Buoyed by a great win over Sheffield Wednesday in nPower League One’s only fixture last weekend, Swindon could not capitalise against Crawley in their FA Cup replay on Tuesday Indeed, the non-leaguers dominated their hosts from start to finish and fully deserved their victory.
After tentative opening exchanges, the Red Devils were the first to test a goalkeeper when Phil Smith needed to be at full stretch to keep out Dean Howell’s free kick. Crawley didn’t take long to make their pressure tell, however, when Ben Smith stole in to fire low past his namesake to give them the lead after a quarter of an hour.
Not for the first time this season, going a goal behind forced Swindon to react and they equalised through Jon-Paul McGovern’s header, his second goal in four days, minutes later. This did not prove to be the catalyst for Swindon to assume control of the game, though, and Crawley continued to press. Unable to regain the lead, however, Steve Evans’ side unjustly found themselves 2-1 down at the break; Charlie Austin delicately finishing Vincent Pericard’s flick-on. Town had only created two chances all half and found themselves in the lead.
The tie had come to life but the drama was not yet over. Even before the half-time whistle, the temperature inside the County Ground was raised from its freezing point when Jonathan Douglas was dismissed for a rash challenge in front of the dugouts. His lunge on Glenn Wilson resulted in a melee of players surrounding the referee, and the red card was no surprise despite the angry response of the home fans.
Danny Wilson’s response was to strengthen the midfield, replacing the busy Pericard with Michael Timlin, but the second half was always going to be an uphill struggle with only ten men against a Crawley eleven feeling very hard-done-by. Before the hour mark Phil Smith had been forced into more good saves and a Scott Neilson header looped off the top of the crossbar.
The equaliser was certainly coming and although Danny Bullman’s drilled ball on 68 minutes was deflected in by the unfortunate Michael Rose, who had headed off the line earlier in the match, it was no more than the Sussex side deserved.
Their siege on the Swindon goal in search of a winner resulted in more great saves by Phil Smith from Craig McAllister and the industrious Neilson, who also hit the crossbar for a second time with a well-worked, left-footed shot. Swindon’s only chance of the second half fell to substitute Alan Sheehan but he lashed wide after Michel Kuipers spilled a Sean Morrison header from a Rose long throw.
Extra time was a low key period and Swindon looked to have got out of jail as the clock ticked down towards penalties. Then, with only a minute to go, Crawley created space on the edge of the Town area and substitute Jamie Cook squared the ball to Ben Smith when he might have shot himself. The unmarked midfielder took his time and slotted under Phil Smith to secure a famous, thoroughly merited win.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.