Jubilant Crawley see off Gillingham
The Reds came from behind to take all three points at The Checkatrade.com Stadium
Crawley's newly named The Checkatrade.com Stadium played host to a League One fixture that had a penalty, red cards and plenty of goals; all elements that provided an entertaining spectacle.
It was Crawley who were on the front foot first; a lofted through ball was just out of the reach of Gary Alexander, however the ball was put back into the path of the striker who's shot from close range was blocked by an outstanding save from Gillingham's Stuart Nelson.
The Reds should have been given the opportunity to take the lead from a spot kick as a trailing hand from Leon Legge deflected the ball behind for a corner. Unfortunately the referee thought different of the decision.
Despite this setback Crawley continued to threaten as a tempting cross from James Hurst was met by the head of Alexander whose shot was yet again saved by Nelson.
Five minutes later was arguable the Reds easiest chance of the half; Billy Clarke was surprised to find himself through on goal as a misjudged through ball floated over the top of the Gillingham defence, however Clarke's curling effort was beaten away by the keeper who was at full stretch.
Gillingham's first real threat of the game came through first-half substitute Myles Weston. Nearing the end of the first half the ball was neatly laid into the path of the forward, but the striker could only drag the shot wide.
Both teams went in level at the break; mainly thanks to Gillingham's keeper Stuart Nelson.
The second half was definitely the more dramatic of the two halves, and it didn't take long for the drama to start. Two minutes into the second half and an ill-judged tackle by Kyle McFadzean left the referee pointing to the spot.
Danny Kedwell, the victim of the tackle, took the subsequent penalty and blasted in past town keeper Paul Jones.
Crawley clearly knew they didn't deserve to be trailing as they turned up the work rate with neat passing play moves.
However a bizarre decision left many fans, players and even Alexander himself wondering why a red card was brandished. A tussle for the ball between Alexander and Gills' defender Legge ended up with the ball going out for a Gillingham throw-in.
However Legge then went to the floor grasping his back and rolling around, it looked more of a simulation rather than a legitimate injury and it was clear that the crowd thought the same as they began to boo the defender for wasting time.
The referee however thought differently as he signalled Alexander over, who was now far away from the whole ordeal, and brandished the player with a red card.
It was clear Alexander had not fouled or at least intended to foul the defender as he and the rest of the Crawley players were surprised that such a decision had been made. Defender Legge was quite happy to continue.
The drama continued as two minutes later another red was shown. This time for Gillingham. Nicky Adams collapsed to the floor after Charlie Lee seemed to push the midfielder.
To the delight of the Crawley fans the defender received a second warning leading to him seeing red. It was a bit of a soft yellow to give, but it seemed the Referee was influenced by the previous decision he had just given.
The subsequent free kick was whipped in by Andy Drury who found defender Kyle McFadzean unmarked in the box, the defender made no mistake as he fired into the net from six-yards out. Somehow forward Billy Clarke managed to pick up a booking in the build up to the free kick.
By this time the crowd were completely behind the Sussex side helping the Reds to keep pressing forward.
Ten minutes later and Crawley had the ball in the back of the net again due to another set piece. Bradley Dack brought down skipper Josh Simpson 20-yards out from goal.
Midfielder Adams whipped in a curling effort from the free kick which hit the crossbar and fell to the grateful feet of Clarke who was able to tuck home from six-yards out.
Three minutes later the fourth goal of the game went in, from another set piece!
A corner to the front-post was stabbed into the back of the net by Legge from just in front of Paul Jones.
Crawley could well have been in the lead a minute later as Drury's side-footed shot from inside the box was turned into the path of Clarke who somehow managed to miss the ball allowing it to peter out for a goal kick.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes Billy Clarke made up for the chance he missed minutes before as he made a neat run past Adam Barrett and unleashed a swerving shot on his weaker foot from 18 yards out that found the top corner of the goal and left Stuart Nelson in goal beaten.
Crawley could have made it four a few minutes later as Adams' volley forced Nelson to beat it out to Simpson who put it straight back at the keeper.
As the game began to reach the dying embers McFadzean can thank his keeper for saving a certain goal and the blushes as the defender headed the ball onto his own post, and if it wasn't for the quick reaction save of Paul Jones the game well could have ended in a stalemate.
Crawley were well worth the three points in the end and very much deserved it.
After the game Reds manager Richie Barker said: "I thought we were the best side, we should have won the game more comfortably. It's a great finish by Billy to win the game.
"The mentality of my players to carry on doing the right things even down to 10 men was superb. The players showed a good mental desire."
Crawley's next game is against Shrewsbury back at the Checkatrade.com Stadium next Saturday (September 14).
Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here: http://gms.to/130seMa
DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.