By Gerry Prewett.
After defeats in their opening games, Rovers will be looking to get their season on track when they entertain Second Division Crawley Town in the Carabao Cup at the Mem on Tuesday night. Having gone behind early in both games, Darrell Clarke’s team have found themselves on the back foot in both those games. The opportunity to put Saturday’s defeat behind them so early will be welcome in North Bristol.
As Rovers were going down to Accrington in Bristol, the Reds lost their home game 3-1 to Stevenage. After a quiet opening period, the game burst into life three minutes after the start of the second half when substitute, former Brighton striker, Alex Reid nodded Stevenage into the lead from a cross, on his return to Sussex.
The Reds responded immediately when Dannie Bulman shot narrowly wide in a busy penalty area. Five minutes later it was all-square as Ollie Palmer scored his second goal of the season to head in a cross by Filipe Morais.
Reid went close to regaining the lead for Stevenage when he received a ball by Alex Revell, cut inside and fired inches wide of the target. Revell finally gave Stevenage the lead once again with an 88th minute far post header and then seized on a defensive mistake to score his team’s third goal deep into added-time.
Honours are fairly even in games between the Reds and the Gas with three Rovers’ 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 2016 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.
In 2016-17 the teams were once again drawn together in the FA Cup. After a 1-1 draw in Sussex the repaly at the Mem saw an exciting game go into Extra Time. Matty Taylor gave Rovers a 1-0 on 34 minutes, only for Jordan Roberts to equalise right on half-time. Rory Gaffney put Rovers back in front on 52 minutes before ex-Gas Matt Harrold pulled Crawley back level on 65 minutes.
As the game went into Extra Time Rory Gaffney (96 minutes) and Matty Taylor (102 minutes, penalty) gave the home team a 4-2 win.
Crawley Town Boss Harry Kewell speaking after Saturday’s game commented, “We weren’t at the races. Stevenage worked harder than us, we were a bit leggy. But it didn’t show in training, they were solid, working hard and positive so maybe it was just one of those off-days.”
“Stevenage played a very direct game and they do what they are good at; long balls, flick-ons and look for silly little fouls. We knew exactly what Stevenage would bring and that’s the disappointing thing. But unfortunately sometimes you can’t defend great crosses and to be fair two of their goals they scored came from great crosses.”