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Walsall 2 Crawley Town 3: Scintillating Reds secure first Carabao Cup win in five years

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Crawley Town advanced to the second round of the Carabao Cup for the first time since 2014 after an exhilarating 3-2 win at Walsall this (Tuesday) evening.

Filipe Morais’ strike on 21 minutes gave the Reds the lead at half-time before a breakneck second half ensued. Tom Dallison netted his first goal for the club just three minutes into the second period before Caolan Lavery’s penalty immediately reduced the deficit.

But Ashley Nadesan, on his first start for the club since his transfer from Fleetwood Town in the summer, made it 3-1 to Crawley straight from the kick-off.

Lavery scored his second to make it 3-2 but the Reds held on to advance to round two of the 2019/20 Carabao Cup.

Head coach Gabriele Cioffi gave competitive debuts to keeper Michael Luyambula and forward Nadesan as the Italian made seven changes from Saturday’s 2-0 win home over Salford City. Club captain Jimmy Smith returned to the first team squad but had to make do with a place on the bench.

The hosts enjoyed the majority of possession during the early stages of the game and forced a number of corners. The best chance came on 12 minutes when Walsall’s Elijah Adebayo played in Josh Gordon but his shot was well blocked by Josh Doherty.

Crawley’s first sight of goal came on 17 minutes. Nadesan did well to beat a Saddlers defender before driving towards the byline. The returning forward did well to cut the ball back to Morais but the Portuguese midfielder was unable to keep his attempt down.

Morais only needed four minutes to make amends as he fired the Reds into the lead after scintillating build up play. Ashley Nathaniel-George sped at the Walsall backline and played an inch perfect pass to Nadesan. Crawley’s number ten expertly timed his run to get behind the Saddlers defence before squaring the ball across goal for Morais to tap home from three-yards.

Just after the half-hour mark and the Reds produced more good work going forward. Goalscorer Morais almost turned provider for Nadesan as the midfielder flashed a pass across the face of the goal which just evaded the onrushing striker.

Walsall managed to carve out a half chance on 37 minutes. Good work down the right from Cameron Norman saw the winger cross for Adebayo but his header was deflected out for a corner – which came to nothing.

Two minutes later Luyambula was called into action for the first time and the Birmingham City loanee produced a remarkable stop. Adebayo won the knock down from yet another Saddlers corner. Mat Sadler picked up the ball and let fly with a vicious drive, forcing Luyambula into a super save to tip the ball over.

Mere moments later Ollie Palmer did well to take the ball out of the night sky before unleashing a stinging first time volley that was well saved by Liam Roberts in the Walsall goal.

In first half stoppage time Panutche Camara had a great chance to double the lead. A cross from Palmer was cleared out only as far as the Bissau-Guinean, who was lurking on the edge of the box. Camara let fly with a cleanly struck shot but Roberts denied the midfielder with a marvellous stop.

The Reds began the second half with the same intensity that they finished the first. Just three minutes into the second period and Cioffi’s men doubled their lead.

A whipped Nathaniel-George corned found Tom Dallison completely unmarked at the far post and the defender had the easiest of headers to make it 2-0 to Crawley.

But Walsall struck back almost instantly. Sadler was brought down in the box and Lavery dispatched the spot kick despite Luyambula getting a hand to it.

And the scoring hadn’t finished as Nadesan bagged his debut goal in a breathless start to the second half. Straight from the kick-off the Reds raced up the other end as Doherty overlapped to play a brilliant ball in to Nadesan who tapped home to restore the two goal cushion.

Unbelievably Crawley had the ball in the back of the net for the fourth time on 61 minutes but Nathaniel-George was adjudged to be offside.

The Reds onslaught continued as Palmer did excellently to set up Nathaniel-George once more, but the flying winger bent his shot just wide of the Saddlers goal.

Walsall managed to get a foothold back in to the game on 71 minutes as Crawley were caught out by a quick Norman free-kick. The wide-man set Lavery free in the box and the Northern Irishman fired past Luyambula for his second goal of the evening.

With seven minutes of the game to go Reds supporters had their hearts in their mouths as the hosts struck the crossbar. After pinball in the area the ball fell to Norman but the winger’s strike scraped the top of the bar and went over.

Referee Carl Boyeson added five minutes of stoppage time to a thoroughly entertaining first half and the drama was not over yet.

Luyambula was called on to make a dramatic save at the death to ensure Crawley advanced to the next round of the competition.

Crawley Town: Luyambula, Francomb, Tunnicliffe, Dallison, Doherty, Payne, Camara, Morais (Ferguson 69), Nadesan (Grego-Cox 59), Nathaniel-George (Allarakhia 81), Palmer. Unused: Morris, Smith, Sesay, Galach.

Attendance: 2,451 (94 away)

Referee: Carl Boyeson

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Crawley Town beat Colchester United – picture special

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Tom Dallison, superb at the back on Saturday, puts a U's player under pressure

Tom Dallison, superb at the back on Saturday, puts a U’s player under pressure

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'The team have to really start thinking about their starting attitude in games' – Crawley Town opinion

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The Red Devils and Colchester United meet again in two weeks’ time in front of a full capacity stadium and at this moment the home side have taken the slender bragging rights for the Carabao Cup game with their comeback from a half time deficit to take all three points with a 2 -1 win taking them up to ninth spot in the table on equal points as the visitors.

Gabrielle Cioffi had to make changes to the starting line-up for the Red Devils after the Forest Green defeat, with David Sesay suspended, in came Lewis Young who was made captain as Danny Bulman was sitting on the subs bench with Tarryn Allarakhia making his first team starting debut in midfield. With Ollie Palmer still side-lined Mason Bloomfield continue up front with Reece Grego-Cox.

