Harry Forster opened the scoring after just 48 seconds as Crawley Town secured an eventful 4-3 win over League One side Charlton Athletic in their EFL Trophy opener.
The 23-year-old winger, who signed from Bromley in the summer, gave the home team a dream start when he slammed home a powerful effort from inside the area after the Charlton keeper, Harry Isted, had spilled Jack Roles’ original shot.
Crawley looked much the better side throughout the first half – playing some lovely football and keeping the visitor’s threat to a minimum. However, midway through the half the scores were levelled when Addicks striker, Miles Leaburn, guided in a header off the post to cap off an incisive breakaway.
And just a few minutes later, on the 27-minute mark, Charlton took the lead when Tyreece Campbell arrowed a shot low to Luca Ashby Hammond’s left-hand side.
Once the visitors went ahead the momentum seemed to instantly swing in their favour. Ronan Darcy went close for Crawley with a half-chance but ultimately he could not angle his effort goalwards.
Just before the half-time whistle, Crawley levelled the scores again through Klaidi Lolos, who rose highest at the near post to head home a well-placed cross and equalise. It was Lolos’ second goal for the club – and what a time to score it!
There were a total of 5 changes made at the break, as both managers looked to capitalise on a first-half that could really have gone either way.
It was a cagey opening to the second half, but it was Charlton who drew first blood following a thunderous strike from captain George Dobson, which flew into the top left-hand corner.
As the clock struck 70 minutes, Nick Tsaroulla brought the scores level once more, as Crawley converted their sustained pressure into a reward with Tsaroulla’s effort deflecting past Isted in the Charlton net following a swift counter-attack.
Charlton then hit back looking for a fourth, and Dobson nearly repeated the trick from 20 yards but his effort arced narrowly over the crossbar.
With just under 10 minutes of normal time left, Rafiq Khaleel fired Crawley into the lead when he cut in from the right-hand side, smashing a great strike from a tight angle into the roof of the net past Isted, who was beaten at his near post - much to the delight of the 1,208 Town fans in attendance.
Charlton frantically began the search for an equaliser and it was Daniel Kanu who came closest to finding one for the visitors, but his long-range effort only stung the palms of keeper Ashby-Hammond, who enjoyed an eventful second appearance since arriving on loan from Premier League outfit Fulham.
Crawley had a chance to extend their lead at the death, counter-attacking after Charlton goalkeeper Isted made his way forward for a Charlton corner. The Reds countered with pace, but Nick Tsaroulla’s effort from roughly 30 yards rolled agonisingly past the post.
Ultimately though, Crawley remained firm and were able to secure an excellent win – as well as a hard-earned 3 points, starting their EFL Trophy campaign in the best manner possible.
REDS XI: Ashby-Hammond, Forster (Kelly 45'), Mukena, Ransom (Wright 45'), Omole, Darcy (Tsaroulla 45'), Johnson, Roles, Khaleel, Swyer, Lolos
Attendance: 1973 (765 away)