Crawley Town secured all three points at home to Carlisle United on Saturday afternoon thanks to Nick Tsaroulla’s stunning late goal.
The Reds opened the scoring in a match for the first time this season as Tom Nichols volleyed home from a corner kick in the 32nd minute, marking his return to competitive home fixtures with style.
Despite having the best of their opponents, Crawley couldn’t maintain their lead as Jon Mellish had time to turn and fire the ball into the roof of Glenn Morris’ net.
The late heartbreak was, in fact, that of the visitors as Tsaroulla cannoned the ball into the back of the net from outside the penalty area to secure all three points for the hosts.
Crawley Town manager John Yems made three changes to the side that narrowly lost away at Bristol Rovers last time out, replacing Tony Craig, Archie Davies and Tyler Frost with Joel Lynch, George Francomb and Will Ferry respectively.
With the curse of conceding early seemingly behind the Reds, they were allowed to engage in an energetic start to the game as the sides sized each other up. Nichols had the first chance of the game, finding himself in a surprising amount of space on the edge of the Carlisle penalty area but couldn’t bring down the lofted through ball and the opportunity fell away from him.
Carlisle’s best efforts of the opening half-hour were courtesy of Brennan Dickenson who saw a fierce shot blocked by the shins of Francomb and then couldn’t climb high enough to put any power behind a header at the back post which was gratefully collected by Morris.
After this somewhat uneventful but competitive start to the game, Crawley registered their first shot on target of the game as the man making his competitive return to the People’s Pension Stadium volleyed home at close range. Nichols, on hand at the back post, struck a clean volley past Magnus Norman from Ferry’s corner kick to give the hosts the lead.
With one assist to his name, Ferry looked to add a goal with a sweetly curled effort that forced Norman to get down well to collect the ball at the foot of his left post just before half-time.
The Reds started the second half well, controlling the game and holding possession in the attacking third. They were almost given a man advantage when Jack Armer put his studs into Jack Powell’s stomach but wasn’t given his marching orders from the ref, rather, his own manager, who removed the fullback from the field of play at the first opportunity.
This began a shift in momentum as Carlisle took control, boasting constant pressure for the next 20 minutes. Despite this, they struggled to create dangerous chances, the only one of note coming from Lewis Alessandra who powered a header against the upright from close range.
While there was a brief break-up of the Carlisle dominance, it wasn’t long before Yems’ Reds found themselves under the cosh again. Amongst the pressure, Kelvin Mellor – arguably United’s best player on the day – dribbled his way inside off the left flank and into a great shooting position but he could do nothing more than drag the ball narrowly wide.
Unfortunately for the Reds, they wouldn’t be so lucky when the next Carlisle chance came to pass. Good work down the right-hand side allowed the ball to find Mellish inside the Crawley box. With time to turn, Mellish fired the ball into the roof of the net to inflict what looked like late heartbreak on the home side.
However, it was not to be Crawley's heartbreak as Tsaroulla took things into his own hands; the ball rolled out to him and the left-back smashed the ball home from 20 yards with a rocket that lifted the roof off the stadium.
REDS XI: Morris, Francomb (C), Dallison, Powell, Nichols (Appiah 76’), Ferry (Frost 60’), Ashford (Nadesan 65’), Tsaroulla, Payne, Lynch, Hessenthaler
UNUSED SUBS: Jones, Gallacher, Bansal-McNulty
Attendance: 2151 (290 away)