Crawley Town fall to defeat in final pre-season friendly

Mark Connolly tussles for the ball during this afternoon's friendly with Portsmouth. Picture by Neil Marshall.
Mark Connolly tussles for the ball during this afternoon's friendly with Portsmouth. Picture by Neil Marshall.
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Crawley Town capped off their pre-season programme with a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of League 1 new boys Portsmouth this afternoon.

A brace of second half strikes from Brett Pitman cancelled out Dutch striker Thomas Verheydt's header in the opening 45 minutes - his first Crawley goal - as Pompey came from behind to claim victory.

Defeat was just a second for Reds in seven pre-season friendlies this season ahead of their League 2 curtain-raiser at home against Port Vale next Saturday.

Reds can take confidence from what was a fine showing in the first 45 minutes, though, they struggled to cope with Portsmouth's attacking threats - Pitman in particular - after the break as Crawley let a one-goal lead slip to end pre-season with a loss.

Crawley were quick out of the blocks and found themselves a goal ahead inside four minutes. Mark Randall's whipped corner wasn't cleared by Pompey with Thomas Verheydt on hand to head home his first Crawley goal from all of six yards.

Reds continued to probe after taking the lead, going close through Randall four minutes later. Left wing-back Cedric Evina pumped a hopeful ball forward, which Tom Davies could only skew into Randall's path as he attempted to clear, but his crisp right-foot drive went just wide.

Verheydt's aerial ability was posing Portsmouth all sorts of problems and he nearly doubled the home side's lead after 13 minutes. Another Randall corner was met by Verheydt, though, this time his goalbound header was blocked.

Reds were fluent going forward, so nearly making it two 12 minutes later. Lively Jordan Roberts was sent clear - rounding Luke McGee - only for Pompey full-back Tareiq Holmes-Dennis to get back to clear off-the-line.

The resulting corner then produced another opportunity with Pompey once again unable to clear their lines but Verheydt's clever spin and shot was tipped over by McGee.

Pompey looked a lot sharper in the second, having appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Carl Brook seven minutes after the restart. Conor Chaplin cut in on his left-foot, before going down under a Mark Connolly challenge but nothing was given.

Just a minute later, centre-half Josh Lelan was in the right position to clear Gareth Evans' cross as Brett Pitman waited to pounce.

Reds' lead was gone after 54 minutes thanks to a sublime leveller. Pitman's 25-yard free-kick found the top corner, leaving goalkeeper Glenn Morris no chance.

Boldewijn was a threat in glimpses, going close 20 minutes from time. The Dutch winger drove forward and fired a left-foot shot just wide of the far post.

Pompey then took the lead for the first time 15 minutes from the end. Substitute Milan Lalkovic's clever reverse pass found Pitman, who chipped home his second of the afternoon.

Crawley were fortunate not to concede a third four minutes later. Kyle Bennett found an unmarked Kal Naismith but he opted to find forward Pitman instead of going for goal.

Reds seemed to run out of legs in the closing stages as Pompey held on for victory in what was their final pre-season friendly aswell.

CRAWLEY: Morris; Young, Lelan, Connolly, Yorwerth, Evina; Boldewijn, Bulman, Randall, Roberts; Verheydt. Subs: Mersin, Arthur, Payne (Randall, 68), Harrold (Verheydt, 70),Lewis (Roberts, 80), Cox, Blackman, Djalo, Clifford, Tajbakash, Sanoh, Camara.