behind the defence was begging to be finished but Clarke, from a tough angle blazed over.
The match had well and truly swung in Crawley’s favour and with 15 minutes remaining they were given the chance to equalise from the penalty spot when Dembele was adjudged to have hauled down Proctor in the area. Tubbs, gunning for a hat-trick of penalties after being successful against Walsall and Peterborough, slammed it down the middle and Day kept it out with his legs.
And how Reds didn’t make amends five minutes later when Reds won possession and men steamed forward. Bulman cutback for Mike Jones, who scuffed his shot but straight to Proctor waiting on the six yard line, but instead of bury the ball in the net he almost passed it straight back to Day.
The glaring chances were racking up when Jones’s low cross came all the way to Tubbs ten yards out but he hacked over with his left.
At the other end Paul Jones’s blushes were spared when he came out and completed missed a clearance, the covering Mark Connolly cleared.
It looked like Crawley’s chances of salvaging anything from the game had gone, but in injury time McFadzean flicked on a long punt and Tubbs made up for that penalty miss by smashing the ball past Day to rescue Reds a point.
REDS: Paul Jones, Mat Sadler, Paul Connolly, Mark Connolly, Kyle McFadzean; Josh Simpson (Proctor 45), Mike Jones, Hiram Boateng (Bulman 45), Andy Drury; Billy Clarke, Matt Tubbs.
Subs: Sergio Torres, Jamie Proctor, Dannie Bulman, Sullay Kaikai, Alex Malins, Jonny Maddison, Gary Dicker.
BORO: Chris Day, Bira Dembele, Jon Ashton, John Mousinho (Wedgbury 57), Darius Charles (L Jones 77), Lucas Akins, Francis Zoko, Luke Freeman, Jimmy Smith, Curtis Obeng, Michael Doughty (Parrett 76).
Subs: Steve Arnold, Sam Wedgbury, Luke Jones, Jordan Burrow, Dean Parrett, Peter Hartley, Roarie Deacon.