Bristol Rovers 4, Crawley Town 2 (AET): Brave Reds put up valiant battle in FA Cup exit

Jordan Roberts. Crawley v Luton. Picture by Phil Westlake SUS-160918-190833001
Jordan Roberts. Crawley v Luton. Picture by Phil Westlake SUS-160918-190833001

Crawley Town put up a valiant effort to push League One Bristol Rovers all the way to extra-time in what turned out to be a wet and wild thriller at the Memorial Stadium.

The Gas netted twice in the additional period through Rory Gaffney and a Matty Taylor penalty spot to put a flattering 4-2 gloss on the scoreline against a walking-wounded Reds.

Goals for former-Rovers man Matt Harrold and Jordan Roberts, both on their returns from injury, had twice hauled Reds back into the game at 2-2 having gone behind to goals from Taylor and Gaffney.

Glenn Morris had made a number of saves as the Pirates dominated the first half and deservedly led through Taylor, before Roberts equalised with a screamer on the stroke of half-time.

The second half was a much more-even affair as Harrold came off the bench to level up Gaffney’s goal.

Reds had to see out the final ten minutes of normal time in make-shift fashion with a limping Adi Yussuf up front, Conor Henderson at left-back and Harrold on the left-wing, although he retreated down the tunnel for the closing stages with blood pouring from his face.

With the injuries stacking up, extra-time proved too much for a brave Crawley contingent as Gaffney netted after just six minutes and Taylor scored from the spot to set-up a second-round clash with Barrow.

Having held the League One side to a 1-1 draw at the Checkatrade Stadium ten days ago, Reds headed to The Gas with an appealing tie was up for grabs with a home draw against Barrow or Taunton Town awaiting the winners.

They made three changes from Saturday’s league defeat to Bristol as Addison Garnett replaced Mark Connolly, who was still feeling the ill-effects of a hospital visit on Saturday at the heart of defence, while Yussuf and Roberts came in for Enzio Boldewijn and Bobson Bawling.

The Gas had the first bit of pressure when a quickly-taken free-kick on the left was blocked out for a corner and then cleared, while Billy Clifford struck a long-range effort wide at the other end.

The home side hit the post on 15 minutes as a nice passing move saw Byron Moore pick out Taylor, whose pass found Gaffney in space in the box, but his effort crashed against the right-hand upright.

In an all-action start, the pressure continued as Stuart Sinclair lashed over from range after a misplaced pass and then Garnett put in a great block to deny Taylor’s effort from close range.

Just before the half-hour mark, Taylor should have put the hosts in front, but he spun and dragged wide when a low cross from the left found him in space.

Morris was then at his best to deny Gaffney as the stopper raced off his line to make a block save and push wide as the striker attempted to latch onto a Chris Lines ball over the top.

The Pirates had the lead they had been threatening on 32 minutes as a quickly-taken free-kick from the left was floated in by Lines and Taylor headed over Morris for his 13th goal of the season.

Reds kept up some late pressure and a Roberts cross was just cleared from danger, before he smashed home on the stroke of half-time.

A corner from the right flew all the way across the box and the return winger took a touch and smashed into the top corner from 20 yards.

The away side made the perfect start to the second half as the dangerous Gaffney put them back ahead of 52 minutes.

As Reds paused for a flag that never came, the forward cut-back past Arthur of the right of the box and squeezed a shot home through bodies at the near post.

Harrold replaced Kaby Djalo on 59 minutes as Reds switched to two up front and within a minute Collins had race through on the right and Gas stopper Keele Roos did just enough to deflect across the goalline and wide.

Boldewijn had an immediate impact off the bench on 65 minutes as he had been on for just seconds before he broke clear on he right and squared for Harrold to smash home from 11 yards.

Alex Davey put in a solid block to deny Taylor his second as the hosts turned up the heat, in the resulting corner the hosts had hopeful shouts for handball waved away by referee Ben Toner.

With eight minutes left, Gas substitute Billy Bodin sent a curling left-foot effort just past the post with Morris routed.

With a patched-up Crawley just seeing out the 90 minutes, Rovers went ahead six minutes into the added period as Gaffney received a ball in from the left and just poke through Morris’ legs from six yards.

Henderson then brought down Bodin and Taylor made it 4-2 from the penalty spot with 100 minutes on the clock to end Crawley’s cup dream.

Crawley: Morris, Young, Davey, Garnett, Arthur (Boldwijn 64), Smith, Djalo (Harrold 59), Yussuf, Clifford, Roberts (Henderson 75), Collins. Unused subs: Payne, Mersin, Bawling, Tajbakhsh,

Bristol: Roos, Roberts, Lockyer, Hartley (Clarke-Salter 91), Brown, Moore (Bodin 46), Lines, Sinclair, Montano (James 86), Gaffney, Taylor. Unused subs: Hodges, Clarke, Easter, Colkett.

Attendance: 3,676 (85 away).

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