Superb strike by Meite not enough as Reds end Checkatrade Trophy campaign with third defeat
Reds ended their Checkatrade Trophy campaign with a third Group A defeat at home to a lively Fulham u-21 team.
The hosts trailed 2-0 at the break to goals by Elijah Adebayo and Jordan Graham.
Ibrahim Meite pulled one back with 14 minutes to go with a superb effort into the top corner but Graham raced clear of the offside trap to end hopes of a home fightback with four minutes left.
Only three of the players in action against Coventry – Josh Payne, Josh Yorwerth and Mark Randall – were in the starting XI and Yorwerth was replaced after 16 minutes after feeling his hamstring.
His replacement Aryan Tajbakhsh nearly scored with his first touch when he cut inside from the right and unleashed a shot which Fulham keeper Luca Ashby-Hammond parried away.
Fulham then began to click into gear and create chances. Mattias Kait headed onto the roof of the bar from Graham’s cross before Yusuf Mersin kept out Adebayo’s effort. Reds broke down the left through Dennon Lewis who pulled the ball across the face of goal but Panutche Camara sliced his shot wide.
The visitors went in front on 31 minutes. Having won the ball, Tajbakhsh gave the ball away to Graham and his cross was headed goalwards by Adebayo. Mersin clawed it back into play but the assistant ruled that the ball had crossed the line.
Just before the break Crawley were punished again for dilatory defending. This time Josh Doherty was dispossessed by the impressive Adebayo who found Graham eight yards out. He side-stepped Josh Lelan and smashed the ball past a helpless Mersin.
Reds made two changes at the back with Randall and Payne replaced by the fit again Moussa Sanoh and Billy Clifford.
The hosts switched to a 4-4-2 formation and took the game to Fulham for a spell. Tajbakhsh almost played Camara in on goal and Clifford had an effort from the edge of the box blocked.
It was end to end stuff and Fulham remained a threat on the counter-attack. Mattias Kait flashed a near-post header just wide then Mersin kept out an effort from substitute Jon D’Agur Thorsteinsson.
But Reds got back into the game with 14 minutes to go. Meite worked a yard of space on the edge of the box before finding the top left-hand corner with a superb left-foot strike - one of the best goals seen so far at the Checkatrade this season.
The hosts pushed men forward in search of an equaliser but that left them vulnerable on the counter. With four minutes left Fulham broke from a corner and Graham raced clear, rounding Mersin before finding the net from an angle.
That was that and Reds can now concentrate on improving their League fortunes, starting against Mansfield in our next game on December 9.
Reds: Mersin, Lelan, McNerney, Doherty, Yorwerth (sub: Tajbakhsh 15), Payne (Clifford 45), Randall (Sanoh 45), Djalo, Lewis, Meite, Camara. Unused subs: Garnett, Morris.
Pictured: Goalscorer Ibrahim Meite finds the top corner in the second half