Connolly earns Crawley victory

The Argus: Mark Connolly celebrates his winner today (photos Simon Dack) Mark Connolly celebrates his winner today (photos Simon Dack)

Crawley Town’s long search for a home win is over after beating lowly Notts County 1-0 at the Checkatrade.com Stadium.

Defender Mark Connolly headed the only goal on 54 minutes to give the Reds a victory they richly deserved.

Connolly, who also netted Crawley’s first goal of 2013, got their last of the calendar year to give them their first home win since October 19.

Crawley manager John Gregory made four changes for the game, two by choice and two enforced with Dannie Bulman (fractured cheekbone) and Billy Clarke (suspended) ruled out.

In a lively start the home side forced two corners inside the first minute, then Alan Sheehan’s header for the visitors on six minutes glanced off the foot of the near post where Connolly was stationed.

On 12 minutes an inviting cross from Nicky Adams skimmed off the boot of Jamie Proctor when in a great position and nine minutes later Sergio Torres sent Emile Sinclair clear but his touch was heavy and goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski came out to thwart the danger.

Just before half-time Sinclair, who had struggled until then, burst forward and unleashed a shot from 20 yards which flew narrowly wide.

Within two minutes of the restart the visitors almost went ahead as Jamal Campbell-Ryce delivered a teasing cross which the sliding Enoch Showunmi just failed to get on the end of.

The breakthrough came for Crawley in the 54th minute when Connolly rose highest to head home a corner from the right for his first goal of the season.

The goal certainly lifted Crawley and skipper Andy Drury curled a right-footer past Bialkowski’s left-hand post from 20 yards.

Mike Jones followed suit minutes later, firing inches past the other post.

Proctor went close to putting the result beyond doubt when Morgan Fox was dispossessed on the edge of his area but the Crawley striker’s shot was pushed away for a corner by Bialkowski.

The visitors were reduced to ten men with 12 minutes remaining when defender Alan Sheehan picked up a second yellow card for handball and was dismissed.

Crawley were now totally dominant. Proctor’s low shot was saved at his near post by Bialkowski on 83 minutes, then the County keeper did even better to tip over a Mike Jones rasper.

Proctor also headed against the bar and moments later rattled a post with a fierce shot.

Crawley: P.Jones; Connolly, McFadzean, Walsh, Sadler; M.Jones, Drury, Torres, Adams (sub Simpson 90); Proctor, Sinclair (sub Alexander 86). Subs not used: Hurst, Essam, Smith, Malins, Maddison.

Notts County: Bialkowski, Dumbuya, Leacock, Sheehan, Fox; Campbell-Ryce, Fotheringham (sub Tempest 77), Boucard, Grealish (sub Murray 66); McGregor; Showinmi (sub Haynes 75). Subs not used: Smith, Thompson, Hollis, Pilkington.

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