Bristol Rovers defeated the Reds at The People’s Pension Stadium this evening by two goals to one. Despite a solid performance from Crawley, a clinical Bristol Rovers side walked away with all three points courtesy of goals from Harry Anderson and Aaron Collins.
Crawley were gifted the first real chance of the game as captain George Francomb capitalised on a loose pass from a Rovers defence. Francomb was forced to shoot first time and saw his effort fly over the crossbar.
Ashley Nadesan was looking to continue his fine form in front of goal and had a chance to grab the opener in the 6th minute of play. Joel Lynch fired an excellent ball over the top of the Bristol defence, which Nadesdan got on the end of. The striker took a touch before firing at goal but could only drag his shot wide of the target.
Nadesan then had an even better chance to put Crawley ahead moments later. The striker capitalised on a loose header from Sam Finley and found himself one on one with James Belshaw. The Rovers goalkeeper spread himself and made a fine save to deny the Crawley forward.
Despite Crawley’s opening chances, Bristol were playing well, and the Gas took the lead in the 40th minute. A quick counter-attack from Rovers saw the Reds caught short at the back. A ball was fed through the defence to Harry Anderson, who tucked a calm finish under Glenn Morris.
Nick Tsaroulla forced a save from Belshaw on the stroke of half-time as the young full-back burst forward on the counter-attack alongside substitute Jake Hessenthaler. Bristol survived a dramatic end to the half as Crawley went in search of an equaliser.
Kwesi Appiah was introduced at half-time to make his first appearance since January 1st. Crawley’s leading goalscorer almost instantly picked up where he left off and would have had Crawley’s equaliser had it not been for a terrific Belshaw save. Appiah powered a header towards goal from a set-piece which had Belshaw scrambling to tip around the post.
Rovers remained dangerous and saw the ball land on the roof of the Crawley net twice in quick succession. Aaron Collins attempted a cheeky lob over Morris but failed to keep his effort under the bar before Elliot Anderson headed an effort over from close range.
The Gas’ persistence continued, and Collins soon gave them a two-goal cushion. It was another quick break from Rovers, who looked destined to score from the moment they pinched the ball. Luca Hoole played a brilliant ball to Collins, who drilled a powerful effort under Morris into the back of the net.
Bristol’s two-goal cushion didn’t last long as Jake Hessenthaler grabbed a goal on his return to put Crawley firmly back in the mix. A free-kick was whipped into the box with pace, and Hessenthaler rose highest to head towards goal. After a further touch from a Rovers defender, the ball eventually landed in the back of the net, but Hessenthaler's original effort appeared to be heading in anyway.
Despite Crawley’s constant and dominating pressure, Rovers took all three points back to Bristol.
Reds XI: Morris, Ferry, Tunnicliffe (Hessenthaler 28’), Craig, Lynch, Tsaroulla, Powell, Payne, Francomb (Tilley 70’), Hutchinson (Appiah 45’), Nadesan
Attendance: 2223 (556 away)