Crawley progressed to the second round of the Carabao Cup with a fine victory over Bristol Rovers this evening. Tom Nichols scored Crawley’s first competitive goal of the season to give his side the lead in the 74th minute. Kevin Betsy’s side dominated the majority of the fixture and came away with a well-deserved win.
The Reds started the game with a real sense of urgency and were putting their League One opponents under some severe pressure in the early stages. Kevin Betsy’s changes were looking to prove why they should be in the starting eleven every week, and during the first 20 minutes, they were making a very strong case.
Joey Barton’s outfit did look dangerous going forward, and for a moment, Ryan Loft looked set to give his side the lead. A ball over the top of the Crawley defence appeared to beat the offside trap, which allowed Loft a clear run at goal. Out of nowhere, Ludwig Francillette appeared and pinched the ball off of Loft and cleared the danger.
Tom Nichols was then gifted a chance to give his side the lead but saw his effort get beaten away by James Belshaw. It was Belshaw’s mistake that gifted Nichols the chance. The Rovers goalkeeper had a clearance intercepted by the Crawley striker but recovered to beat away the resulting effort.
The Reds again came close on the stroke of half-time as George Francomb fired a ferocious volley wide of the target. Tony Craig found Jake Hessenthaler with a perfectly weighted ball over the top of the Rover's defence, which gave Hessenthaler space for a cross. The Reds’ midfielder picked out Francomb at the back post, who opted for a first-time strike that whistled past the post.
A much-improved performance from the Red Devils, who looked like the better team as the tie reached the half-way point.
Crawley continued to improve in the early stages of the second half as they searched for their first competitive goal of the season. Dion Conroy was forced off at half-time as Travis Johnson was introduced. The change saw Francomb move to centre-back and Johnson resume his normal wing-back position.
Aramide Oteh was brought on to replace Kwesi Appiah just after the hour mark for his 2022/23 competitive debut.
Kevin Betsy’s men continued to press and took a deserved lead through Tom Nichols in the 74th minute. The ball broke loose for Powell in the midfield, and the midfielder picked out Nichols’ run with a perfectly weighted pass to set the Crawley skipper through on goal. Nichols skipped on towards goal, had an initial shot saved by Belshaw, but stuck home the rebound to put the Red Devils ahead on the night.
The Reds so nearly doubled their lead moments later as Oteh struck the post after a glorious passage of play. Oteh and Nichols combined with a neat one-two, which allowed Rem to stride forward and curl an effort at goal. The shot had Belshaw beaten but trickled onto the post.
The Reds huffed and puffed and held on to claim a well-deserved victory to seem them progress to the second round of the Carabao Cup for the first time since 2019.
REDS XI: Addai, Francomb, Conroy (Johnson 46’), Craig, Francillette, Ogungbo, Powell, Hessenthaler (Hessenthaler 90+2”), Nadesan (Balagizi 85’), Nichols, Appiah (Oteh 66’)
Attendance: 1860 (241 away)