Rovers defeat Crawley in Carabao Cup

Aug 14, 2018 | Match Reports, News

Kyle Bennett opened his account for the 2018/19 campaign with a first-half header – with the winger’s goal and a late strike from Ollie Clarke proving to be enough to secure Rovers’ name in the hat for the second round of the competition – although Crawley did find the net in the dying moments through Mark Connolly.

In naming his starting XI for the fixture, Manager Darrell Clarke opted to make four changes to the side that faced Accrington on Saturday.

The headline change came in the shape Adam Smith was chosen instead of Sam Slocombe in goal. Sam Mathews made his first start for Rovers, while both Daniel Leadbitter and Chris Lines were recalled to line-up.

In terms of early changes, there wasn’t much that either side could muster in the initial ten minutes of the contest. The opening chance of the game was created when a searching cross from the right via Daniel Leadbitter was headed wide of goal by Kyle Bennett – in what would have been a carbon copy of Stefan Payne’s goal against Accrington.

The visitors went close themselves just moments later – as a low cross from the right from George Francomb found Panutche Camera free inside the Rovers area. With just Smith to beat, the striker took a heavy touch and the ball deflected behind for a goal-kick, in what was a real let-off for the home side.

With the game developing a decent pace, a well-timed sliding challenge from Daniel Leadbitter set up a rapid counter-attack from Rovers. Bursting forward with the ball at speed, the right-back opted to square a cross to the edge of the Crawley area. The ball ballooned high and rebounded into the path of Chris Lines, but attempting a trademark volley, the midfielder’s effort skewed off target.

Rovers began to demonstrate a slick passing game on the pristine surface at the Mem. Following an interception by Kyle Bennett, a forward ball to the feet of Sam Matthews was greeted by a smart turn that opened up space for the winger to burst into. With the Crawley defence retreating, Matthews guided a pass through to Stefan Payne, who drilled a fierce effort towards goal that was pushed wide by Yusef Mersin.

The deadlock was broken on the half-hour mark by the hosts. A directed corner from the right by Sam Matthews picked out the towering figure of Stefan Payne. The striker guided the ball into a dangerous location, which allowed Kyle Bennett to guide a header into the far corner to open the scoring.

The goal sparked the home side into further attacking endeavour, as a pass from Bennett into the area picked of Matthews, who saw his shot on goal deflected behind for a corner.

With half-time approaching, Rovers had a chance to further the lead, as break down the right by Sam Matthews led to the winger laying off a pass to Chris Lines. Forcing a first-time effort towards goal, Lines saw his attempt headed over the crossbar by Mark Connolly, with the shot looking destined to cause Mersin problems in the Crawley goal.

After the break, there was no sign of Rovers altering their attack-minded play. After receiving the ball out wide, Sam Matthews outside and unleashed a left-footed shot towards goal that bobbled in front of Mersin, who could only clutch the attempt at the second attempt, with a number of Rovers players charging into for a close-range tap-in.

In wide areas, Rovers looked threatening and a dangerous cross from the right from Kyle Bennett sliced open the Crawley defence. The delivery meandered its way through to Stefan Payne, who could only lift his close-range high over the target.

Matthews, who looked impressive for the home crowd side through the encounter, again found space to launch a shot towards after spilling in from a wide position. On this occasion, the youngster decided to add more height to his left-footed attempt, that allowed Mersin to make a diving save to his right to claim the effort.

As the second half progressed – Ed Upson was introduced from the bench, replacing goalscorer Kyle Bennett – with Rovers adapting shape to cement the one-goal lead.

Inside the final ten minutes, Rovers extended their slender lead. Ollie Clarke ran with purpose with the ball at his feet and took advantage of the ample time and space to drive a low effort towards goal that nestled in the bottom corner.

With just minutes left in the contest, the visitors did claw a goal back to make the final moment anxious for Darrell Clarke’s side. A looping ball from the left was empathically headed home by defender Mark Connolly to give Crawley hope of a late comeback heading into the five minutes off added time.

Rovers responded and were able to manage the tricky period of stoppage time – which was aided by a late red card to Dominic Poleon, as the substitute was dismissed for picking up a second yellow card, with Rovers holding out to secure the win to progress to the next stage of the competition.

Rovers XI: Adam Smith (GK), Daniel Leadbitter, Tom Lockyer (c), Tony Craig, James Clarke, Chris Lines, Ollie Clarke, Sam Matthews, Kyle Bennett (79′ Ed Upson), Alex Rodman (81′ Sercombe), Stefan Payne.

Subs: Sam Slocombe (GK), Ed Upson, Liam Sercombe, Tom Nichols, Tom Broadbent, Alex Jakubiak, Gavin Reilly.

Crawley Town XI: Yusuf Mersin (GK), Lewis Young, Romain Vincelot, Reece-Gregor Cox, Mark Connolly, Mark Randall, Tarryn Aharakha (60′ Bulman), Panutche Camara (80′ Nathaniel), George Francomb, Josh Doherty, Rob Milsom (60′ Poleon).

Subs: Glenn Morris, Ashley Nathaniel, Joe McNerney, Dominic Poleon, David Sesay, Dannie Bulman.