The post Richie Barker era began in disappointing fashion with a late defeat away at strugglers Crewe, who were forced to play for most of the second half with ten men.
On-loan Arsenal youngster Chuks Aneke came off the bench to nod home the winner with his very first touch in what was one of Crewe’s only chances of a match Reds largely dominated.
Jamie Proctor had hit the bar in the first half and after Alex had seen Vadine Oliver sent off for a second booking for diving the visitors had a flurry of chances before Crewe pounced late on to end a run of four straight defeats.
Sub Andy Drury missed a glaring chance in the 90th minute as Crawley made it more then four hours without a League One goal and have taken only two points from their last eight matches to slide down the table to 14th.
Interim duo Gary Alexander and Martin Hinshelwood named a 4-4-2 formation with Emile Sinclair and Proctor partnering each other in attack, Joe Walsh back in the side at centre back and Mark Connolly pushed to right back.
The game’s first effort on target saw a neat spin from Crewe winger Byron Moore to get away from his man and he had a go himself but from 20 yards Reds stopper Paul Jones easily gathered.
With 15 minutes gone Billy Clarke won a free kick right on the edge of the D and he took it himself, curling only just wide of the top corner with his left foot.
Moments later Proctor was played in behind the Alex defence but a defender got back to deflect his effort at goal out for a corner.
With 31 minutes gone Reds came the width of the woodwork from going in front. Striker Jamie Proctor beat Adam Dugdale before cutting inside to find a yard of space to strike at goal and his effort clattered off the crossbar with Neil Etheridge well beaten.
The game had well and truly livened up and at the other end winger Byron Moore this time cut in from the left but he was tracked well by Walsh, whose challenge took the sting out of his shot, deflecting it out for a corner.
A minute before half-time Crewe carved out by far their best chance. Moore centred the ball and Kelvin Mellor had slipped in between the Reds centre backs but nodded a free header down and just wide of the far post.
At the start of the second half Sinclair picked Harry Davis’s pockets in his own area and laid it to Adams, who ran across the edge of the box and fired straight down the throat of Etheridge.
Alex striker Oliver had already been booked right at the start of the second half for a late foul on Adams, and ten minutes later he earned himself a second and an early bath. Walsh made the challenge on him inside the box and with the home crowd screaming for a penalty, referee Adcock immediately blew his whistle but to their dismay sent the Crewe player off.
Clarke then beat a man down the left and had a shot saved by Etheringham and Jamie Proctor just couldn’t reach the loose ball.
As the 60 minute mark ticked up it mean Crawley had gone four hours without a league goal
Looking to change that, Proctor instantly controlled an Adams cross in the box and looked odds on to score only for home defender Davis to get in a crucial block.
Crewe midfielder George Evans then took his turn to get in a vital block on sub Drury from Clarke’s pullback as Red continued to press forward.
The desperate home resistance continued with a stunning goal-saving challenge on the line from Adam Dugdale to deny Mat Sadler a certain goal at the back post.
Before this game Crewe had conceded 40 goals from 18 league games, the highest in the division, and it was only through sheer determination that that tally wasn’t added to.
Up to this point the hosts had hardly had a sniff, but that all changed in the 81st minute. Aneke had only been on the pitch three minutes when, with his first touch the on-loan Arsenal attacker gambled on a cross which deflected straight to him and from seven yards he nodded past Paul Jones to send the home fans into rapture.
In the 90th minute sub Drury missed a golden chance to snatch a point for Reds when he nodded high over the bar from six yards having been picked out unmarked by Adams.
ALEX (4-4-2): Etheridge; Tootle, Mellor, Dugdale, Davis; Moore, Osman, Evans, Bangna; Hitchock (Aneke 78), Oliver (Off 55).
Unused: Garrett, Ellis, Leitch-Smith, Guthrie, Nolan, Waters.
REDS (4-4-2): P Jones; Sadler, Connolly (Hurst 80), McFadzean, Walsh; Bulman, Simpson (M Jones 65), Adams, Clarke; Proctor, Sinclair (Drury 65).
Unused: Torres, Alexander, Smith, Maddison.