Carabao Cup heartbreak for Crawley Town after 3-1 defeat against Colchester United

Dannie Bulman's superb first-half strike proved to be in vain. Photo: PW Sporting Photography
Dannie Bulman's superb first-half strike proved to be in vain. Photo: PW Sporting Photography

Crawley Town's Carabao Cup journey was brought to a heartbreaking end this (Tuesday) evening as they were comfortably beaten by a resilient Colchester United side.

Crawley, looking to complete back-to-back victories over Colchester to progress into the quarter-final of the competition, started the game on the front foot and were the brighter of the two sides in the early stages. They took a deserved lead thanks to a thunderous effort from veteran Dannie Bulman after 20 minutes.

However, Colchester responded brilliantly and got themselves level barely a minute later when Luke Norris headed home a cross from Frank Nouble — a partnership which caused Reds plenty of problems at the end of the first half.

The visitors continued to pose problems after the break and took the lead on the 54th minute mark courtesy of a superb free-kick by Cohen Bramall, which found its way in off the back of Michael Luyambula.

Despite some asserted pressure from Reds after the 70th minute mark, the hosts were dealt a killer blow by former winger Luke Gambin, who finished superbly past Luyambula to double Colchester's lead.

Crawley threw on an extra forward in Ashley Nadesan for the final ten minutes but created little in the way of chances to force a grandstand finale, bringing an end to their Carabao Cup quarter-final dreams.

Action packed two minutes light up first-half

Gabriele Cioffi made four changes from the side which was beaten 4-0 by Swindon in the league on Saturday. Michael Luyambula, Tarryn Allarakhia, Dannie Bulman, and Bez Lubala, who was suspended at the weekend, were all named in the starting 11. Glenn Morris, Panutche Camara, Ashley Nathaniel-George and Ashley Nadesan dropped to the bench.

In what could have been seen as Crawley's biggest game since the historic night at Old Trafford in the FA Cup eight years ago, considering what was at stake, Reds started the game at a fast, energetic pace. It was a much improved display from the one which saw them beaten comfortably at home by Swindon Town at the weekend.

However, they played more than one sloppy pass early on, none worse than Nathan Ferguson's poor attempt at playing the ball out wide from kick off.

Crawley had their first shot on target after nine minutes when Tarryn Allarakhia's curling effort was kept out by Dean Gerken after good work from Bulman and Mason Bloomfield.

The hosts continued to pile on the pressure and got their reward on the 20th minute mark when captain Bulman fired a stunning, and unstoppable, shot into the top right corner from distance.

However, they do say you are most vulnerable when you've just scored a goal and Reds learnt that hard lesson when, just 90 seconds later, Colchester levelled the scoring with their first meaningful attack. Luyambula perhaps could have done more to stop a header from target-man Luke Norris after a Frank Nouble cross, but he wasn't helped out by his defenders.

The visitors started to see more of the ball against a stunned Crawley and almost took the lead via the same combination, with Norris striking the top of the bar after being found by Nouble's knock down.

Colchester, with control of possession (63 per cent), looked a different side after their goal and looked the more likely to take the lead, but Crawley managed to keep the scores level at the break.

Colchester take control against uninspiring Reds

Colchester continued to look the more confident side after the break and found an early goal thanks to a excellent free-kick from Bramall, which found its way in off the back of Luyambula after striking the crossbar.

Tom Dallison was the man to give the set-piece away but the centre half was desperately unlucky, as he made the foul whilst slipping over — less than minute after Jordan Tunnicliffe lost his footing in a similar position allowing Bramall a shot on goal.

Colchester almost doubled their lead after Crawley clumsily gave the ball away to Kwame Poku, whose powerful drive forward was not closed down and ended up at the feet of Courtney Senior who wastefully blazed over the bar.

It wasn't until the 70th mark when Reds started putting on some significant pressure on the Colchester backline but Reds were caught on the break and dealt a heartbreaking blow when Luke Gambin, who had a spell on loan at Crawley last season, fired past Luyambula.

Crawley created next to little in the final ten minutes, despite the introduction of Nadesan, and Colchester were able to comfortably see out the game and their progression into the quarter-finals.

Crawley Town: Luyambula, Sesay (Young 67), Tunnicliffe, Dallison-Lisbon, Doherty, Allarakhia (Nadesan 82), Bulman, Ferguson, Lubala, Grego-Cox, Bloomfield (Palmer 54)

Unused subs: Morris, Nathaniel-George, Sendles-White, Camara

Colchester United: Gerken, Jackson, Eastman, Prosser, Bramall, Stevenson, Comley, Senior, (Lapslie 83), Poku (Gambin 74), Nouble, Norris (Harriott 61)

Unused subs: Lapslie, Sowunmi, Brown, Clampin, Ross

Attendance: 5,612