Two goals early in the first-half were enough to condemn Cambridge City to their third consecutive league defeat. With the absence of the suspended Louis Riddle, Gary Roberts decided to field Jamie Godbold out on the left wing, recalling Robbie Nightingale who operated on the right hand side with Robbie Miller and Leon Bell playing in the middle. Up front Mark Paul was brought in for his first league start in preference to Robbie Simpson who was struggling with a bruised foot.
The visitors were stunned, however, going a goal down as early as the third minute. Ben Judge played a long ball over the top which deceived Lee Pluck, striker Daniel Marney quickly took advantage and the Brighton loanee coolly lobbed an advancing Martin Davies. A perfect start for the home side.
Crawley, inspired by their early breakthrough enjoyed the bulk of possession and created most of the openings, Kevin Helmsley's header across goal from a free-kick was headed away in the nick of time by Shane Wardley just as goalscorer Marney was about to add to his tally.
Marney was proving to be a real thorn in City's side and went close in the 17th minute, latching onto another long ball out of defence, getting the better of Lee Pluck before pulling his shot wide of the target. City offered very little of note early on, Mark Paul looked sharp on his full debut and forced home keeper Andy Little into action after wriggling his way into a shooting position, but in truth the more meaningful action was taking place at the other end. It was Crawley who were to take what proved to be a decisive advantage in the game.
In the 27th minute Helmsley ventured into the box and forced Davies into an excellent reflex save tipping the ball around the post. From the resulting corner, Martin Davies failed to hold the ball and James Quilter inexplicably handled in the area and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Mo Harkin stepped up to convert the penalty although Davies guessed correctly and was only inches away from keeping it out.
City's heads didn't drop though, and through the industrious partnership of Miller and Bell, they attempted to rally. The game became rather niggly and disjointed. This was typified by a messy tangle and subsequent flare-up between Craig Pope and Rob Smith in the centre circle, which earned both players yellow cards.
If the first half was all Crawley's, the second half was a much more in City's favour although as in the first half they failed to seriously test Andy Little in the home goal. Jamie Godbold got a sight of goal and let fly from 20 yards in the 50th minute, Little parrying then grabbing the loose ball as Danny Bloomfield arrived looking for any scraps. The home side were then reduced to ten men as Rob Smith was shown a red card for his second bookable offence, the second being a clattering challenge on City substitute Robbie Simpson. As a result of this the home side decided to shut up shop and withdrew the dangerous Marney into a more midfield role playing with one up front.
City saw a chance to get back back into things and inspired by the prompting of the highly impressive Bell, enjoyed their best spell of possession in the entire game. Rob Miller saw his shot deflect off a defender but unluckily straight into the arms of a grateful Little. Bloomfield, who had been starved of any decent service all night, then had his best chance but his close range shot was deflected and trickled wide of the post.
Bell then tested Little from 25 yards and Simpson headed tamely at goal from Wardley's left wing cross, but it was all too little too late for City. The visitors may have had a claim for a penalty of their own late on as Simpson's shirt was clearly tugged in the area, but surprisingly no one appealed. Amidst all the late substitutions, Crawley played out time and recorded what was, in the end, quite a comfortable 2-0 win. For City, it was alot of huff and puff and no real reward for their efforts.