Crawley Town were left to rue two calamitous first half goals in today’s 2-0 defeat at Tranmere in League One.
A scrappy David Amoo opener and then a Paul Jones own goal secured the points for top-of-the-table Tranmere, who at times looked suspect under Crawley pressure.
But the closest Richie Barker’s men came to scoring saw keeper Owain Fon Williams save from Gary Alexander, Mike Jones, Billy Clarke and Josh Simpson, in what was an encouraging performance despite the scoreline, which saw them drop to tenth in the table.
After a low-key start, Alexander fired Crawley’s first effort over from 18 yards, and Billy Clarke’s deflected shot was comfortably gathered by Owain Fon Williams in the Rovers goal, who also saved from Alexander after Tranmere’s Liam Palmer headed straight at Paul Jones at the other end.
The Reds pressed high up the pitch and had the hosts rattled, although Rovers did look potent on the break, through David Amoo, the former Liverpool frontman, who teed-up Max Power for a shot which flew well over.
Crawley’s work ethic was causing problems, but it was the hosts who went ahead, albeit in scrappy fashion.
Liam Palmer’s header caused havoc and after the ball pinged around the Reds’ six-yard area, Amoo pounced to prod home a debut goal.
Crawley responded well though, and when Mike Jones’ shot proved too hot to handle, Billy Clarke followed-up only to be denied by a combination of Ash Taylor and the post. And from the resulting corner, Alexander diverted Dannie Bulman’s narrowly wide.
But seconds later Tranmere doubled their lead, with another fortuitous goal. A counter-attack saw left-back Zoumana Bakayogo get forward and his looping cross floated over keeper Paul Jones who could only bundle the ball into his own net after it came back off the far post.
Tranmere rattled the woodwork again during the opening exchanges of the second half as Ash Taylor’s stinging volley hit the underside of the bar, and thankfully for Paul Jones this time bounced to safety.
At the other end, Nicky Adams curled a free kick wide, and Bulman fired over from range, but Crawley found the Tranmere defence well organised, if slightly jittery under pressure.
Reds started to apply considerable pressure around the hour mark, with Owain Fon Williams saving well from Josh Simpson as the visitors built-up a head of steam.
Barker gave new boy Matt Sparrow, signed on a free from Brighton, a debut and also threw Lateef Elford-Alliyu and Jonte Smith into the fray as Reds attempted to capitalise on those encouraging moments.
But despite the attacking line-up, Reds had to remain alert as Adam McGurk and Amoo both curled efforts well wide.
Greater urgency crept in during the final ten minutes, as Clarke’s low shot was turned behind by Fon Williams, but Reds were unable to force a way through.
Crawley Town: Paul Jones, David Hunt, Joe Walsh, Mark Connolly, Mat Sadler, Dannie Bulman, Nicky Adams, Mike Jones, Josh Simpson, Billy Clarke, Gary Alexander.
Subs: Michel Kuipers, Shaun Cooper, Sergio Torres, Matt Sparrow (on for Bulman 67), Lateef Elford-Alliyu (on for Adams 67), John Akinde, Jonte Smith (on for M Jones 75)
Tranmere Rovers: Owain Fon Williams, Danny Holmes, Ash Taylor, Donervorn Daniels, Zoumana Bakayogo, Adam McGurk, Liam Palmer, Max Power, Andy Robinson, David Amoo, Michael O’Halloran.
Subs: Paul Black, Ian Goodison, Danny Harrison (on for McGurk 75), Cole Stockton, Abdulai Bell-Baggie, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro (on for Robinson 67), Jason Mooney.