Crawley Town’s Papa John’s Trophy campaign concluded with a defeat against Southampton U21s at The People’s Pension Stadium.
Southampton U21s took the lead through Kazeem Oliagbe, who received the ball off Thierry Small and curled the Saints into the lead from the edge of the box.
Their lead was doubled just before halftime after Caleb Watts rounded Blondy Noukeu and aimed a shot from a tight angle. Ramello Mitchell came running into the box and smashed the ball home to secure the two-goal advantage.
A third was added just before the hour mark as Oliagbe emulated Mitchell’s goal, smashing home from close range after good work down the right from Dom Ballard left the midfielder with the simplest of finishes.
Small added a fourth at the death with a good finish from a tight angle to cap off the Saints’ solid performance.
Crawley Town manager John Yems made five changes to the side that lost narrowly in the FA Cup on Saturday, replacing Glenn Morris, Jake Hessenthaler, Ashley Nadesan, Kwesi Appiah and Tom Nichols with Blondy Noukeu, Amrit Bansal-McNulty, Tyler Frost, Sam Ashford, and Davide Rodari. The Reds lined up in a 4-3-3 with Rodari leading the line and an unchanged back four.
The Reds came out of the blocks with energy and looked promising in the opening exchanges as both Rodari and Bansal-McNulty had shots blocked within the first five minutes. Davies also took aim in these exchanges but couldn’t keep the ball down.
Frost was looking lively as he attacked Lewis Payne, Southampton’s right back, winning a free-kick after a quarter of an hour and then drilling a low shot goalward that was once again blocked.
Southampton U21s earned their first chance in the 18th minute as Noukeu made a brilliant reaction save to keep the scores level.
Bansal-McNulty and Jack Powell went close before the deadlock was eventually broken in the 27th minute. Small went on a mazy run down the left-wing, taking the ball inside Archie Davies and laying it off to Oliagbe who curled the ball sweetly into the bottom corner.
The lead was doubled in the 40th minute when Watts collected a through ball and rounded Noukeu at a tight angle. After firing goalward, Mitchell ran in and ensured the already on target effort crossed the line.
Two became three on the hour mark as Ballard went on a fantastic run down the right-wing and drilled the ball through the six-yard box. Noukeu got a hand on it but couldn’t keep it away from Oliagbe, who netted his second of the night.
This cushion allowed Saints to sit back and defend their lead which made things difficult for Crawley who had been able to create chances in the first half, but were now unable to create a positive in the game. The only positives to take from the game were the introductions of Sam Matthews – who was returning from injury after three months out – and Reece Grego-Cox, who was returning after 620 days out with a serious knee injury.
A fourth concluded the night when the so-far impressive Small grabbed his goal with a smart finish from a tight angle in the 89th minute.
The Reds now have eleven days to prepare for Barrow away on the 20th of November.
REDS XI: Noukeu, Davies, Craig, Dallison, Powell, Frost (Matthews 81’), Francillette, Ashford, Payne (Marshall 46’), Bansal-McNulty, Rodari (Grego-Cox 63’)
UNUSED SUBS: Morris, Battle, Tilley, Matthews, Kowalczyk
Attendance: 385 (77 away)