Crawley Town fell just short of a record-breaking fifth consecutive home win as they were narrowly beat by ten-man Northampton Town at the Checkatrade.com Stadium tonight.
After a classy first-half showing to take a 2-0 lead, the visitors were pegged back in the second half by a resurgent Crawley as Simon Walton converted a spot-kick after Bredan Moloney was sent off.
But as much a Mark Yates’ side pushed for an equaliser after playing 35 minutes with an extra-man, they could not break down a resilient Cobblers defence.
Both sides went into the clash at the top of the form table in League Two - Reds looking for a fifth straight home win for the first time in the Football League and the Cobblers chasing a sixth win in seven.
Northampton looked as bright on the pitch in the first 45 minutes as their future could now be off it with the debt-plagued club being taken over by former Oxford United chief Kelvin Thomas.
After a soft-looking fifth-minute penalty was eventually headed into the net by Joel Byrom with lady luck seemingly smiling on the club this week, John Joe O’Toole struck before the break, before a Reds fightback which feel just short.
The home side named an unchanged starting XI and bench from Saturday’s win over Bristol Rovers, while the Cobblers made one change from the team that won away at Notts County.
Ryan Cresswell came in at centre-back from Rod McDonald, who was feeling ill and named on the bench. Former Reds winger Nicky Adams also started for the visitors.
The away team had a somewhat fortuitous lead on five minutes as Lawson D’Ath went down softly after cutting back along side Walton, but referee Stephen Martin pointed straight to the penalty spot deeming there had been sufficient contact.
Marc Richards’ spot-kick from 12 yards was then well stopped by Darryl Flahavan, but the onrushing Byrom was first to the follow up and headed high into the net from the middle of the area.
Gwion Edwards, who had started brightly down the left before the opener, produced Reds first real chance on 15 minutes as he broke forwards and his low cross found Matt Harrold, whose effort was blocked for a corner.
Five minutes later, the Cobblers extended their lead as the ball rolled to John Joe O’Toole after a Josh Yorwerth tackle in the box and the central midfielder stroked high past Flahavan from 22 yards.
And they should have had a third on 28 minutes as Adams raced onto a flick on and a Flahavan hand only seemed to put it into the path of Richards, who then inexcusably fired into the side netting from yards out.
Reds’ high line was caught out at right at the start off the second half and the ball was switched to Adams, but his goal-bound effort was headed away by Ashle Young from in front of Flahavan.
Harrold should have got Reds back into it nine minutes after the break as a blocked clearance from deep in the Reds defence put the striker away and he skipped past goalkeeper Adam Smith, but somehow fired into the side netting.
Reds did get a strong foothold on the hour-mark as Moloney was penalised for a tug back as the last man and Martin again pointed to the penalty spot with the defender seeing red.
And the cool Walton made no mistake from the penalty spot for his fourth goal from 12 yards this season.
Reds substitute Shamir Fenelon was then twice denied by Smith first palming back his header from a Deacon cross, then diving on his poked rebound.
The striker then turned a teasing Yorwerth cross just wide, while fellow substitute Lee Barnard headed narrowly wide. A late Luke Rooney free-kick was headed over the bar by O’Toole as Reds just failed to find an equaliser.
Crawley: Flahavan, Young, Bradley, Yorwerth, Hancox, Deacon, Smith, Walton (Rooney 76), Edwards, Murphy (Barnard 76), Harrold (Fenelon 58). Unused subs: Scales, Ashton, Jenkins, Preston.
Northampton: Smith, Moloney, Diamond, Cresswell, Buchanan, D’Ath, Byrom, O’Toole, Potter (Taylor 90), Adams (Lelan 60), Richards (Calvert-Lewin 77). Unused subs: Hoskins, McDonald, Watson, Clarke.
Referee: Stephen Martin.
Attendance: 2,325 (381 away).
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