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Reds lose out to Cambridge United in league return

30 January 2021

The Reds travelled to table toppers Cambridge United this afternoon. Jake Hessenthaler cancelled out a Joe Ironside opener with a neat sequence of play, but it was Cambridge that came out victorious. Kyle Knoyle put the host’s back in front on the stroke of half time and Wes Hoolahan added a third late in the second half.

Crawley started much the brighter team as Jordan Maguire-Drew was involved instantly on his Reds debut. Jordan was creating lots of space on the left-wing which allowed him to whip a  dangerous looking ball in towards Tom Nichols, the striker was just under the ball as his header looped in the air and was claimed easily by Callum Burton.

Despite an energetic start, it didn’t take long for the league leaders to settle, a free-kick was won 30 yards from goal and was floated towards the six-yard box. On the precarious surface, the ball bobbled through to Joe Ironside who was on hand to lift it over Glenn Morris to give the host’s an early lead.

Crawley sprung into life after the opener and equalised with a fantastic sequence. Tom Nichols knocked the ball out to Sam Matthews on the right-wing, Sam was able to drive down before returning the favour to Nichols who neatly flicked into the path of Jake Hessenthaler, the midfielder finished calmly into the bottom corner for his first goal in a Red shirt.

The Reds started to get a real foothold in the game, Tony Craig went close from a corner before the Reds conceded a free kick in a very similar position to the one that Cambridge took the lead in. Paul Mullin decided to strike at goal but his effort was high and wide. Almost a minute later Cambridge won the same free-kick again, this time Wes Hoolahan could only strike into the arms of Glenn Morris.

Morris was then forced to make a very smart save from Luke Hannant, the ball broke free in the middle of the park allowing Hannant to drive towards goal before firing at goal from the edge of the 18-yard box. Morris was able to get two firm hands on the shot to avert the danger.

The host’s were starting to look the more comfortable of the two sides as half time closed in, just before the break Cambridge took the lead with an absolute thunderbolt from Kyle Knoyle. Paul Mullin was able to slide the ball into the path of Knoyle who struck the ball first time into the top corner from 20 yards out, a great finish in what turned out to be the last action of the first half.

Cambridge came out for the second half with the same enthusiasm as they had at the end of the first. Mullin volleyed at goal in the opening exchanges, a good block from Dallison took all the pace out of the strike as Morris was able to collect with relative ease. Glenn was then required to save low down to his right from another Hoolahan shot, another smart stop from the Reds keeper.

James Tilley was introduced at the interval and he went close to an equaliser after neat work from Dallison. The defender was able to stride forward before cutting it back to Tilley who struck at goal, the shot lacked power as Burton was able to take two attempts to collect.

A clever corner routine was carried out by the host’s, Hannant flicked a low driven ball into the path of Mullin who blasted at goal, Nichols making a crucial block. A similar routine followed, Morris saving well on this occasion.

The Reds almost found an equaliser shortly after, Archie Davies delivered into the back post where Rodari lied in wait. Jubril Okedina almost headed into his own net as his clearance only just cleared the crossbar. Tilley was then fed down the right but the initial ball had too much pace as Tilley could only reach Burton from the cross.

Crawley continued to push in search of an equaliser but it was Cambridge who managed to get the next goal. Tony Craig’s pass was intercepted which left the Reds short at the back, Shilow Tracey did well to knock it past Craig and drive at goal, the substitute cut it back to Hoolahan who shifted onto his left foot before curling beyond the reach of Morris to give the host’s a two goal cushion. Cambridge were able to see out the final few minutes meaning the Reds unbeaten run in the league came to an end at the home of the league leaders.

REDS XI: Morris, Francomb, Dallison (Doherty 68’), Craig, Tunnicliffe, Powell (45’), J.Wright, Hessenthaler (Davies 68’), Matthews, Maguire-Drew (Rodari 68’), Nichols

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