Matt Harold's close-range finish just before the break was enough to seal all three points for the visitors who otherwise defended resolutely as Stevenage showed the greater attacking threat, but found it difficult to break down the away backline.
Caretaker manager Darren Sarll ade several changes to the starting line-up with Jamie Jones coming in for his debut in goal, Ronnie Henry returning to replace Fraser Franks, Dale Gorman and Dean Parrett earning recalls in the middle of the pitch and Pat Hoban up top with Pett and O'Connor supporting. Among the subs were Offrande Zanzala, himself returning from injury and Swansea loanee Ryan Hedges.
Stevenage nearly got the perfect start inside 60 seconds when a good ball from Gorman nearly found Hoban at the back-post but the ball was cleared.
Tom Pett also enjoyed plenty of the ball early on and was to have a great dual with former Boro man Roarie Deacon at left-back.
The weather conditions were to make this a tricky game for both sides with the swirling wind in particular playing its part and keeping chances at a premium.
Gwion Edwards fired straight at Jones and Dean Parrett saw a free-kick from 20 yards deflect behind as the two teams traded chances before the 20 minute mark
Just the half hour O’Connor drove into the box from the left and saw a shot blocked, with the ball falling to Dale Gorman who won a corner. Crawley, however, stood firm from Boro’s set piece and this was to be a reoccurring event throughout the rest of the game.
Six minutes before the break Stevenage created their best chance of the half. A quick free-kick from Henry to Pett saw the winger send Deacon the wrong way with one shimmy before cutting inside and finding Hoban, whose powerful shot was turned over by Jones.
Just as it seemed Boro were getting closer to making the breakthrough, it was Crawley to who broke the deadlock on 43 minutes. A move down the left saw Deacon get into the box and his low cross was turned home by Matt Harrold.
The scoreboard was close to adding further goals in the opening minutes of the second half. First a deep Simon Walton free-kick from the left bounced just wide of Jones’ far post, before at the other end a fizzing low cross from Henry was turned behind in the six yard box with Hoban sliding in.
Stevenage pressure was the story of the rest of the half as time and again the hosts forced corners or won free-kicks, only for their delivery or good Crawley defending to deny them.
Dean Parrett saw one shot saved, Luke Wilkinson saw a great cross deflect behind for a corner and then Parrett won yet another corner as Boro upped the pressure but couldn’t find the leveller.
On 68 minutes sub Tom Conlon won a free-kick out wide and when the delivery came in, the ball eventually fell to Tom Pett who fired wide inside the box when it looked easier to hit the target. A head-in-hands moment for Boro.
Offrande Zanzala and Ryan Hedges were introduced for the closing stages and within two minutes the latter combined with Connor Ogilvie to win another corner. This time the delivery was good and a near-post flick looked to be heading in, only for Paul Jones to beat the ball away and Parrett’s subsequent cross charged behind.
Stevenage won another three corners in the closing minutes, making it 16 for the game to Crawley’s one, but despite five minutes of additional time the hosts just couldn’t force that equaliser and suffered defeat in the first game of the post-Teddy Sheringham era.
Cambridge are next at The Lamex Stadium in a week’s time but before that Stevenage travel to Hartlepool United this Tuesday night, looking to get back to winning ways as soon as possible.
Stevenage: Jones, Henry, Wilkinson,Wells, Ogilvie, Lee, Gorman (Conlon 63), Parrett, O’Connor (Hedges 77), Hoban (Zanzala 70), Pett
Subs not used: Day, Franks, Johnson, Keane
Crawley: Jones, Walton, Bradley, Edwards, Atkinson (Rooney 81), Ashton, Bawling, Harrold, Deacon, Tomlin (Jenkins 81), Yorwerth
Subs not used: Preston, Young, Fenelon
Referee: Gavin Ward
Attendance: 2,639 (179)