Crawley Town (Away) – Carabao Cup

May 21, 2023 | 2023 A Season in Review

The People’s Pension Stadium Tuesday 9th August 2022

Crawley Town 1

Nichols (73)

Bristol Rovers 0

Referee: David Rock Attendance: 1,860

By my reckoning this was the 152nd League Cup tie to be played by Rovers in all its many guises; currently known as the Carabao Cup, it’s a competition which the club hasn’t fared very well in during recent years.

This, though, was surely an opportunity to make progress; away to a second tier club who had lost both opening games by the same 1-0 scoreline and who made six changes ahead of the game.

Rovers’ boss Joe Barton claimed not to have enough senior players available to him to make wholesale changes and judging by the nine substitutes he was permitted to name for the game that certainly appeared to be the case as no fewer than five of the nominated replacements were current Academy players. It must have made 38 year old Glenn Whelan, who was sat alongside them, feel positively ancient!

Barton made just one change to the side that had hammered Burton Albion just a few days previously, recalling Alfie Kilgour in place of the injured James Gibbons.

His side started the match brightly and Aaron Collins hit one effort into the side netting before seeing a weak effort comfortably gathered by goalkeeper Corey Addai.

The home side’s best opportunity of the half arrived when goalkeeper James Belshaw cleared as far as former Rovers striker Tom Nichols but, in a one on one situation with the shot stopper, the keeper came out on top and atoned for his error.

After what I would term as a lethargic first half I thought that Rovers would take the game to their opponents after the break and, for a while, they did just that. Crawley were indebted to keeper Addai three minutes in, as he made a fine save from Collins who had been played in by John Marquis.

The striker then hit a shot over the bar as did skipper Sam Finley, while Ryan Loft really should have opened his season’s account when he glanced a header wide of the target from Luca Hoole’s whipped in cross from the right.

It was a costly miss by the former Scunthorpe striker as the home side took the lead just two minutes later. Jack Powell played in Nichols, who saw his first attempt saved by Belshaw. However, the keeper couldn’t hold the ball and it rebounded back to the diminutive striker who swept the ball into an empty net.

Disappointingly, there was no response from Rovers; in fact, it was Crawley who almost scored again when substitute Aramide Oteh saw his shot hit the outside of the post.

There were very few positives to be gleaned from this Rovers performance which, if anything, strengthened Barton’s argument that more signings were needed.

Three tough league games lay ahead for Barton’s side ahead, though he would have the benefit of seeing his skipper, Paul Coutts, return to action following a four match suspension when Rovers were due entertain Oxford United in the first of those fixtures.

As an aside, Nichols was wearing the captain’s armband for Crawley while former Rovers’ skipper Tony Craig looked to be enjoying playing against his former club!

Crawley Town: Addai, Conroy (Johnson, 46), Francomb, Craig, Powell, Nadesan (Balaggizi, 84), Francillete, Hessenthaler (Jenks, 90+2), Ogungbo, Nichols, Appiah (Oteh, 63).

Substitutes: Greensall, Khaleel, Ransom, Gallacher.

Bristol Rovers: Belshaw, Hoole, Kilgour (Jones, 89), Connolly, Gordon (Saunders, 65), Anderson, Finley (Whelan, 64), Evans, Collins, Loft, Marquis.

Substitutes: Ward, Greenslade, Lawrence, Sesay, White, Burden.


Former Rovers players Tom Nichols and Tony Craig were in the Crawley Town starting XI, while another former Gas player, Dominic Telford, was not in their squad

Yellow cards were issued to Antony Evans and Ryan Loft

Sam Finley began the game as skipper and the armband passed to Antony Evans when he was substituted

Three substitutes used one of whom, Ryan Jones, has yet to make his Rovers league debut

Seven added minutes

(photos courtesy of JMP)

Keith Brookman