Eastbourne Borough 3, Crawley Town 4
Reds survived a few scares before booking their place in the semi-finals of the Parafix Sussex Senior Cup with an extra time win over Eastbourne Borough.
Having been 2-1 up through Thomas Verheydt and an own goal, they surrendered the initiative when they conceded twice in two minutes midway through the second half.
But substitute Dean Cox made it 3-3 with virtually the last kick of normal time before the impressive Verheydt scored from the spot in the 97th minute to seal victory.
Reds had started brightly but fell behind in the 17th minute when Joe McNerney’s headed clearance from a left-wing cross lacked power and Lloyd Dawes volleyed past a motionless Yusuf Mersin inside the right-hand post.
It was nearly two for Dawes five minutes later when he beat Mersin with a shot from a tight angle on the left which hit the far post.
Borough keeper Mark Smith was called into serious action for the first time on the half hour with a superb double save to keep out Payne’s 20 yarder and Panutche Camara’s follow-up.
Reds began to get on top and grabbed a deserved equaliser a minute before the break. Smith again denied Payne after he let fly from the edge of the box but Moussa Sanoh picked up the loose ball on the left and his low cross was fired in from close range by Verheydt.
The Dutchman nearly scored again seven minutes after the break as the post came to Eastbourne’s rescue twice in a minute. Aryan Tajbakhsh rattled it from 20 yards then Verheydt produced a brilliant turn and shot which beat Smith but again came back off the same upright.
If fortune eluded Reds then it smiled on them in the 58th minute. Payne’s astute pass gave Sanoh space to cross low from the right and Haran, under pressure from Verheydt and Camara, slid the ball into his own net.
As an entertaining contest continued to ebb and flow Smith made an instinctive save with his trailing leg when Verheydt stretched to meet Kaby Djalo’s cross with a volley which deserved to go in.
That save was made to look even more important when Borough turned the tie on its head with two goals in as many minutes.
Addison Garnett was badly beaten for pace by Dawes in the 67th minute whose shot had just enough pace to beat McNerney’s effort to clear it off the line.
It got worse two minutes later when McCallum left the Crawley keeper flat-footed after he made the most of yards of space on the left-hand side of the box and picked his spot inside the near post.
Cox replaced Payne for his first taste of competitive action since September 9 and as Reds pushed for an equaliser Verheydt’s glancing header from Clifford’s cross dropped inches wide of the post. They missed an even better opportunity in the 85th minute when Camara was put clean through but instead of firing past the keeper he elected to try and play in Sanoh – only to criminally over-hit the pass.
That looked to be that but deep into stoppage time, moments after Smith had made another great save to keep out McNerney’s header, Cox picked up the loose ball on the left-hand corner of the six-yard box and dinked the ball over Smith and inside the far post to make it 3-3.
The momentum had shifted once again and with the dangerous Dawes having been taken off seconds before the equaliser Eastbourne had lost their main attacking threat.
Reds regained the lead in the 97th minute when Enzio Boldewijn’s surge into the box was ended by a clumsy foul and Verheydt swept the resultant penalty past Smith for 4-3.
The wasteful Camara squandered the chance to put the tie to bed when he sliced his shot wide from Sanoh’s cross with only Smith to beat and Warren Feeney, in charge because Harry Kewell was on PFA business, made the unusual decision of changing a substitute when Josh Lelan came on for the last 15 minutes in place of Boldewijn as Crawley held what they had.
Reds: Mersin, Tajbakhsh, Garnett (Boldewijn 84 (sub: Lelan 116)), McNerney, Doherty; Djalo, Payne (sub: Cox 70), Camara, Clifford, Sanoh; Verheydt. Unused subs: Morris, Evina, Lelan.
Referee: John Pike
Picture: Thomas Verheydt scores Crawley’s first-half equaliser. Photo by James Boardman, Telephoto Images