Crawley Town got their festive fixtures off to the worst possible start with a 2-1 defeat at home to Port Vale this afternoon.
There was little pre-Christmas cheer at The Checkatrade.com Stadium as first-half goals from Michael Brown and Louis Dodds heaped more woe on Reds’ emerging relegation scrap.
Frustrated Crawley fans saw Gavin Tomlin miss a penalty early in the second half, while a late consolation from Conor Henderson a minute from time wasn’t enough to prevent the home side suffering their second consecutive defeat in League One.
The result sees them remain two points above the relegation places just ahead of Colchester and Yeovil and without a win in their last seven league games.
Reds made two changes from the side that lost late on at Bristol last week as Marvin Elliott and Ryan Dickson returned for Lanre Oyebanjo, who missed out with a calf injury, and Keith Keane, who has returned to Preston after his loan spell.
Crawley were without Izale McLeod who was serving the second of a three-match ban, while Gwion Edwards remained sidelined after his hernia operation at the start of the month and Josh Simpson’s troublesome hamstring has ruled him out until the new year.
Port Vale made three changes from their 2-0 defeat at home to Coventry last week as Louis Dodds, Michael O’Connor and Richard Duffy came into the starting line-up for Chris Robertson, Ryan McGivern and Colin Daniel.
The visitors had the first effort on target after four minutes as a mistake by Dean Leacock allowed Danny N’Guessan through, but he was thwarted by Lewis Price at the near post.
A minute later, Price was again down well to deny Dodds as the Vale man drove into the box.
Crawley’s first effort came from a free kick just outside the D after a good build-up, but Jimmy Smith’s low effort crashed straight into the wall.
On 19 minutes, Price fumbled a strong effort from Brown and Joe Walsh raceed in to poke the ball out for a corner with Ben Williamson arriving for the follow up.
Two minutes later at the other end, Sonny Bradley headed just over the bar from a Lewis Young cross.
Vale took the lead on the half-hour mark as N’Guessan latched onto a ball over the top and after a couple of step-overs in the box, picked out the arriving Brown, who finished wonderfully into the far, top corner from 16 yards.
Crawley looked to respond immediately as good work from Dickson gave Miller an opening, but Chris Neal saved and then claimed the ball from the on-loan striker’s effort.
The visitors extended their lead three minutes before half-time as Dodds netted his first goal of the season after neat play from a disputed throw inside the Reds’ half.
Dodds collected the ball and played a neat one-two on the edge of the box, turning sharply in the process and although Price blocked his first effort the midfielder raced in to smash home the follow-up.
Crawley boss John Gregory replaced Ashley Young with Matt Harrold at half-time to try and spur his side into life in the final third as they switched to a 4-3-3 formation.
The home fans quickly lost their patience in the second half after a harsh booking on Miller and what they felt was a numerous bits of time wasting from the visitors.
The first chance of the half saw Dickson’s long-range effort held by Neal after a free kick fell to him 30-yards out, while at the other end, Price was equal to Williamson’s turn and shot.
Crawley were handed a chance to get back in the game on 61 minutes from the penalty spot as Elliott went down in the box after colliding with O’Connor, but Neal guessed the right way and pushed away Tomlin’s spot kick.
Vale’s Mark Marshall then fired just wide at the other end with the goal at his mercy which would have put the game to bed.
As the game became stretched, Price thwarted N’Guessan on 73 minutes after he skipped past Leacock at the back and went through one on one.
Substitute Henderson pulled back a late consolation for the hosts on 89 minutes as he riffled a left-footed effort into the bottom corner from outside the box, but Vale held out for the three points.
It now leaves Reds needing a much-needed present of three points away to strugglers Leyton Orient on Boxing Day.
Crawley: Price, Dickson, Leacock, Walsh, Bradley (Henderson 78), Bawling, Smith, Elliott, Young (Harrold 45), Tomlin, Miller. Unused subs: Jensen, Banya, O’Connor, Richefond, Isaacs.
Port Vale: Neal, Yates, Dickinson, Duffy, Veseli, Dodds, Brown, O’Connor (Robertson 84), Marshall, N’Guessan, Williamson (Birchall 90). Unused subs: Boot, Moore, Lloyd, Nimely, Campion.
Attendance: 2,320 (183 away).
Referee: Tim Robinson.