Izale McLeod’s second-half goal saw Crawley Town pinch all three points from an entertaining encounter with Fleetwood Town this afternoon.
The hard-working hosts had been second best for much of the afternoon, but ended their four-game losing run in League One thanks to McLeod’s strike 12 minutes from time.
Chance had been at a premium for the Reds in the second half, but McLeod’s cheeky chip over Chris Maxwell in the 78th-minute, after he burst into the box onto Jimmy Smith’s pass, was enough to separate the two sides.
Promoted Fleetwood, who had made an impressive start to the season, will wonder how they failed to take anything from the game after having more and the better of the chances.
Reds made five changes thanks to bolstering their numbers during the week as they attempted to respond to last week’s 4-0 mauling by Rochdale.
Keith Keane and Josh Wright lined up for their debuts, while the returning Mat Sadler also started for the home side.
Gavin Tomlin made the starting 11 along with Josh Walsh, who was fresh back from international duty for Wales’ under-21s.
Both Gwion Edwards (ankle) and Lanre Oyebanjo (thigh), however, missed out owing to injury.
Fleetwood raced out the blocks and had the first chance after just a minute as Stephen Dobbie headed Matty Blair’s cross straight at Brian Jensen from close range.
The hosts grew into the game with plenty of link-up play between Jimmy Smith, Wright and Gavin Tomlin, but with the final ball was lacking, Fleetwood stopper Chris Maxwell had little to do.
At the other end, a Fleetwood break on 22 minutes saw Gareth Evans drive into the box, but Jensen was down well to stop and smother his low effort.
On the half-hour mark, Dobbie had a golden chance to out the hosts ahead after a neat one-two between him and Jamie Proctor put him through one-on-one with Jensen.
The striker, however, scuffed his shot and Jensen made a comfortable save.
Crawley’s best chance of the half saw McLeod cross again after a corner and Joe Walsh was one of three players to spring the offside trap, but he somehow put his free-header wide from five yards.
Fleetwood again broke and Proctor let fly from range to strike the post, before Conor McLaughlin brought himself a yard in the box and fired across goal and wide.
Reds shouts for a penalty were also waved away on the stroke of half-time as McLeod went down under pressure from Nathan Pond, with McLeod suggesting a shove, but neither referee Bredan Malone or his well-placed assistant were interested.
Fleetwood continued where they left off after the break as Steven Schumacher’s effort flew narrowly wide, before Jensen made a fine stop as Crawley made a mess of defending a quick free kick.
The stopper deflected the ball onto the roof of the net from Dobbie’s shot after a neat Proctor dummy.
The home side huffed and puffed in the second half and knocked the ball around nicely at times, but lacked the killer final ball which kept their openings at a premium.
One chance saw a deflected effort hit a yellow shirt from McLeod and fall into the grateful arms of Maxwell on 66 minutes.
Fleetwood substitute David Ball then fired across goal, before at the other end, McLeod put an effort into the side netting.
Reds, however, found themselves ahead in the 78th minute as McLeod chipped over Maxwell from close range after a lovely return pass by Jimmy Smith.
Fleetwood went in search of a leveller and a dangerous cross flew across the goalmouth soon after, but the Crawley back line held strong, especially in a tense five minutes of added time.
Despite a less-than-convincing display, the results lifts Crawley to 12th ahead of their trip to Doncaster on Tuesday.
Crawley: Jensen; Smith, Leacock, Walsh, Sadler; Tomlin, Henderson, Keane, Dickson; Wright; McLeod. Subs: Ashdown, Bradley, Young (Tomlin 76), Banya, Harrold, Bawling (Henderson 67), Richefond.
Fleetwood: Maxwell, McLaughlin, Jordan, Pond, Crainey, Schumacher, Evans, Morris, Blair, Proctor, Dobbie. Subs: S.Davies, Sarcevic (Dobbie 74), Hogan, Roberts, Ball (Blair 68), Murdoch, M.Hughes.
Full report and reaction from Reds assiatnt boss Paul Groves and debutant Keane in Wednesday’s paper.