Goals from Harry Anderson and Aaron Collins lifted Bristol to victory over hosts Crawley Town. Crawley’s awful run at the People’s Pension Stadium continues, with the Reds mustering only two wins from their last 13 home games. Three crucial points at West Sussex moves the Rovers to just two points of the Playoff places, as they go full gas for the rest of the season with renewed hopes of securing a top-six berth.
Crawley began with a high-line back-three of Lynch, Craig, and Tunnicliffe, with wing-backs Tsaroulla and Ferry pushing up the pitch. They remained susceptible to long clearances and goal-kicks, as Bristol piled on the pressure down their left. Former Everton and Paderborn prospect Antony Evans drifted occasionally to the left from Central Attacking Midfield, interchanging with 19-year-old left-winger Elliot Anderson. Anderson, who is on-loan from Newcastle United, was a constant menace as he drew Tunnicliffe out of position with his movement. Tunnicliffe suffered an injury and had to be withdrawn for eventual goalscorer Jake Hessenthaler, who made his return from a lay-off. A similar fate befell referee Lee Swabey, who was replaced by the fourth official Nicholas Dunn after picking up an injury, resulting in a long stoppage in play.
Both teams then had a raft of chances. Keepers James Belshaw and Glenn Morris were up to the task. Jack Payne dropped back to help the now vulnerable defence with Jack Powell, who hit some raking long diagonals out wide. Payne did the dirty work for Crawley, winning the ball back multiple times and starting counter-attacks from deep. However, Crawley academy product Harry Anderson’s measured finish in the 41st minute handed the advantage to the visitors heading into half-time.
The Pirates started the second half on the front foot. Luca Hoole’s frequent advances from right-back meant that Crawley’s back-three now became a back-five, as the wing-backs assisted the defence. Crawley took a few long-range punts at goal to no avail, thanks to the well-drilled Bristol back-four and masterful performances from ‘keeper Belshaw and Connor Taylor. The visitors doubled their advantage with Aaron Collins’s 11th goal in 21 games. Hoole’s defence-splitting ball after a blistering counter set-up Collins. Four minutes later, Hessenthaler nodded in Powell’s corner, setting up a nervy finish. The hosts piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser, winning several corners and drawing fouls. Nadesan had a quiet game in front of goal, as the midfielders struggled to find space and were out-numbered. Journeyman Kwesi Appiah came on in the second half and occupied the space between Bristol’s midfield and defence. The returning Appiah linked play, but the Gas held firm till full-time.