TEN-MAN Crawley Town slipped to a 1-0 defeat to Northampton Town after Ollie Palmer was sent off.

The big striker gave away the 52nd-minute penalty when he was adjudged to have barged over Aaron Pierre.

And he was sent off three minutes later for a challenge on the same player right under the nose of the assistant referee.

Kevin van Veen scored the spot-kick to decide the clash which has been a dull encounter for the first 45 minutes with no hint of the drama to come.

Reds made just one change from the side that beat Crewe 3-0 on November 24 with Palmer coming back into the starting XI after suspension and Ashley Nathaniel-George on the bench.

The Cobblers made six changes from their Tuesday night penalty shootout victory over Cambridge United in the Checkatrade Trophy as they went in search of a rare away win in League Two.

Cobblers had the better of a scrappy opening ten minutes but without testing Glenn Morris in the Crawley goal.

Van Veen blasted low but wide from a free-kick slid into his path after 13 minutes.

Josh Payne picked up a booking in the build-up, either for the foul on Van Veen or his subsequent protests.

Panutche Camara almost gave Crawley the lead in the 16th minute when he found space on the edge of the area but his dipping curling strike came back off the face of the crossbar with David Cornell beaten.

Dean Bowditch hooked over a half-volley for Cobblers on the half-hour after Reds made a mess of clearing a cross from the left.

Shay Facey produced a great cross from the right wing which glanced off the unmarked Foley’s head before David Buchanan had his shot blocked for a corner by George Francomb as Cobblers threatened after 41 minutes.

The game exploded into life in the second half in controversial circumstances.

Reds were furious when referee Craig Hicks pointed to the spot on 52 minutes after Pierre was barged over by Palmer as he rose to head clear in the area.

Van Veen drove home from 12 yards.

It got worse for Reds just moments later when Palmer saw red after he was deemed to have used an elbow as he challenged Pierre again, this time deep in the Northampton half but wide on the touchline.

Palmer had to be ushered off after remonstrating with the assistant referee and floored Pierre as a flat game exploded into life.

Reds boss Gaby Cioffi also picked up a booking in the aftermath while every touch by fullback Pierre was greeted with jeers.

Reds reacted well to the double setback.

Payne had a fierce volley spilled by Cornell in the 70th minute and Camara was narrowly wide moments later with a low drive.

Dannie Bulman went down in a straight race with Ashton Taylor after he ran from his own half but the ref waved away appeals for a foul and possible red card as he went down on the edge of the area as he shaped to shoot.

Despite six minutes of added time, Reds could not find a leveller while the referee was heckled off.

Crawley: Glenn Morris, Josh Payne (sub Ashley Nathaniel-George 78), Joe McNerney, Ollie Palmer, Dominic Poleon (sub Reece Grego-Cox 62), Luke Gambin, George Francomb, Joe Maguire, Dannie Bulman, Panutche Camara, Bondz N’Gala
Subs not used: Yusuf Mersin, Lewis Young, Josh Doherty, Romain Vincelot
Cobblers: David Cornell, Shay Facey, Ash Taylor, Jordan Turnbull, Aaron Pierre, David Buchanan, Shaun McWilliams, Sam Foley (sub Matt Crooks 57), Dean Bowditch, Sam Hoskins (sub Daniel Powell 81), Kevin van Veen (sub Junior Morias 81)
Subs not used: Lewis Ward, Jack Bridge, Billy Waters, Andy Williams