Early goal ends Reds' FA Cup hopes
Reds suffered their first FA Cup first-round exit since 2003 after they were sunk by an early Yeovil goal at Huish Park.
Jordy Hiwula took advantage of some poor defending after just six minutes to reward a strong start by the hosts, who were fortunate not to stretch their lead before half-time.
The second period saw Reds enjoy plenty of the ball and they twice went close to an equaliser when Josh Simpson’s shot was blocked and top scorer Izale McLeod headed over.
But the equaliser didn’t come, leaving Reds to lick their wounds and regroup ahead of another cup tie against Gillingham in the area quarter-final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at the Checkatrade.com Stadium on Tuesday.
John Gregory made three changes to the side which drew 1-1 with Crewe in the league last Saturday. Ryan Dickson returned after seven weeks out with a knee injury at left-back as Mat Sadler was refused permission to play by parent club Rotherham.
Matt Harrold started up front in a 4-4-2 with Jimmy Smith back in midfield. Conor Henderson and Luke Young dropped to the bench. There were just two players in Yeovil’s starting XI who played when Reds beat them 2-0 at the Checkatrade.com Stadium six weeks ago.
The hosts may have been much changed but they were soon in control on a Huish Park pitch slickened by morning rain.
They nearly scored in the second minute when Sam Foley’s shot from 20 yards picked up pace off the turf and beat Jamie Ashdown but hit the right-hand post.
Two minutes later Ben Nugent exploited a big gap down the left but his cross was just too strong for the unmarked Liam Davis in the six-yard box.
But the hosts didn’t have to wait long before opening the scoring on six minutes. Joe Walsh should have dealt with a ball into the box but he was muscled off the ball by HIWULA and the Manchester City loanee side-stepped Ashdown before firing into an empty net.
A fired up home side went hunting further goals. Ashdown tipped a cross from Kevin Dawson over at full stretch but when the keeper failed to come for a free kick he was relieved that Nugent headed wide of an empty goal.
Ashdown pushed out a drive from Jordan Clarke before Reds finally got a grip on proceedings. Lanre Oyebanjo pushed forward to give Reds another body in midfield and they enjoyed some good spells of possession without seriously testing Jed Steer in the home goal.
Keith Keane tries to win the ball in midfield
The Yeovil keeper was relieved to see a shot from Matt Harrold fly a yard wide and Walsh came forward to strike a long-range shot that was also just off target.
Reds were looking more secure at the back although they had a warning just before the break when Simpson was outmuscled by Liam Davis who found Hiwula, but the striker’s shot was deflected wide for a corner.
Reds began the second half a lot better and were nearly level on 48 minutes. Gwion Edwards’ cross was headed back down by Harrold to Simpson, but Joe Edwards made a terrific block inside the six-yard box. Two minutes later McLeod cut in from the right and hit a low drive which Steer saved diving to his left.
Reds threatened again on the hour when Keane swung in a cross from the left which McLeod rose highest to meet but his header looped agonisingly over the bar.
Crawley then made a double switch with Young and Gavin Tomlin replacing Edwards and Harrold.
Tomlin and McLeod linked up well in the 69th minute but Tomlin’s shot was blocked and then Oyebanjo cut inside but fired wide. At this stage Reds were seeing plenty of the ball but not really creating many clear- cut chances.
Yeovil were content to soak up pressure and counter attack and when the ball broke to Berrett 25 yards out his powerful drive was pushed out by Ashdown. The hosts saw out the closing stages and three minutes of added time with relative comfort leaving Reds to reflect that a poor start to the game had ultimately cost them.