Crawley Town 1 Stoke City 1 (Crawley won 5-3 on penalties)
Reds made history on a night to remember at The People’s Pension Stadium after knocking Championship side Stoke City out and reach the fourth round of the Carabao Cup for the first time in our history.
After the sides drew 1-1 in 90 minutes with Nathan Ferguson scoring his fourth goal of the season to equalise Sam Vokes’ opener, Reds were impeccable in the resultant penalty shoot-out with Bez Lubala, David Sesay, Tom Dallison, Ashley Nathaniel-George and Ollie Palmer all scoring as the shoot-out was on 5-3, Vokes having hit the bar with Stoke’s first penalty.
Stoke played for the last 30 minutes with ten men after Nathan Collins was sent off for a late challenge on Panutche Camara. Reds dominated possession thereafter and were deserved winners on the night.
Gabriele Cioffi made four changes from Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Northampton and the return of Sesay, Dannie Bulman and Camara meant it was the side that beat Norwich in the second round with Michael Luyambula in goal. Stoke made ten changes to the team which drew 0-0 at Brentford to move off the bottom of the Championship on Saturday.
The People’s Pension Stadium was rocking at kick-off and after both sides spent ten minutes settling into the game Ferguson and then Reece Grego-Cox fired efforts just wide of the left-hand post.
Michael Luyambula made a terrific reflex stop to deny Scott Hogan, who was offside anyway, but it was a warning of the threat on the counter Stoke had, with the pacey Tyrese Campbell – son of former Arsenal striker Kevin – a threat down the right.
But it was from a set piece that Stoke broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute. Liam Lindsay won the header at the far post from Ryan Woods’ corner and the loose ball was knocked past Luyambula by Welsh international Vokes.
Reds almost responded in an instant. Ferguson beat two defenders to set up space for a low shot which Adam Federici pushed away at full stretch for a corner.
Stoke had clearly done their homework and often double marked top scorer Lubala but a third of the way in the visitors’ goal had certainly punctured the early optimism. And what Reds couldn’t afford to do was give possession away which Camara was guilty of. Stoke broke and David Sesay had to block Campbell’s shot for a corner.
Sesay was involved at the other end in the 36th minute when he broke into the box and found Reece Grego-Cox, but the midfielder’s first touch was poor and Federici was out quickly to block. Moments later Grego-Cox hit another powerful shot from distance which was just a yard wide but in their next attack Reds drew level.
Ferguson did brilliantly to make space on the left and although Federici got a hand to the ball it had too much power and flew into the roof of the net for his fourth goal of the season.
Reds threatened again when Ferguson chipped a free kick to the far post where Dallison wasn’t far away with what was a free header.
There was an explosive start to the second half when Ollie Palmer beat the offside trap and fell in the box under Danny Batth’s challenge, but referee Kevin Johnson turned down penalty appeals. Collins had the ball in the net at the other end but was flagged offside then Grego-Cox’s curling effort took a deflection off Camara - and into Federici’s arms. It came after Batth followed Dannie Bulman into the book for bringing down Palmer.
Stoke threatened again when Scott Hogan broke in the 57th minute but Tom Dallison got across to make an excellent block and three minutes later the visitors were down to ten men when Collins was shown a straight red for a foul on Camara in the centre circle.
Stoke were now content to sit deep and try and hit Crawley on the break and the hosts began to get on top. Grego-Cox fired over after breaking into space on the right, Lubala won a loose ball on the edge of the box and tested Federici then Camara saw his effort charged down by Batth.
As the pressure mounted Palmer played a great one-two with Grego-Cox but his powerful angled drive was always rising over the bar.
Josh Doherty was next to test Federici, who got fully behind the defender’s 86th-minute effort then Luyambula was relieved to see a thunderbolt from Peter Etebo just clear his crossbar. That was the last meaningful action of the match. Reds held their nerve in the shoot-out and hundreds of home fans invaded the pitch when Palmer’s penalty went in to celebrate a great night for the club.
Reds: Luyambula; Sesay, Dallison, Tunnicliffe, Doherty; Bulman (Nathaniel-George 90); Grego-Cox, Ferguson, Camara (Allarakhia 90), Lubala; Palmer.
Attendance: 4165 (721 Stoke)
Picture: Nathan Ferguson scores our first-half equaliser. Photo by James Boardman