Crawley Town were beaten 2-0 by Championship side Brighton and Hove Albion in a pre-season thriller that kept a far from packed stadium entertained.
The Reds went into their third pre-season game against Championship opposition with a strong line-up. All 11 players were first team regulars last season with none of the academy prospects featuring in the game at all.
The game took a while to fall into any kind of shape with very low tempo football being played. However in the 19th minute Albion forward George Barker was shown a clean sight of goal, but as it seemed he was about to slot the ball past Paul Jones, an outstanding sliding tackle from Reds' centre-back Kyle McFadzean prevented the shot from threatening Jones.
There was spells of neat one-touch football from both sides but neither side seemed to have the quality in the final third to test either keeper.
Barker who was previously denied a goal earlier on in the match leaped at the opportunity to tap in from very close range as a Kazenga LuaLua low cross into the box pinged around before falling to the grateful feet of the striker to slot home in the 32nd minute.
Crawley fans had little to be excited about as very few chances had fallen for them but a few minutes before half time a cross which was neatly touched down by Jamie Proctor allowed Nicky Adams to release a shot only to see the body of Lewis Dunk divert it behind for a corner.
At half time Brighton changed things around with Ashley Barnes being replaced by teenager Solomon March and Tomasz Kuszczak who had very little to do was replaced by Peter Brezovan in goal.
One minute into the second half and Crawley could well have been level; Nicky Adams cross drifted nicely to the head of Proctor who could only watch as a superb reaction save from Brezovan turned the ball behind for a corner.
The Reds could yet again have been level as Adams' low free kick fell to the feet of Billy Clarke who slotted the ball neatly past the sprawling keeper. But celebrations were cut short as the goal was ruled offside.
Minutes before the hour mark Brighton were awarded a penalty. Two blocked shots on the edge of the box led to a late tackle from Matt Sadler on Barnes just inside the box. The subsequent penalty was tucked into the bottom right hand corner by Andrew Crofts; just evading the gloves of Jones.
Brighton could have added to their goal tally but were denied by what can only be described as a world class save from Paul Jones in the Crawley goal. Liam Bridcutt's piledriver from the edge of the box was tipped onto the crossbar by Jones' fingertips as the keeper was at full stretch.
Heading into the final 10 minutes Crawley upped their game. Mike Jones' 25 yard dipping shot rattled the bar; leaving Brezovan rooted to his spot as he watched helplessly. Crawley fans were left clutching their heads.
Reds' fans were given a glimmer of hope of taking something away from the game as an 86th minute dipping shot from Proctor nearly found its way past the full-stretch Brezovan, but the striker could only hold his head in frustration as the shot dipped over the bar into the netting.
Reds will feel yet again feel hard done by as they deserved at least a draw for their efforts. However Richie Barker will be pleased with the effort his team put in.
Reds: P. Jones; Hurst (Connolly), Essam, McFadzean, Salder (Walsh); M. Jones, Bulman, Simpson, Adams; Clarke, Proctor.
The next game for Crawley is this coming Saturday against Premier League side Crystal Palace at the Broadfield Stadium. Kick off 3pm.
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