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Match Reports

Kewell's Checkatrade Stadium debut finishes all square

Reds draw 1-1 with Chelsea XI in Harry's first home game

15 July 2017

The Reds first home pre-season game of the new campaign ended level, as substitute Joe McNerney’s late header earned the Reds a 1-1 draw.

Crawley looked to be slipping to a defeat after Chelsea’s Charlie Brown opened the scoring with 15 minutes left to play.

However a superb cross by an unlikely source, Mark Connolly, just minutes from time was turned in by the head of McNerney to secure a draw for the hosts.

Unlike the Reds opening two friendlies, against East Grinstead Town and Oakwood Town, Head Coach Harry Kewell chose not to play two different elevens in each half, and instead made substitutions throughout.

Kewell opted for a 5-2-3 formation, with Connolly, Josh Lelan and Mark Randall in defence, Cedric Evina and Lewis Young as wing backs, Josh Payne and Dannie Bulman in the middle of the park and a front three of Jordan Roberts, Enzio Boldewijn and Matt Harrold.

Yusuf Mersin started the game in the Reds net ahead of Glenn Morris, who had a spot on the bench.

After just four minutes of play, Payne almost produced a spectacular effort from just past the half way line, attempting to lob Jamal Blackman after he had dispossessed Ruben Sammut, but it was marginally wide of the post.

Chelsea’s first threat on goal came a third of the way through the first half; an effort from range by Isaac Christie-Davies that whistled over the bar from 20 yards.

Crawley began to move the ball around nicely and pressed the visitors well, however there were no real chances carved out in the opening half an hour.

Once again the Blues were limited to efforts from range, this time Luke McCormick unloading from 20 yards, and skimming the outside of the net.

At the restart, it was the visitors who almost took the lead through Sammut.

The midfielder broke into the box and had Reds defenders backing towards goal, before gaining a yard but skewing his shot inches wide of the post.

15 minutes into the second half, Kewell made his first change, introducing Dean Cox for Boldewijn; who just moments before had gone on a mazing run down the right.

Crawley then made further changes, withdrawing Harrold, Roberts and Payne as McNerney, Moussa Sanoh and Dennon Lewis joined the action.

Another round of substitution followed shortly after, as Billy Clifford and Kaby Djalo stepped off the bench to replace Randall and Bulman.

Andre Blackman and Panutche Camara also got some minutes, coming on for Evina and Lelan.

With quarter of an hour left on the clock, the Reds conceded the first goal of the game, as substitute Brown raced into the box on the right-hand side, before firing past Mersin.

With little more than three minutes left on the clock, a centre half combination drew the Reds level.

Connolly found himself out on the right-hand side and whipped in a fantastic cross, which was met at the back post by defensive partner McNerney and headed home past Beeney.

Providing the wonderful assist proved costly for Connolly, as the Irishman had to be replaced by Addison Garnett just seconds after the goal due to a knock.

The match was evenly contested and a draw was a fair outcome, but once again the most important result was the match fitness gained.

The pre-season schedule continues on Tuesday night as The Reds travel to Dulwich Hamlet.

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