Mark Connolly scored his first goal of the season as Crawley recorded their first home win since mid October with a 1-0 defeat of Notts County in their last match of 2013.
The defender’s headed goal in the second half gave Reds a deserved victory in a match which saw them create chances throughout, the luckless Jamie Proctor twice striking the crossbar and County ‘keeper Bartosz Bialkowski with a string of fine saves. The three points moved Crawley up to 13th in the League One table
The struggling Magpies competed well in the first half but faded after the break and finished the game with ten men when Alan Sheehan was dismissed for a second booking.
John Gregory made four changes from the defeat against MK Dons three days before. In came Sergio Torres for only his second start, along with strikers Proctor and Emile Sinclair and Kyle McFadzean, back from suspension. Nicky Adams shook off a back injury to start, though Dannie Bulman (fractured cheekbone) missed out and Billy Clarke was suspended. Andy Drury was handed the captain’s armband.
For second-bottom Notts County, Mustapha Dumbuya, who was on loan at the Broadfield last season, started at right-back.
The hosts made a strong start with a couple of early corners but from County’s first corner on six minutes Sheehan had a back post header cleared off the line and with the attack still alive Jamal Campbell-Ryce drilled against a defender from inside the box.
Striker Proctor had Reds’ first real chance on 12 minutes but as he tried to side foot home Nicky Adams’ dinked cross from eight yards out the ball slid off his boot and well wide.
Mike Jones latched onto a loose ball but his drilled low effort from 20 yards was comfortably taken by Magpies ‘keeper Bartosz Bialkowski.
Crawley were looking threatening, and even when the visitors were attacking, the hosts broke at pace and Jones’s ball over the top found Sinclair onside, his attempts to round Bialkowski though were thwarted by the County stopper.
At the other end Mark Fotheringham volleyed into the ground and into Paul Jones clutches when Enoch Showunmi’s header found him in the box.
The end-to-end pattern continued for the rest of the half, though the only attempt on goal came when Sinclair surged forward on the break and let fly from distance with a shot which flashed narrowly wide.
At the start of the second half Magpies winger Campbell-Ryce sent a wicket low ball across the face of the Crawley goal which just evaded Showunmi at the back post.
It was a similar story at the other end just after, this time Proctor with a shot across goal which Sinclair couldn’t connect with on the stretch.
Crawley finally took the lead on 54 minutes through an unlikely source, defender Connolly with a glancing header from a corner which just beat the defender on the line to squeeze into the bottom corner.
Buoyed by the goal, Reds looked to land a knock-out second, and Drury went close with a curler having dispossessed Andre Boucaud on the edge of his own area before Mike Jones also went close from outside the box.
Sinclair robbed Fox and fed Proctor, who bore down on goal and was only denied by a wonderful save by Bialkowski, tipping his effort over the bar.
The visitors’ hopes of getting back into the match were dealt a blow when centre back Sheehan was shown his second yellow for a deliberate handball.
Proctor darted into the box but his strike was saved down low by Bialkowski, who from the corner again brilliantly tipped a rasping Mike Jones effort over from the corner.
When that corner was sent back into the box Proctor’s looping header crashed off the top of the crossbar as County hung on.
The luckless Proctor struck the woodwork again in the 89th minute, slamming a shot against the post after latching onto a ball over the top.
The missed chances failed to matter as Crawley recorded their first win at the Broadfield Stadium in seven since beating Bradford by the same scoreline on October 19 as they bowed out of 2013 with a victory.
REDS (4-4-2): P Jones; Sadler, Connolly, Fadzean, Walsh; Adams (Simpson 90), Torres, M Jones, Drury; Proctor, Sinclair (Alexander 86).
Subs: Hurst, Essam, Alexander, Simpson, Smith, Malins, Maddison.
COUNTY (4-2-3-1): Bialowski; Dumbuya, Fox, Sheehan, Leacock; Boucaud, Fotheringham (Tempest 77); Grealish (Murray 65), Campbell-Ryce, McGregor; Showunmi (Haynes 75).
Subs: Smith, Haynes, Murray, Thompson, Tempest, Hallis, Pilkington.