ounty manager Mike Flynn was forced to register himself as a player for the trip to the Crawley Town due to squad shortages but was powerless to stop a very cultured home performance that handed the Exiles a 4-1 defeat; their first in seven matches.
David Pipe, Charlie Cooper, Josh Sheehan and Antoine Semenyo came in for Matt Dolan, Tyler Forbes and the injured duo Tyreeq Bakinson and Robbie Willmott. They joined other absentees Andrew Crofts, Keanu Marsh-Brown and Mark O’Brien on the injured list.
In a time where early goals regularly feature in County matches, it took just 58 seconds for the home side to take the lead as Joe Maguire got onto the end of a Lewis Young cross from the right and tucked the ball into the corner. Young, Filipe Morais and Luke Gambin (twice) all tested Joe Day in the first period, a half in which most of the good play came from Crawley.
On 25 minutes, the lively Gambin repeatedly beat his man and stood a testing ball up to the back post but Joe Maguire couldn’t add to his tally, heading wide from a matter of yards out. David Pipe was called upon on the half-hour mark to block another goal-bound shot from Gambin who at that point, was simply running the show.
County really struggled to get their passing game going in the first half with the changes to the team visibly bringing their own problems. The Exiles would repeatedly pump long balls up to the front men but the Crawley back line did a good job of marshalling them out of the game. The lack of creativity was on show for all to see and they were simply overrun by a rampant Crawley side.
Ollie Palmer was then sent away after a break from Pantuche Camara but he dragged his shot wide and at that point, just 35 minutes in, Crawley should have been out of sight.
County finally showed signs of life towards the end of the half, though as Antoine Semenyo burst forward and played a neat one-two with Dan Butler just inside the opposition penalty box; his shot was screwed left of the upright and into the side netting.
The visitors were much more assured at the start of the second half. Padraig Amond was well found by Josh Sheehan in the centre of the goal but the Irishman was flagged offside. Jamille Matt was then sent through one-on-one but his attempt was saved down low by Glenn Morris – had he gone down under the forthcoming challenge, he would have almost certainly been awarded a penalty.
Minutes later though, just before the hour mark, County got their reward. After a bit of a melee in the box, Matt turned and sent a deflected shot into the corner of the net. It was nothing more than they deserved for their early pressure, but parity would only last a few minutes.
Crawley top scorer Ollie Palmer latched onto a ball into the box, where Mickey Demetriou and Fraser Franks both had attempts at tackling him; Demetriou took Palmer’s leg away and referee Charles Breakspear correctly pointed to the spot. Filipe Morais stepped up and sent Joe Day the wrong way to make it 2-1. It got worse for the Amber Army as five minutes later, top scorer Ollie Palmer got onto the end of a cross from the left to the back post and headed in for 3-1, a scoreline which flattered given the second half performance but on the balance of the game, was probably about right.
Substitute Ashley Nathaniel-George got in on the act on 80 minutes as he was afforded too much room to run into and he dispatched a right-footed shot into the corner to make it 4-1 and this was followed shortly after by a straight red card for Fraser Franks for a dangerous tackle on Nathaniel-George on the halfway line as the afternoon went from bad, to worse, to nightmare in the space of around 15 minutes.
Crawley boss Gabriele Coiffi spoke in his programme notes about the need to be together as they have gone through indifferent recent form, having lost three of their last five league games and a narrow 1-0 defeat to Portsmouth in the Checkatrade Trophy in midweek. This performance will certainly give the Italian reason to be proud; they were assured on the ball, proactive when going forward and generally dominant all over the pitch.
As for County, Mike Flynn certainly has a lot to think about before Tuesday night's trip to Bury. Injuries mounting prior to the game – such that he himself is now a registered player – and now an extra man light for Tuesday night, and a further two matches, after Fraser Franks’ red card. The strength of the midfield certainly needs to improve moving forward, as does the amount and quality of ‘”proper football” being played rather than launching longs balls over the top. The only positive? County scored.
Man of the Match: None.