Crawley made it three wins on the trot as they comfortably beat managerless Rotherham.
Reds’ boss Steve Evans made one change from the win at Gillingham on Tuesday by bringing in Billy Clarke to replace his injured namesake Leon.
Rotherham had Darren Patterson in charge for the first time after Andy Scott’s midweek sacking. The surprise was seeing Lewis Grabban, a Crawley transfer target in January, being left on the bench.
The game began poorly, and Crawley displayed a lump-ball technique as the Millers tried to get past the home side’s midfield battlers of Sergio Torres, Dannie Bulman and the impressive Hope Akpan.
The first real chance of the game came midway through the first half as Clarke tried his luck from distance after shaking off the presence of Michael Raynes and, after his strike was headed out to his strike partner Gary Alexander, the new signing from Brentford saw his curling effort beaten away from goalkeeper Rhys Taylor.
Rotherham mustered an effort of their own soon after as Mark Bradley’s dangerous cross found Gareth Evans at the back post, his downward header beat keeper Michel Kuipers but not midfielder Scott Davies who flicked the ball out for a corner.
The visitors went close again minutes later when Kieron Cadogan, on loan from Crystal Palace, picked out Alex Revell with a pinpoint ball which the former Brighton frontman volleyed onto the top of the crossbar and out for a goal kick.
Again, Evans tested Kuipers as his bouncing free-kick went through the wall before the Crawley keeper flicked it round his left hand post.
It wasn’t long before Crawley got the opening goal of the game against the run of play. Clarke and Alexander played a 1-2-3-4 with each other, the final move saw the latter play a low cross into the on-rushing Clarke to poke past Taylor just four minutes before the interval – a good time to score for the home side.
Reds grabbed their second minutes after half time as Alexander’s shot was parried out by Taylor and, with Bulman showing more desire to get to the ball than Jason Taylor, he was brought down by the Millers player. That allowed Alexander the chance to add to his Crawley goal tally and the big man confidently stepped up to sidefoot the ball past the keeper.
It was almost three later on when Torres saw his left footed effort flicked into the air by Rhys Taylor and Kyle McFadzean’s header was tipped over from the follow-up, as Crawley looked to make it game over.
Grabban’s appearance from the bench appeared to galvanise Patterson’s side and it was his cross which crept along the box, with Revell just not having the pace to catch up with the ball.
The game was effectively over as the home side added a third. Davies’ in-swinging corner ended up at the back post where former Millers player and captain Pablo Mills was lurking to simply head the ball into the corner of the net.
Rotherham tried to hit back instantly as another dangerous Bradley ball in reached substitute Sam Hoskins, who blazed the ball well over the bar. Grabban put another testing ball into the box minutes later but Revell’s stretched effort trickled tamely into the arms of Kuipers.
In fairness to Rotherham they continued to press and late on Johnny Mullin’s looping header was turned around the post by Kuipers – a chance that was ultimately the last in a comfortable win for the home side.
Another win for Crawley as we look to make a push into the automatic promotion places. I think Rotherham will be wondering how they weren’t winning at half-time but football is a game where you need to take your chances. Billy scoring at the time he did obviously helped Steve Evans’ team talk and in the end we ran out worthy winners… just.