Reds signed off their final pre-season game at the Broadfield Stadium with a comfortable win against Premier League newboys Crystal Palace.
Goals from Billy Clarke, Sergio Torres, and a rare strike from Mat Sadler, sealed the 3-0 victory with boss Richie Barker pleased with the win.
“The performance pleased me but we’re not getting carried away,” Barker said.
Reds made five changes to the side that suffered defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion in midweek, with Joe Walsh, Mark Connolly, Sergio Torres, Gary Alexander and fit again Andy Drury, replacing Kyle McFadzean, Connor Essam, Mike Jones, Nicky Adams and Jamie Proctor.
Palace’s starting XI included seven of the team which played in last season’s play-off Final victory over Watford, and also included Spain under-20 captain Jose Campana and recent £6m signing Dwight Gayle in the team.
The visitors began the brightest with Damien Delaney seeing his header slip just wide of Paul Jones’ right-hand post. Stephen Dobbie’s drive also deflected just wide inside the opening five minutes.
Crawley’s first real chance came from Billy Clarke; Mat Sadler’s cross was dummied by Gary Alexander, Clarke’s snapshot saw him test Julian Speroni, who collected at the second attempt.
After 20 minutes, Mark Connolly was caught by Gayle, and, despite having Aaron Wilbraham in support, Palace’s record signing let fly and stung the palms of Jones.
Wilbraham shot straight at Jones, before the Reds’ ‘keeper did excellently to deny Jerome Thomas when one-on-one with the former West Brom winger, tipping his effort around the left-hand post.
Soon after, Reds took the lead; Good work from Alexander allowed the striker get to the byline, and after Torres’ effort was blocked, Clarke was on hand to slot past Speroni.
Barker’s side were full of confidence and after Josh Simpson’s volley flashed just over Speroni’s crossbar, Eagles’ skipper Mile Jedinak saw his strike deflect off Connolly and fly narrowly past Jones’ left-hand post, as Reds went in with a half-time lead.
After the break, substitute Jamie Proctor saw two efforts kept out by Speroni, while at the other end, Palace replacements Quincy Owusu-Abeyie and Yannick Bolasie both had efforts off target
Crawley seemed comfortable, with new signing Hurst pushing forward at every opportunity, the right back seeing his effort saved by substitute Ross Fitzimons.
Simpson and Hurst had chances to extend the lead, but Ian Holloway saw his side go 2-0 down when Torres reacted quickest to nod home after another Hurst strike wasn’t held by Fitzsimons.
Reds kept Palace at bay for the final 15 minutes of the game, Sadler adding gloss to the scoreline in the 87th minute with a superb volley after an excellent lofted pass from Drury, who was at the heart of everything Reds did well.
After the game, a delighted Barker was pleased with a comprehensive win.
“We’re where we want to be at the moment,” the Reds boss said.
“We took too many touches in the first 20 minutes but when the rain came down we moved it quicker. For Crawley Town to beat Crystal Palace, with some of the players we’ve left out, the likes of Michael Jones, Nicky Adams, Kyle McFadzean and Connor Essam, to still do what we’ve done, I think, is excellent.
“We want to keep improving and we want people to be entertained. Some people have given me a headache over the last five days.”
Looking ahead to Wednesday’s local friendly against Three Bridges, Reds final match before next Saturday’s opening League 1 game against Coventry City, Barker confirmed it would be a mixture of players travelling to Jubilee Field.
“Predominantly it will be younger pros and couple of trialists. A few of the younger lads who played for us in pre-season will also get the chance as well.”
REDS: P. Jones, Hurst, Sadler, Connolly, Clarke (Proctor, 46), Torres, Alexander, Drury (M. Jones, 88), Simpson (c), Walsh, Bulman (Wills, 46)
UNUSED: McFadzean, Essam, Adams, Adekunle, Malins, Maddison