SEE ALSO First blood to Reds in Carabao Cup prelude | ‘Colchester will want revenge so we have to be on it from the off’ ⁠— Crawley Town’s Reece Grego-Cox warns teammates ahead of Carabao Cup tie | Player ratings | ‘The gaffer came in very angry at half-time’ — Reece Grego-Cox after game of two halves against Colchester | Crawley Town head coach Cioffi hails his ‘brave squad’ after Colchester win
The game in front of just over 2600 was very nondescript in the first half with Crawley not at their best, in fact they we playing as they did at Forest Green a week earlier, misplaced passing, second to the ball and being overwhelmed by the Colchester midfield. The visitors could have been out of site by half time, but fortunately had left their scoring boots behind and only managed to get one past Glenn Morris, this was from a corner when unmarked centre half Prosser headed the ball into the net on 35 minutes.

Were the Red Devils were on their way to another home defeat, some supporters commented that the way they were playing they couldn’t see them managing a single goal let alone two, although the Red Devils have scored in every game this season and since the end of March – should they have doubted them to come back.

At the start of the second half, it was like someone had turned a switch on – was this the same side that played in the first half – this Crawley side were full of energy, pressing forward and closing down the opposition. Ten minutes into the second half and the home side were level, a good run and turn by Panutche Camara got free of the defender and his pass to Reece Grego-Cox was inch perfect and Grego-Cox took one touch and fired past the keeper Gerken into the far corner of the net from 25 yards giving the Red Devils a deserved equaliser. The home side continued to press, going forward at every opportunity, playing as good as they had earlier in the season.

Debutant Allarakhia was replaced by Ashley Nathaniel-George on 65 minutes and he started giving the visitors something else to contend with – fast trickery runs, getting behind the now static defence, with one effort being parried by Gerken on to the post.

With ten minutes remaining, it was Grego-Cox who set up the winner, his pass to Lewis Young enabled the defender to put an early cross into the penalty area, Mason Bloomfield timed his run to perfection powerfully heading past the Gerken from five yards his second in two games but this time giving the Red Devils the lead and sending the home fans into raptures.

Man of the match Grego-Cox was replaced late on by Van Velzen to a standing ovation and with time running out Bez Lubala saw his effort rebound off the far post from another powerful drive.

Another three points to the total but the team/squad have to really start thinking about their starting attitude in games – we can’t keep giving away goal starts to the opponents, we need to be on the front foot as soon as the referee blows his whistle at the start of the game.

Up Up and Away

The Red Devils have another difficult game on Saturday when they travel to the Yorkshire town of Bradford. The home side are in 3rd Place and have former Red Devils Hope Akpan in their midfield, who scored last Saturday against Morecambe in the 2-1 win. We know that they will have a strong home support averaging over 14,000 but the Red Devils will have a noisy band of followers behind them, a full coach will be travelling up and with some making their own way, let’s hope for another inspiring display and another 3 points on the road.

This is followed three days later by another tricky away match on Tuesday 22nd October when they visit Newport County who are currently 5th in the table. A supporters coach will travel to Newport departing from the stadium at 2.00pm and cost is £10.00 for this trip. We have seats available if you want join us and support the team. Please contact Alain on 07771-792346 for full details.

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First blood to Reds in Carabao Cup prelude – Crawley Town opinion

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Would we learn anything from the visit of Colchester United in League Two a couple of weeks before their return to Broadfield in the Carabao Cup battle of the giant killers?

The answer is probably not, beyond seeing the prospect of a titanic clash. The teams are closely matched and the current league table shows them separated only by goal difference.

Match winner Mason Bloomfield with Lewis Young

Match winner Mason Bloomfield with Lewis Young

A rarely seen facet of Crawley’s games in recent seasons gave their supporters reasons to be cheerful. They followed a disappointing and disjointed first half (and probably a right rollicking from the manager during the interval) with a much improved and ultimately winning display in the second period. Reds didn’t just overwhelm the visitors they conquered their own demons as well.

Watch Reece Grego-Cox interview here

Whilst Reds generally coped with the threat of the powerful Frank Nouble they were made to look second best overall as the opening forty-five progressed. Colchester merited their interval lead although Tom Dallison would have been disappointed in allowing fellow centre back Luke Prosser to get in front of him and head home the opener from a corner.

Also disappointed must have been Josh Doherty who might feel the officials have got it in for him after receiving another undeserved yellow card on his return after suspension. But in the event the pros exceeded the cons and that allowed the fans to go home in a positive frame of mind.

See our player ratings

The goals both deserved the highest praise. The effervescent Reece Grego-Cox scored the equaliser. I was bang in line with his view of a gap in a crowded penalty area and he steered his low shot from 20 yards unerringly through it and inside the far post. He could see his opportunity and was good enough to take it. He deserves more goals.

Our winner came from an archetypal “on me ‘ead son” situation. Lewis Young is not renowned for his crossing ability but this one to the near post was perfection and Mason Bloomfield buried his header. If you are going to score you might just as well score brilliantly and that was the manner of our winning goal.

The winning margin might have been bigger although Colchester did not deserve that. Their keeper Dean Gerken had turned a hard drive by Ashley Nathaniel-George onto a post and late on that same upright shuddered as Bez Lubala slammed another effort against it.

I had been wondering about Lubala recently as he hasn’t scored for a month but an on-line check of the reported action showed just how much he is involved whenever the Reds are on the attack. What a marvellous signing he has proved to be.

Before Colchester’s return visit we have to play three really tough league fixtures. The results in those games could define our season but whatever the individual outcomes I definitely believe that Crawley Town are on an upward path.

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