Crawley Town’s five-game unbeaten run was ended by a defeat at home on Easter Monday by play-off chasing Exeter.
The visitors got off to a storming start and it was no surprise when former Crawley loanee Jake Taylor gave them a 28th minute lead.
Reds were lucky to have remained just one-goal behind at the break and then started creating some chances of their own early in the second half, only to be denied by an inspired display by the visitors’ keeper.
But just as Reds pressed hard for an equaliser, Exeter then sealed victory with a 74th minute second goal by the impressive Ollie Watkins.
Reds made three changes to the side which drew 2-2 with York City with Shamir Fenelon replacing topscorer Matt Harrold who had a knee injury.
Lewis Young and Gavin Tomlin came in for Gwion Edwards and Lyle Della-Verde who were on the bench.
Central midfielder Adam Bond filled in at right back for Lanre Oyebanjo who had a thigh injury.
New signing goalkeeper Jack Rose, who is on loan from West Bromwich Albion, was on the bench as keeper Callum Preston played his second match in a row following the recall of regular No.1 Paul Jones by Portsmouth.
Exeter impressed from the beginning and created several chances before eventually taking the lead.
Arron Davies crossed from Jayden Stockley to head on target but was denied by Preston in Crawley’s goal.
Preston was soon in action again to keep out a free-kick by Lee Holmes before Craig Woodman’s follow-up was cleared.
Preston made a great save on the line to clear a side-footed effort from Watkins, set-up by Taylor.
The Grecians produced wave-upon-wave of attack, Watkins going close with a shot with Preston diving at full length.
An fine turn and run by Watkins created Exeter’s goal in the 28th minute, teeing-up Taylor for his second goal of the season since arriving from Reading.
Taylor then supplied Holmes for a golden opportunity to increase their lead but thankfully for Crawley he crashed a volley over the bar.
Mark Yates made a substitution at the start of the second half with Edwards replacing Tomlin on the right wing.
Crawley then created more chances in the first five minutes of the restart than in the whole of the first half.
McAlinden forced keeper Bobby Olejnik into a full-length save following a one-two with Fenelon.
At the other end Holmes set-up Watkins with a cross in a dangerous position, but there was no power to cause Preston a problem.
A Walton corner was headed on target by Sonny Bradley, only for Olejnik to tip wide.
Bradley then had another header saved and McAlinden’s follow-up was cleared off the line.
Young supplied Fenelon to have a go from the edge of the area but aimed straight at Olejnik.
But Reds’ hopes of scoringb an equaliser were dashed when Exeter scored a second goal with 16 minutes to go.
Taylor returned the favour from the first goal and set-up Watkins with a floated ball which he headed into the net.
Reds had to see-out the last five minutes with just ten men when McAlinden hobbled off injured after their third substitution had been made.
REDS: Preston, Walton (Deaon 70), Bradley, McAlinden, Young, Fenelon, Ashton (McNerney 79), Tomlin (Edwards 46) Bond, Sutherland, Dunne.
Unused subs: Rose, Bawling, Deacon, Della-Verde
EXETER: Olejnik, Woodman, Robeiro, Harley, Holmes, Davies, McAlister, Watkins (Grant 87), Taylor (Wheeler 87), Stockley, Brown.
Unused subs: Morrison, Nicholls, Tillson, Pym
REFEREE: Andy Haines
ATTENDANCE: 2,416 (462 away)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Shamir Fenelon
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