Crawley Town 1 Luton Town 2
Reds are out of the FA Cup but can consider themselves extremely unfortunate to bow out in the first round.
An 89th minute goal from Josh McQuoid, his second of the game, came after Josh Yorwerth's defensive clearance had hit team-mate Christian Scales and fallen at the feet of the midfielder.
McQuoid had given Luton the lead in the 54th minute but Matt Harrold headed home the equaliser nine minutes later. It was no more than Reds deserved on the balance of play and they created several chances throughout only to be punished for their failure to take them right at the end.
Mark Yates made two changes to the side that beat York last week. With Mitch Hancox unable to play because of the terms of his loan agreement Scales made his first start since the 3-0 win at Newport County in September while Roarie Deacon was preferred to Shamir Fenelon in midfield.
Reds made a positive start and nearly went in front in the 10th minute. Harrold nodded Gwion Edwards’ cross down to Deacon and his shot, which was going in, was deflected wide for a corner.
Scales had already produced an excellent surge into the box and cross, which was deflected for a corner, while Rhys Murphy’s early effort on the turn went over the bar.
Luton then got a toe-hold in the game. Daryl Flahavan pushed Jonathan Smith’s shot round the post at full stretch and the visitors won three successive corners, all of which were cleared.
Simon Walton was cautioned for a late challenge on Smith but after the early excitement the game became increasingly scrappy before Edwards worked goalkeeper Elliott Justham in the 28th minute with a crisply struck effort from the edge of the box which the Luton keeper got his body behind.
Reds had an even better chance two minutes later. Edwards and Harrold combined to put Smith in but his right-foot shot flew inches wide of the right-hand post.
Edwards then created space with a purposeful run to give Murphy a sight of goal but his effort sailed over the KRL Stand.
Luton switched formation to 4-4-2 and they should have broken the deadlock on 38 minutes. Hesitant defending allowed Luke Guttridge to get a shot away but his effort rolled wide of the left-hand post from ten yards.
Reds then went close again. Deacon turned in midfield and his shot turned into a great pass to Murphy, but his first touch took it too close to Justham who cleared the danger as the Reds’ striker tried to poke it past him into the net.
The hosts squandered another good opening two minutes before the break when Deacon’s volley was half-cleared to Murphy but his effort from the edge of the box was slashed well wide.
Luton began the second half the brighter. Flahavan had to turn a deep cross from Sean Long which turned into an effort on target over the bar and two minutes later a corner dropped inside the box to Scott Griffiths, but his shot on the turn was held by Flahavan.
But there was nothing the Reds’ keeper could do when McQuoid broke the deadlock in the 54th minute. With Deacon off the field getting treatment, the midfielder found space on the left and struck a curling right-foot shot from the edge of the box which flew over Flahavan and into the net.
On the balance of play it was scarcely merited but Reds had certainly not started the second period well although Harrold got the crowd going when he forced Justham to make a good save at his left-hand post from a shot from just inside the box.
Olly Lee was inches away from doubling Luton’s lead when his half-volley from the edge of the box flew just wide before Reds levelled on 64 minutes. Harrold attacked Walton’s corner from the right with a towering header which beat both Eastham and a defender stationed on the line for his second of the season against the Hatters.
Two minutes later Crawley nearly scored again. Edwards got to the by-line and pulled the ball into the path of Murphy but he screwed his shot horribly over the South Stand from 15 yards.
There had been a dramatic momentum switch and skipper Sonny Bradley thought he’d put Reds ahead when he met Walton’s cross from the right but his header hit the side netting.
With nine minutes left Murphy was replaced by Lee Barnard and moments later another ball disappeared out of the stadium – a regular occurrence during the afternoon – when Edwards skied his shot after Scales had pulled the ball back into his path.
Luke Rooney came on against his old club to replace Walton and his 86th minute corner was met by Bradley whose firm header picked up pace off the wet turf but was gathered by Eastham on his line.
Fenelon replaced Deacon for the last three minutes before disaster struck with a minute left. Yorwerth's attempted clearance cannoned off Scales' back and fell at the feet of McQuoid who could hardly miss from six yards.