Reds battled to a 1-0 victory over Championship opposition Reading in front of 1,288-strong crowd at the Checkatrade.com Stadium.
Midfielder Conor Henderson’s long-range effort with ten minutes to spare was enough to seal a well-earned victory for the home side.
The Royals were Crawley’s third opponents from second tier of English football in just over a week, and of these tough tests this will arguably be the most pleasing performance for Mark Yates.
The manager would have taken positives from all over pitch, following a clean sheet and an attack that chased down every ball in the final third.
Sonny Bradley wore the captain’s armband and put in a commanding performance. The centre-back led by example and was first to every challenge, building a defensive platform from which the back four were able to play as a unit.
The home side started with two trialists in the full back positions, after deploying midfielders in those positions over the past few weeks. Durrell Berry and Brian Van De Bogaert played well from the off and made a real difference to the defensive shape, adding width to Bradley and Joe McNerney’s partnership at the back.
In the middle of the park Luke Rooney, Simon Walton and Jimmy Smith looked as though they had been playing as a trio for the past few seasons. Walton was used in the most defensive role as a pivot, which allowed Rooney to advance forward and be instrumental in the home side’s attacking play.
Crawley’s best effort of the first half came from Smith, who curled a shot from 18-yards. Ali Al-Habsi showed his Premier League experience getting a strong wrist and parrying the ball out of the path of the on-running Lee Barnard, who was looking to get his first goal for the club.
The visitors barely worked Callum Preston in goal, with the only scare coming just before half time. Orlando Sa latched on to a lofted cross and headed across goal to Danny Williams, whose effort came crashing off the bar.
Roarie Deacon was a real threat for Reds and looked dangerous every time he touched the ball. The trialist had the crowd on their feet on numerous occasions with his change of pace, and easily drifted passed left-back Danny Williams throughout the game before coming off on 71 minutes.
There was a return to the Checkatrade.com Stadium for Hope Akpan, however the midfielder did little to worry the home defence after a solid shift from Berry at right-back.
Reds went in front on 80 minutes, when substitute Henderson’s long-range drive was parried into his own net by Reading’s experienced keeper.
As well as the starting XI, all of the substitutes played a key role in the victory, providing bursts of energy as the game went into the latter stages.
Reds: Preston (GK), Berry, Van de Bogaert, Walton, McNerney, Bradley, Smith, Barnard, Rooney, Young, Deacon.
Subs: Edwards (71), Henderson (71), Lennox (GK, 71), Fenelon (71), Ashton (71), Bawling (71), Harrold (71), Edwards, Niheme (71)