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Brave Reds go down after Connolly sees red in first minute
Crawley went down to a brave 2-1 defeat at home to Brentford after playing almost the entire 90 minutes with ten men.
Reds had Mark Connolly sent off after just 34 seconds and Brentford looked set for a comfortable win when goals from Sam Saunders and Clayton Donaldson put them 2-0 up after half an hour.
But Crawley rallied in the second half after the visitors had Adam Forshaw sent off for a second yellow card and were given hope when Nicky Adams reduced the deficit in the 65th minute.
Despite pushing hard, Brentford held on to put a further dent in Crawley's play-off hopes in League One.
Crawley had the worst possible start as Connolly was given his marching orders after just 34 seconds.
The Crawley defender was slow to react when Bradley Wright-Phillips stepped over a pass from Adam Forshaw and clipped the heels of Donaldson as he tried to beat goalkeeper Paul Jones to the ball.
Referee Lee Collins had no hesitation in showing Connolly the red card and pointing to the spot but Donaldson was unable to rub salt in Crawley’s wounds as he dragged the spot kick wide.
Reds boss Richie Barker immediately reorganised by bringing on defender Connor Essam for his debut in place of Mike Jones and switching to 4-4-1.
The home side’s response from such an early blow was impressive but they fell behind in the 16th minute as they were caught on the counter attack. Brentford cleared a free kick from the edge of their own box and broke up field for Donaldson to lay the ball back to Saunders to fire home from 18 yards.
If that was naive defending then Brentford’s second goal was simply schoolboy. There seemed no danger when Lee Hodson played the ball forward but Essam tried to leave the ball to run through to Paul Jones and Donaldson nipped in to score his 20th – and probably easiest – goal of the season.
Crawley brought on Aiden O’Brien at half-time and the on-loan Millwall striker was immediately in the thick of the action.
First he was booked for not waiting for the fourth official to display the electronic board showing he had replaced Billy Clarke and then he put an improvised flick wide from Jamie Proctor’s low cross to the near post.
Referee Collins was at the centre of another controversial moment as Brentford were reduced to ten men in the 58th minute. Adam Forsham, who had been booked for a foul early in the first half, went down under a challenge from Essam on the edge of the area and Collins showed him a second yellow card for diving.
That gave Crawley renewed hope of forcing their way back into the game but Donaldson could have wrapped it up four minutes later when he broke clear only to drag his shot wide of the far post.
The significance of that moment grew three minutes later when Adams halved the deficit with a stunning strike from 25 yards which curled beyond the reach of Simon Moore and into the top corner.
Substitute Scott Barron tested Paul Jones with a well struck shot from 25 yards while Moore saved comfortably from Proctor as the game grew increasingly stretched.
Barker threw on a striker Lateef Elford-Alliyu for defender Mat Sadler in the closing stages but Brentford were able to hold on for what could be a crucial three points.