Crawley Town played out a 1-1 draw with promotion hopefuls Forest Green Rovers at The People's Pension Stadium this afternoon (Saturday).
Forest Green dominated possession in a largely scrappy first half but Crawley's better chances in front of goal were reflected in the scoreline when Bez Lubala scored a fortuitous opener just minutes before half-time — taking the forward into double figures for goals this season.
Rovers improved in the second half and found an equaliser when Crawley's man-of-the-match Jordan Tunniclife put a header past his own keeper just after the hour mark.
Both teams fought hard for a winner which never came, with Reds now unbeaten in four games since the 2-1 defeat at Oldham on December 21.
Reds edge even first half
Crawley went into the game sitting 16th in the table and having gained seven points (one win, four draws) from John Yems' first six games in charge. Reds would have been looking to replicate the performance in their previous home game — a 4-0 thrashing of Northampton on Boxing Day.
Despite being as high as fifth going into the game, Forest Green have been out of form, winning just once in their last seven league games.
It was a cagey first 15 minutes, with Forest Green seeing most of the ball but were unable to break down Reds' resilient defence, albeit forcing Glenn Morris into a few routine saves.
However, it was Crawley who had the better and more frequent chances in front of goal, with Ollie Palmer finding himself in on goal early on but he couldn't get the ball out of his feet quick enough to get a shot away.
Ashley Nadesan missed the hosts' best chance in the first quarter of the game when his half-volley went just wide of the post, after being found by Palmer knock-on.
Crawley were then denied by a superb double save from Adam Smith, who first stopped Panutche Camara's venomous strike before getting his hands in the way of Palmer's effort on the rebound.
The game gradually became more and more scrappy, with players from both sides struggling to string a succession of passes together.
With the final five minutes of the half approaching, Camara fired an effort just wide of the post after a good counter attack led by Nadesan and Palmer.
It looked like the first 45 minutes was going to end goalless until the hosts scored a fortuitous opener. After Smith had come out to the edge of his box to clear the ball, it ricocheted back off Palmer and, while it looked like the tracking defender was going to clear, the ball was taken off him and put into an empty net by Bez Lubala.
Rovers fight back
The visitors started the second half on the front foot and teenager Jack Aitchison, on loan from Celtic, had two close range efforts blocked.
Aitchison then set up Aaron Collins in the box who also saw his shot blocked and cleared but the ball was worked back out to debutant Jevani Brown, who forced a superb diving save from Glenn Morris.
Up the other end on the hour mark, Nadesan was played in by an excellent through ball from Camara, and the forward easily beat his man for pace, but a tame effort on goal was held by Smith.
It proved to be a costly miss as the visitors found an equaliser on the 63rd minute, with the unfortunate Jordan Tunnicliffe putting a diving header into his own net when trying to clear Nathan McGinley's ball in from the left.
Crawley had Morris to thank for the scoring staying level, with the keeper making two brilliant saves in a matter of minutes from substitute Matt Mills and McGinley.
On the counter attack, Palmer was found in acres of space out wide by Nadesan but the former couldn't find the final ball.
Despite defender Jamie Sendles-White being brought on for attacker Lubala to tighten things up, Crawley were the team on the ascendancy in the final ten minutes. Palmer, who too often took too long on the ball, squandered a golden opportunity to find a winner late on, when he had only the keeper to beat.
Crawley Town: Morris, Dacres-Cogley, Tunnicliffe, Dallison, Doherty, Camara, Bulman, Ferguson (Allarakhia 66), Lubala (Sendles-White 80), Palmer, Nadesan (Bloomfield 79)
Unused subs: Nathaniel-George, Sesay, Luyambula
Forest Green Rovers: Smith, Shephard (Bernard 52), Rawson, Kitching, McGinley, Mondal, Adams, Winchester, Collins, Brown (Mills 74), Aitchison
Unused subs: Stevens, Wollacott, Morton, Dawson, Covil
Attendance: 2,082 (188 away)