Crawley Town surrendered a two goal lead in a frantic finish as their League One play-off hopes were dealt a potentially fatal blow in today’s 2-2 draw at Walsall
Reds led 2-0 through second half goals from Jamie Proctor and Paul Hayes after a dire first half, but after Jamie Paterson struck in the 90th minute, Will Grigg prodded in a stoppage time leveller to rescue a point for the Saddlers, who extended their unbeaten run to nine games, while Crawley drop to 13th, ten points off the League One play-off places.
In a lively start, the dangerous Paterson forced the first save of the game, jinking off the left wing before his attempted curler was comfortably held by Paul Jones.
There were a few alarm bells for the Reds, such as Grigg’s mis-kick when well placed, as a difficult playing surface prohibited intricate passing.
Crawley appeared happy to play on the break, and Nicky Adams, one of two changes from the 2-2 draw at Yeovil, was involved in everything good they did going forward. It took Crawley half an hour to fashion their first genuine opportunity, as Jamie Proctor’s tame shot rolled wide.
The Reds grew into the game towards the end of the half, and had a Walsall side, unbeaten in eight games, on the back foot, without really creating.
Richie Barker’s side were almost caught on the hop at the start of the second half though, Connor Essam’s clearance was blocked by 18-goal striker Grigg, whose low shot was well held by Paul Jones. Proctor then fired narrowly wide of the far post at the other end, and all the signs were that it might open up in the second half.
And Crawley took advantage when Proctor fired them ahead. Collecting the ball 20 yards out, the frontman was allowed a touch before his shot fizzed into the top corner to stun the 5,003 crowd inside the Banks’s Stadium.
The 148 visiting fans now began to find their voice as chances started to flow at both ends. Paul Hayes’ shot was saved by Aaron McCarey at point blank range while Proctor’s follow-up was deflected over, before Brandy was denied by Paul Jones when Walsall broke from the resulting corner.
Walsall’s response had Crawley back-pedalling and the Reds rode their luck when Paterson drove at the heart of the defence and saw his angled shot come back off the base of the post.
Just when it looked the hosts were in the ascendancy, Reds broke, and when Adams met Billy Clarke’s deep cross, keeper McCarey could only palm it out to Hayes, who bundled home his first Crawley goal.
It was almost three a few moments later, Crawley broke again and Adams’ effort was blocked in the six yard box
But it all unravelled for the Reds in the last few minutes. Paterson saw his 90th minute shot deflected past a wrong-footed Paul Jones, and with renewed hope, Walsall poured forward in stoppage time, as Grigg popped up at the far post to stab in a last gasp equaliser.
Crawley Town: Paul Jones, Mustapha Dumbuya, Mat Sadler, Connor Essam, Joe Walsh, Jake Taylor, Matt Sparrow, Jamie Proctor, Billy Clarke, Nicky Adams, Paul Hayes.
Subs: Mark Connolly, Sergio Torres, David Hunt, Dannie Bulman (on for Taylor 68), Aiden O’Brien (on for Proctor 88), Mike Jones (on for Clarke 81), Johnny Maddison.
Walsall: Aaron McCarey, Andy Butler, Adam Chambers, Will Grigg, Jamie Paterson, Febian Brandy, James Chambers, Andy Taylor, Sam Mantom, Craig Westcarr.
Subs: Dean Holden, Nicky Featherstone (on for Westcarr 61), Ashley Hemmings (on for Brandy 81), Ben Purkiss, George Bowerman, James Baxendale, Liam Roberts.