By Gerry PrewettHaving suffered their worst defeat in over two years Bristol Rovers will be looking for retribution in the replay of their first round FA Cup tie against Crawley Town.
There is added spice for Rovers too with the possibility of second round tie against Taunton Town should they win their replay
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. Whilst Rovers were suffering in South London, the Reds were not doing much better in Sussex. They made a strong start, as Chris Arthur's cross was headed down by Enzio Boldewijn for leading scorer James Collins to fire home his sixth league goal of the season on 8 minutes.
Just eleven minutes later Cambridge skipper Leon Legge crossed for defender Greg Taylor, to notch his first league goal for the club. Striker Uche Ikpeazu extended the visitors' advantage in the 28th minute, coolly lobbing keeper Glenn Morris after a long ball by Max Clark.
Midfielder Luke Berry made the points safe six minutes after the interval by curling in a free-kick from 25 yards.
Reds coach Dermot Drummy said after the game, “I don’t think physically we had enough to get back into the game. The first goal has to be cleared, but with Joe McNerney out at the moment and with Mark Connolly now going off we have young centre-halves in there.”
“It’s tough to be learning the game and if you give something away and they score it’s a tough learning curve, but on the flip side, we need to keep clean sheets again. I don’t think it’s down to luck. Where we were playing really well earlier in the season, the back four were resolute, that has got a bit rocky now and the experience had gone out of the back four.”
“We have to be able to clear a ball, that’s not bad luck, that’s bad play. You have to learn from that. “I don’t think we created enough chances in the second half, we had a late flurry, but our football was poor. We have to fight and I think today they were stronger physically and mentally. While we huffed and puffed, I don’t think our quality was there.”
Honours are even in games between the Reds and the Gas with two wins, three 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.
Drummy looked forward to Tuesday night’s game, “We have to put this game to bed as we have to recover now and we have a really tough game against Bristol Rovers. The boys have to keep together, they are in the dressing room and a little bit tense. I can hear some of the fans getting a little tense.”
“The bottom line is if you don’t stick together it falls apart. It’s a call of we are where we are with Crawley we are trying to be better and play better football. “Sometimes it doesn’t work and when that happens, you have to brace enough to look at it, restructure, but not lose sight of where you want to go.”
Drummy has recalled Josh Yorwerth from his loan spell with Merthyr Town and could be an option for the game with at least three other defenders out of contention.
Andre Blackman is serving a two-match ban after being sent off in the first meeting with Rovers, while Joe McNerney underwent knee surgery on Monday and is set to be out for up to three weeks. Mark Connolly, meanwhile, is a doubt after suffering a blow to his windpipe during the Cambridge game that led to him staying overnight in hospital. Crawley are assessing his condition.