Crawley 1, Oxford 5: Reds rocked in second-half collapse

Joe McNerney takes a shot from close range for Crawley Town against Exeter City, 28th March 2016. (c) Jack Beard SUS-160328-173844008
Joe McNerney takes a shot from close range for Crawley Town against Exeter City, 28th March 2016. (c) Jack Beard SUS-160328-173844008

Crawley Town put in a real Jekyll and Hyde display as they were sunk by promotion hunting Oxford United in League Two this afternoon.

A hard-working and impressive Reds led the clash as Joe McNerny netted his first-ever Football League, before they were pegged back by Chris Maguire’s leveller six minutes before half-time.

As impressive as the home side were in the first half, they collapsed at the back in nine second-half minutes.

Liam Sercombe and Callum O’Dowda netted in quick succession to flip the match on its head, before Maguire netted from the penalty spot and George Waring notched to send the healthy travelling contingent into party mode as The U’s consolidate second spot.

That was all in front of new Crawley owner Ziya Eren, who braved the rain before kick-off as he was introduced to the crowd for the first time and received a rapacious reception as he took to the pitch.

The home side made five changes to the team that lost 3-0 at Bristol Rovers last week. Callum Preston, Andy Bond, Charles Dunne, Rory Deacon, Lewis Young all dropped out of the starting 11, with Jack Rose coming in between the sticks, Lanre Oyebanjo starting along with Joe McNerney, Simon Walton and Gavin Tomlin.

Long-term absentee Jimmy Smith was also named on the bench for the first time since breaking his foot at the start of January.

Oxford were without the injured Joe Skarz and Ryan Taylor, but hoping to bounce back from their Johnston Paint final defeat to Burnley last week and keep their promotion aspiration on track.

The first chance went Reds way as a Walton corner was met by a towering Matt Harrold header from the edge of the box, but Benji Buchel held the attempt.

In a fast-paced start from the home team, Harrold again rose highest, this time at the far post from a Tomlin cross, but his effort was blocked.

Oxford’s first chance came on 11 minutes and Rose saved smartly to deny Sercombe after a neat move involving Danny Hylton and Callum O’Dowda.

The visitors then had strong penalty appeals waved away as Hylton got past Walton and went down, with the Crawley man seeming to have pulled him down. Referee Nick Kinsley nor his assistant were impressed, neither were the Crawley players or the crowd.

At the other end, McNerney had his header from a Delle-Verde cleared off the line, but Reds took the lead moments later from another flag kick.

The danger wasn’t fully cleared and Buchel failed to hold a Tomlin shot, creating a goalmouth scrambe, which McNerney prodded home.

With the visitors rocking and the home crowd up, Tomlin turned well in the box, but his shot was blocked as was Delle-Verde’s effort.

The Crawley backline remained resistant until a sleepy moment six minutes before the break.

Bradley kept the ball in on the touchline and Alex MacDonald profited to jink into the area and pick out Maguire at the back post and he smashed into the far corner.

Crawley continued to play on the front foot after the equaliser and carved out a couple more half chances before the break.

After all their endeavour in the first half, Crawley were undone just two minutes into the second half.

A neat glancing touch put O’Dowda away through a hole in the home defence and he finished with aplomb past Rose.

Just five minutes later it was 3-1 as Oxford eased through the Crawley backline and Sercombe’s effort despite a strong hand from Rose, trickled over the line.

A goalbound Frankie Sutherland volley was blocked in the area and Edwards just failed to latch onto a Josh Yorwerth pass.

But it was lucky to remain at just 3-1 as the promotion hopefuls turned on the class, Rose saved to deny Hylton in a three on one Oxford break and MacDonald struck the inside of the post

The hosts did add a fourth with 17 minutes remaining as Walton felled Maguire inside the box and the midfielder picked himself up to bury the spot kick.

It got worse for Reds as substitute Waring added a fifth with four minutes remaining to send home fans trudging for the exits.

Crawley: Rose, Oyebanjo, McNerny, Yorwerth, Bradley, Delle-Verde, Sutherland (Bond 87), Walton (Smith 72), Edwards, Tomlin, Harrold (Fenelon 55). Unused subs: Preston, Barnard, Deacon, Dunne.

Oxford: Buchel, Mullins, Sercombe, Hylton (Waring 74), MacDonald, Ruffels (Ashby 80), O’Dowda (Roberts 75), Kenny, Maguire, Dunkley. Unused subs: Slocombe, Roofe, Wright, Giles.

Referee: Nick Kinseley.

Attendance: 3,340 (1,476 away).

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