An impressive second-half display saw Crawley Town come from a goal behind to see off Colchester United 2-1 at the People's Pension Stadium this afternoon.
In what could have been seen as the warm-up to the sides' crunch Carabao Cup tie next week, Reds got back to winning ways after suffering successive league defeats, to move within two points of the League Two play-off places.
After a scrappy opening 20 minutes, eighth-placed Colchester, who started the game one point below the play-off places, were first to settle down and find some cohesion in attack. They made their pressure count on the 35th minute, with Luke Prosser getting on the end of a corner to head home.
Crawley, lethargic for much of the first half, were much improved after the break and found an equaliser on the 55th minute mark through a thunderous effort from the impressive Reece Grego-Cox.
Crawley, who have scored in every league game since March 30, looked the team most likely to get the winner from then-on. They did find the decisive goal when Norwich City loanee Mason Bloomfield — despite being quiet for much of the game — headed home from a brilliant Lewis Young cross with ten minutes to go.
Crawley held on for a hard-earned three points their second half performance probably deserved, moving up from 13th to 9th in the table.
Colchester edge Scrappy first half
Head coach Gabriele Cioffi made two changes, one enforced, from last weekend's defeat at Forest Green Rovers. Lewis Young came in for the suspended David Sesay while Tarryn Allarakhia replaced Dannie Bulman.
Former Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur strike Denzeil Boadu would have to wait for his first start for the Reds in the league. He was among the substitutes.
It was a very quiet and scrappy opening 15 minutes, with both sides cancelling each other out. Neither side were able to take control of possession.
Centre-half Tom Dallison stood out for strong defensive work but was also a presence in the opposition box too, putting Crawley's best first half chance wide with an ambitious acrobatic effort after a corner.
The visitors started to put Crawley under a spell of pressure at the half way point of the first half and looked the more likely to find an opener.
They made their pressure count on the 34th minute from a corner, cheaply given away by the hosts, when unmarked Luke Prosser's deft header found its way past Glenn Morris.
Revitalised Crawley take control
Crawley laboured for the rest of the half which ended at 0-1 but were quick out of the blocks in the second half. Reece Grego-Cox, who didn't see much of the ball in the opening 45 minutes, quickly forced a free-kick with a darting run. The winger picked himself back up to divert a header just wide from the set-piece.
Grego-Cox, again the centre of the action, then fired a shot from the edge of the box straight at Dean Gerken. The winger didn't let up though and levelled the scoring minutes later with a superb strike from 20-yards out.
Reds, playing with far more cohesion, were straight on the attack again in search of a quick-fire second but were given a warning sign when the visitors came close after a fast break-away.
With Colchester starting to settle back into the game, Gabriele Cioffi brought on Ashley Nathaniel-George for Tarryn Allarakhia to provide some more attacking impetus. Nathaniel-George, never afraid to take a shot, was straight into the action with a darting run which came to nothing before the winger fired a superb effort against the post minutes later.
Mason Bloomfield gave Reds a deserved winner, getting on the end of a superb cross from Lewis Young, to tuck away a header into the bottom right corner. Grego-Cox, who again was involved in the build-up to the goal, deservedly was given the sponsors' man-of-the-match award, as Reds held on for a much-needed victory.
Crawley Town: Morris, Young, Tunnicliffe, Dallison, Doherty, Camara, Ferguson, Grego-Cox (van Velzen 91) Allarakhia (Nathaniel-George 65), Lubala, Bloomfield.
Unused: Luyambula, Sendles-White, Bulman, Galach, Boadu.
Colchester: Gerken, Jackson, Eastman, Prosser, Clampin, Sarpong-Wiredu (Stevenson 77), Lapslie, Senior (Norris 81), Nouble, Poku, Roinson (Brown 70)
Unused: Bramall, Sowunmi, Chilvers, Ross
Referee: Martin Coy
Attendance: 2,636 (418 away).