Meite stunner falls short of inspiring second half come back
A stunning second-half goal from Ibrahim Meite wasn't enough, as Crawley ended their Checkatrade Trophy campaign with a 3-1 home defeat to a talented Fulham u-21 side.
The Reds made seven changes to the side that held Coventry to a 1-1 draw, with Yusuf Mersin, Josh Doherty, Joe McNerney, Josh Lelan, Kaby Djalo, Dennon Lewis and Ibrahim Meite all coming in to the starting 11.
With Crawley sitting bottom of their group with no points after two Group A defeats, and it already being mathematically impossible to progress, the game was a lowly attended one with just 435 spectators.
In their first game since the tragic death of former manager Dermot Drummy, the Reds looked subdued in the opening stages and saw little of the ball.
It took Crawley just over 10 minutes to have their first meaningful attack of the game, with Meite forcing a corner with a brilliant piece of trickery to evade his marker.
Defensive mainstay Josh Yorwerth was forced off after just 15 minutes through injury, being replaced by Aryan Tajbakhsh.
The substitute almost made an instant impact, forcing the keeper into a good save, with just his first touch.
Crawley continued to find space down the left, with Lewis and Meite causing problems, but it was Fulham who made the breakthrough after 30 minutes.
After miss hitting the initial effort, Elijah Adebayo gave the away side the lead after his second shot was adjudged to have rolled past the line- much to the appeal of Mersin, who had both gloves on the ball.
With Crawley’s defensive display uncharacteristically poor, Adebayo found the net a second time 10 minutes later, but the finish was chalked off for offside.
Fulham did get their deserved second goal before half time with Adebayo again involved, this time cutting in from the right and crossing in low for Jordan Graham to clinically fire home.
Moussa Sanoh and Billy Clifford were brought on for Crawley at half-time in place of Josh Payne and Mark Randall.
This sparked a better attacking display, with McNerney coming close with a header, before Camara failed to capitalise when played clear through on goal by Tajbakhsh, after an excellent run.
Crawley continued to put pressure on Fulham’s defence, and they finally found a way back into the game through a wonderful strike from outside the box by Meite after 74 minutes- his first goal at home.
However, any hopes of a comeback were soon dashed with Graham ending the match as a contest with his second and Fulham’s third on the 85th minute mark.
The midfielder, on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, was played clean through after a quick counter-attack and coolly rounded Mersin and finished into the empty net.
The win for the Whites didn’t amount to their own progression but it was a strong display from a group of talented youngsters.
Crawley now have a week’s break before their next game, at home to Mansfield on December 9th.
Reds: Mersin, Lelan, McNerney, Doherty, Yorwerth (Tajbakhsh 15), Payne (Clifford 45), Randall (Sanoh 45), Djalo, Lewis, Meite, Camara.
Unused subs: Garnett, Morris.
Fulham u21s: Ashby-Hammond, Soares, Madl, Graham, Mollo, O’Riley, Kait, Davies, Cisse (Thorsteinsson, 69), Adebayo, Jenz
Unused subs: Atkinson, Nabay, Kwietiewski, Andrasson, Elstone, Schwarzer
Referee: John Busby