Saunders’ tenure at Crawley starts with a point

Crawley Town's Gwion Edwards in action at Gillingham earlier in the season (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Crawley Town's Gwion Edwards in action at Gillingham earlier in the season (Pic by Jon Rigby)

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New interim boss Dean Saunders secured a point in his first game in charge of Crawley Town in a goalless draw with Colchester United this afternoon.

An injury- ravaged Reds were forced to play with a makeshift defence in the League One relegation clash, but the backline was led well by captain Joe Walsh as a point was enough the lift them out of the bottom four.

The result ended a run of three straight defeats for the home side, but they still remain without a win in the last eight.

Reds had somewhat of an injury crises with Lanre Oyebanjo, Dean Leacock, Sonny Bradley, Ryan Dickson and Josh Simpson all out, and three of the back four playing out of position in Marvin Elliott, Bobson Bawling and Lewis Young.

Jimmy Smith and Conor Henderson started in central midfield and Shaun Miller was deployed out wide again. One huge positive was the return of top goal scorer Izale McLeod, who partnered Matt Harrold in a two-pronged Crawley attack.

Young’s defensive capabilities were tested early on as Freddie Sears flicked the ball on to Sammie Szmodics, but the stand-in full-back was back well to tackle on the edge of the box on eight minutes.

Less than a minute later, Colchester were on the attack again and it was all too easy as the galloped forwards and George Moncur’s effort from just outside the box hit Brian Jensen’s right-hand upright.

While Young was looking solid an right-back, on the left Bobson Bawling was allowing Elliott Hewitt plenty of space and his low cross picked out an unmarked Sears, but a heavy touch allowed Walsh to clear.

On 15 minutes, Gavin Massie arrived at the back of the area and crashed David Fox’s free kick into the side netting.

After a couple of half chances earlier on, McLeod was teed-up on the edge of the box by Harrold, but his shot was blocked away.

Colchester had the ball in the net on 32 minutes as they broke the Crawley line and Sears’ deflected shot looped over Jensen and hit the bar, but the follow up by Szmodics was ruled out for offside.

Henderson hit a free kick over the bar at the start of the second half, before, at the other end, Jensen beat away a Sears effort at the near post.

On 54 minutes, Sears hit the post again this time with a 22-yard curling effort that was just wide of a full-stretch Jensen, but hit the inside of the upright and came back out.

Half-time substitute Gavin Tomlin’s link-up play boosted Reds in the second half and he couldn’t sort his feet as a Henderson corner fell to him at the far post on 70 minutes.

Reds survived a flurry of late Colchester corners but defended resolutely including hooking a late effort off the line, but they failed to muster one shot on target in the whole 90 minutes.

Crawley: Jensen, Young, Walsh, Elliott, Bawling, Edwards (Banya 78), Henderson, Smith, Miller, Harrold (Tomlin 45), McLeod. Unused subs: O’Connor, Richefond, Isaacs.

Colchester: Walker, Clohessy, Gorkss, Eastman, Gordon (Kpekawa 78), Fox, Moncur, Szmodics, Massey, Hewitt (Watt 74), Sears. Unused subs: Lewington, Eastmond, Healey, Bonnie, Lapslie,

Referee: Pat Miller.

Attendance: 2,056 (195 away).