The Red Devils progressed through to the knockout stages of the Bristol Street Motors Trophy for the first time in seven years with a 3-2 victory over Aston Villa U21 on Tuesday evening.
With all three points wrapped up, Scott Lindsey's side secured top spot in the group consisting of League One Charlton, League Two Sutton United and a Premier League Academy in the form of Aston Villa. Gaining the top spot in the group sees Crawley secure themselves a home draw for the knockout stages. The draw is due to take place at the end of November, with a date yet to be confirmed.
It was the perfect start for the Reds as Jack Roles opened the scoring in the seventh minute of the match. It was a rapid move from the Red Devils as Joy Mukena played a long ball to the goalscorer. Roles cleverly set the ball to Kamarai Swyer, who linked up well with Ade Adeyemo, who had a brilliant evening on his return from injury. Adeyemo found Adam Campbell in space inside the box, which allowed the attacker to feed Roles, who had peeled into an excellent position. The midfielder had time to pick his spot and curl a fantastic effort into the far top corner.
Aston Villa had some very promising players in their ranks and, on several occasions, had caused Crawley's defence some trouble after Roles had given the home side the lead. Corey Addai had to be alert and made several impressive saves to keep the Reds ahead.
Thankfully, Swyer was on hand to convert a cross from Adeyemo to give Crawley a two-goal cushion in the first half. Another fast-paced counter-attack from the Reds saw Adeyemo freed down the left flank, which gave the pacey forward plenty of time to pick out Swyer in the box. The West Ham loanee was on hand to convert Adeyemo's cross in the 15th minute.
Crawley's lead was halved before the half-time break, however, as Kobei Moore cleverly took the ball past Corey Addai in the 42nd minute. The Villa attacker was forced into a tight angle but still managed to find the back of the net to put pressure on Crawley for the second half.
This pressure was intensified when Villa found themselves level within the first five minutes of the second half. Rico Richards was the goalscorer, and it was another clever finish at the Broadfield Stadium as he delicately lifted the ball over Addai, who had rushed out after Crawley's defence was split by a clever-headed pass on the edge of the box.
Fortunately, Tuesday evening's Man of the Match, Jack Roles, was on hand to restore Crawley's lead in the 54th minute. In a move that had shades of Danilo Orsi's stunning winner against MK Dons back in August, Adeyemo, Swyer and Roles linked up in a very satisfying fashion, which allowed Roles to run through and slot Crawley back into the lead.
Roles' second goal of the evening ensured Crawley rolled on through to the knockout stages of the Bristol Street Motors Trophy for the first time in seven years.
REDS XI: Addai, Adeyemo, Mukena, Wright (Ransom 46'), Omole, Forster, Johnson, Henry, Roles, Swyer, Campbell (Lolos 46')
Attendance: 865 (99 away)