Crawley Town 2-1 Wolves: Reds stun League One leaders

Matt Tubb's celebrates his goal against Wolves (Pic by Jon Rigby)
Matt Tubb's celebrates his goal against Wolves (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Crawley Town claimed another huge scalp in League One by inflicting a first defeat in 11 matches on league leaders Wolves.

In front of a record league crowd at the Checkatrade.com Stadium of 5,680 the game burst into life with three goals in seven first half minutes.

Billy Clarke celebrates his goal against Wolves (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Billy Clarke celebrates his goal against Wolves (Pic by Jon Rigby)

James Henry put the visitors ahead with a thumping effort but Reds levelled just 72 seconds later through Billy Clarke, and just five minutes after that they were in dreamland when Matt Tubbs put them 2-1 ahead.

The Crawley defence were again magnificent in a goalless second half and the hosts arguably came closer to adding to their lead as John Gregory’s side recorded one of the club’s best ever league victories against a Wolves side who were in the Premier League just two seasons ago.

The fantastic three points saw Reds record only their second back-to-back wins all season and moved them up to 12th in the table.

Crawley were unchanged from Saturday’s narrow win over Colchester, with Rory Fallon still missing with a heel injury.

Kenny Jackett made one change from their draw with Shrewsbury, Sam Ricketts back from illness to start in place of Ethan Ebanks-Landell, who dropped out of the squad.

John Gregory did however tweak his tactics with Josh Simpson moved inside to play behind Tubbs, with Billy Clarke pushed wide right. And skipper Simpson was heavily involved in a strong start for the hosts, snapping into challenges and finding plenty of space.

On the whole it was a frantic opening 24 minutes without any real chances but then the game exploded into life with two goals at either end in just over a minute.

First Henry let fly with a blistering effort 25-yards out on the right which caught Paul Jones cold, the Reds ‘keeper attempting to keep it out with his right boot and only diverting it onto the crossbar and in to give Wolves a 25th minute lead.

Crawley’s response though was emphatic as they levelled only 72 seconds later. Almost straight from kick off Tubbs charged into the box and fed Simpson inside, and though he slipped at the crucial moment Clarke was charging in and slammed the ball home to send the home fans into delirium.

And only five minutes later the noisy Crawley fans could hardly believe it when right back Mark Connolly lofted over a through ball for Tubbs to run onto and the on-loan Bournemouth hitman chipped Carl Ikeme to put the home side 2-1 to the good.

Wolves boss Jackett, clearly unimpressed with what he had witnessed hauled off midfielder Michael Jacobs for striker Leon Clarke after only 35 minutes. It was a clear indication of the resources the midlanders have at their disposal and Clarke, a signing from Coventry for a reported £750,000, came close to equalising with almost his first touch. A crossfield pass put him in behind the Reds backline and he controlled it instantly but couldn’t beat Jones with a lob, and following up Henry blazed just over.

Neither side made a change during half-time and as expected the high-flying visitors came out on the front foot, and only a fine save by Paul Jones, diving to his right kept out a low drive from Henry on the edge of the box having been teed up by Dicko.

Goal-scorer Tubbs was replaced by Jamie Proctor on 68 minutes having led the line superbly.

But after the quietest spell in the game it was the visitors who next threatened. Connolly produced a perfectly timed challenge on Clarke in the box but it came out to Sako, who rifled in a shot which needed Jones to push around his near post.

Reds’ back four were superbly marshalling a dangerous Wolves attack while the side remaining a threat on the break. And when Proctor picked out the excellent Simpson with a low cross from the right, the skipper’s brilliantly improvised flick between his legs scuttled just wide of the far post as the hosts sought a killer third goal.

With ten minutes remaining Simpson won a corner and it was played short to Clarke, whose dinked cross was met at the back stick by McFadzean but his header drifted wide of the opposite post and just over the head of fellow centre back Joe Walsh.

The Wolves onslaught did arrive to some degree in the final minutes, Clarke shooting tamely at Paul Jones from inside the box, but Crawley Town were deserved winners as they humbled the side hotly tipped for the League One title.

Crawley: Paul Jones, Mat Sadler, Mark Connolly, Kyle McFadzean, Billy Clarke, Andy Drury, Josh Simpson, Joe Walsh, Dannie Bulman, Matt Tubbs (Proctor 68), Mike Jones.

Subs: Sergio Torres, Jamie Proctor, Sullay Kaikai, Hiram Boateng, Johnny Maddison, Gary Dicker, Paul Connolly.

Wolves: Carl Ikeme, Richard Stearman, Danny Batth, James Henry, Bakary Sako (Edwards 74), Kevin McDonald, Sam Ricketts, Jack Price (Evans 74), Scott Golbourne, Michael Jacobs (Clarke 35), Nouha Dicko.

Subs: Matt Doherty, George Elokobi, Dave Edwards, Leon Clarke, Lee Evans, Liam McAlinden, Aaron McCarey.