It's a Rovers return after Clifford earns Crawley Cup replay
Crawley Town secured a deserved FA Cup first round replay with League One side Bristol Rovers after a lively 1-1 draw at the Checkatrade Stadium on Saturday.
Billy Clifford equalised with his first goal for the club in the 35th minutes after Rovers’ Lee Brown had put his side in front in the 15th minute from distance following a controversial free kick.
Crawley played for the last 25 minutes with ten men as Andre Blackman was sent off for a hand ball, his second bookable offence, but Rovers were unable to make their numerical superiority count.
Dermot Drummy made two changes to the side that lost at Carlisle last weekend, with Bobson Bawling and Clifford coming in to replace Adi Yussuf and Aryan Tajbakhsh, both of whom dropped to the bench.
They were joined by frontman Matt Harrold, who the Reds welcomed back to the match-day squad after three months out with an Achilles injury. Harrold was to come on with four minutes remaining against one of his former clubs.
The Reds started the noon kick-off brightly, putting some decent moves together as they enjoyed the larger share of possession.
Despite their positive start, Crawley found themselves behind after 15 minutes as a result of a contentious refereeing decision.
Skipper Jimmy Smith put in what appeared to be a clean challenge on Bristol’s Ellis Harrison, but referee Darren Deadmen thought otherwise.
The ball was laid off from the 25-yard free kick to Brown who found the bottom right corner with aplomb.
Blackman picked up a yellow card three minutes after the goal for a foul and things almost got worse for Crawley when keeper Glenn Morris put Mark Connolly under pressure with a short pass and his attempted clearance landed at the feet of Bristol’s Matty Taylor, but he was unable to make the most of his opportunity.
Smith picked up the game’s second yellow for a late lunge on Stuart Sinclair but Reds levelled ten minutes before the break.
James Collins was involved in some neat play on the right side, before he slid Clifford in. His first touch took him into the area and one on one with keeper Kelle Roos, and he coolly slipped the ball into the bottom corner.
Drummy’s men had their tails up and could have taken the lead moments later when Enzio Boldewijn was released down the left flank before the Dutchman cut in and tried to find the far corner, but a deflection took it narrowly wide and inches away from a lurking James Collins.
Collins then tried his luck from distance, striking his shot low and hard, but was denied by Roos and Reds’ top scorer couldn’t quite get his toe to Young’s tantalising low cross as the half ended with the hosts in control.
The restart saw the Reds make a change as Adi Yussuf replaced Boldewijn.
The first threat on goal in the second half came from the visitors, when Ellis Harrison turned smartly on the edge of the box before striking the ball sweetly, however it was just wide of the target.
Reds responded with a chance of their own ten minutes into the second half when Collins played a teasing cross for Bawling, but the winger couldn’t get the connection he needed as his header drifted wide.
Clifford came close to doubling his tally five minutes later, when Bawling and Young built patiently down the right before Young found Clifford in the box. He turned superbly but blazed his shot high and wide.
Crawley ramped up the pressure on their opponents, going close again when Blackman surged down the left and fizzed the ball across to Collins, whose shot was smothered by Roos.
The visitors tried to step out of defence but right back Young had other ideas and he whipped in a cross for Bawling who tried to guide the ball into the bottom corner but Roos was on hand once again for Rovers.
Drummy’s men were enjoying a good spell of dominance, with Collins going close once from close range and then from distance.
The home side couldn’t capitalise on their pressure and were dealt a blow with just over 20 minutes left on the clock when Blackman was shown red for a handball after a tussle with Jermaine Easter.
Morris was called into action with 78 minutes played when he did well to keep out a sliced clearance from Alex Davey as the defender attempted to clear a cross.
Drummy saw fit to introduce fresh legs, with Tajbakhsh replacing Bawling and Harrold coming on for Collins in the closing stages, but it finished 1-1 with the replay scheduled for Tuesday week, November 15, kick off 7.45pm.