By Gerry PrewettBristol Rovers start their FA Cup campaign this season with a visit to Crawley Town’s Checkatrade Stadium.
The Reds entered the League in 2010/11 and won promotion at their first attempt. After three seasons in League One they were relegated on the last day of the 2014–15 season following a 1–2 defeat at home against Coventry City.
After finishing 20th last season the Reds are looking much better this campaign and currently sit in 10th place, just two pints outside the Play Off spots. Last Saturday they faced the long journey to Cumbria and came back pointless after a 3-1 loss. Carlisle took the lead in the fifth minute when Tom Miller’s long throw from the right was headed in by Jabo Ibehre.
The home team increased their lead in the 27th minute when former Reds player Mike Jones played a ball into the box for Michael Raynes, who headed down to Jason Kennedy to score from two yards. The Cumbrians furhter increased their lead in fine style when Luke Joyce hit a stunning 25-yard shot in off the crossbar to send Reds into the half-time break with a mountain to overcome.
Crawley’s consolation came in added-time when Enzio Boldewijn’s cross was tapped-in from short-range by Mark Connolly.
Reds boss Dermot Drummy speaking after the game said, “It’s obvious but we need to defend better and take our chances. It was a fair result, we gave goals away early on and their third goal killed the game. They were poor goals and we didn’t stop the threat which we knew was coming and we had worked on.”
“We showed a very good attitude in the second half and we created a lot of chances. I was really pleased with the players in the second half. The attitude to try to take the game to them and not die was admirable.”
Honours are even in games between the Reds and the Gas with two wins, two draws and two defeats. The first tie saw the Sussex team demolish Rovers 4-1 on 3 September 2011. The return fixture at the Mem ended 0-0 as Crawley went on to promotion.
The teams next met in the FA Cup in 2013-14 and the game at the Mem again finished 0-0. In the replay Rovers trailed when a quick break in the 14th minute by the home side saw Nicky Adams cross in from the right where Jamie Proctor was on hand to head past Steve Mildenhall despite the shot stopper getting a hand to the ball.
As the game was entering the final stages it appeared that the home team would prevail but on 83 minutes Eliot Richards pounced on a peer attempt to clear Brown’s corner from the left. As the ball dropped a first time shot saw the ball enter the net.
With four minutes remaining Harrold headed a cross from the right back across goal to Tom Parkes, whose perfectly executed overhead kick hit the post and rebounded into play.
Just when it looked as though the game was heading into extra time, Richards saw another goal bound effort touched away by Crawley keeper Jones, but only as far as John-Joe O’Toole who gleefully stroked the ball into the net for a dramatic winning goal.
In the game in Sussex last season Rovers lost their second away game of the campaign as they went behind on 9 minutes the ball fell to Rhys Murphy in the penalty area and the Reds man made no mistake poking the ball past Lee Nicholls.
Less that 60 seconds after the restart Murphy hit the back of the net again, this time from long range catching out Nicholls to give Rovers a mountain to climb if they were to get anything out of the game.
Rovers were handed a lifeline with just over two minutes of normal time remaining as Billy Bodin was bundled to the ground in the penalty area giving referee Trevor Kettle no option but to point to the spot. Matty Taylor stepped up confidently and sent Flahavan the wrong way and pulling a goal back for Rovers.
On 2 April this year in the home game Matty Taylor gave Rovers a 53rd minute lead with a powerful header from Liam Lawrence's corner.
Lawrence turned from provider to scorer 22 minutes later as he struck home an exquisite 25-yard free-kick before Taylor netted a second header soon after following Chris Lines' corner. Cristian Montano could have added a fourth, but Callum Preston saved well.
Red’s midfielder Kaby Djalo is looking to make his FA Cup debut on Saturday. He returned to English football over the summer having spent four years playing abroad in Cyprus, Serbia, Romania, Poland and Finland. The 24-year-old had spent four years playing in Chelsea’s reserves and youth team before that.
Despite Djalo only just beginning his first chapter in the FA Cup, he is well aware of Crawley’s prosperous past back in 2011 and 2012. Two fifth round cup exits in consecutive years put Reds on the map as they suffered a narrow defeat to Premier League giants Manchester United and then at home to Stoke the following year. A run has not been produced since as they have not made it past the first round for the past two years, having been knocked out by Luton and Yeovil.
The last time they did make the second round was in 2013 when they were beaten by the Gas in a replay. That is something Djalo cannot wait to try and put right at the Checkatrade Stadium on Saturday. He said, “This competition is really exciting, when you have to play against team from a different category it always gives you extra motivation. So I’m looking forward it very much.”
“It’s a magical competition. I’m looking forward to it because every competition during the season brings its own excitement and I have played cups before abroad but just never played in the FA Cup before. I am aware of the club’s history in the competition because some fans are still talking about it like it was yesterday, so I know how big this competition is and how much it means for them.”
“I think we will do our very best game by game starting with Bristol. We’re going to play to win like we have been doing since we started the season and of course it’s always good to start playing in front of our fans at home.”