U’s storm back to reach Carabao Cup quarter-finals

Brian Jeeves
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Crawley Town 1-3 Colchester United

CLINICAL COLCHESTER UNITED recovered from an early setback to book their place in the Carabao Cup last eight with a stylish 3-1 success at fellow Sky Bet League Two outfit, Crawley Town.

This was seen by many as an unlikely tie for this stage of the competition between the two lowest-ranked sides remaining. Colchester had overcome Premier League clubs, Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur to reach round four, while both Norwich City and Stoke City had succumbed to Crawley as the cup upsets continued.

Out of sorts Crawley went into the game off the back of a 4-0 home drubbing off Swindon Town and without a win in three outings. Ironically, the Red’s previous success saw them come from behind to see off the U’s when the pair met in the league a couple of weeks previous. Nevertheless, Colchester – backed by 1,700 travelling fans – were keen to avenge that reverse which had led to the players holding their own inquest on the pitch at full time.

Perhaps with that image in their minds, it was Crawley who started the brighter. Skipper Dannie Bulman forced Dean Gerken into a smart save low to his right, while the U’s backline needed to display resolve as Mason Bloomfield and Reece Grego-Cox asked questions with their considerable power and pace.

Bulman was leading by example and it was the Crawley skipper who opened the scoring in spectacular fashion, sending a thundering right-footed strike high beyond Gerken from fully 25-yards.

However, the lead lasted less than 90 seconds. Luke Norris arrived to head home Frank Nouble’s pinpoint centre, swiftly silencing the home crowd and sending the huge Colchester contingent into raptures of relief.

Soon after, the Nouble-Norris combination almost paid dividends again. This time, the latter clipped the top of the bar after the Frenchman had neatly teed him up.

Colchester had snatched the momentum. Cohen Bramall drew a smart stop from Michael Luyambula after the busy Nouble had again pulled the strings, then Josh Doherty cleared Bramall’s low cross as Courtney Senior looked set to profit at the far post.

Norris fired into Luyambula’s midriff, while Bramall was a whisker away following a neat exchange with Nouble as the U’s looked to turn the tie on its head after the interval.

And eight minutes after the restart, Colchester – with a little fortune – took the lead. Bramall’s dead-ball effort cannoned back off the bar but rebounded into the net via Crawley keeper, Luyambula, who was still reacting to the initial strike.

Senior passed up a glorious opportunity to all but kill the contest, blazing over after Kwame Poku had sent him clear. Meanwhile, Tom Eastman had to be on his toes after Lewis Young had swung in from the right as the home side stepped up their attempts to salvage the tie.

But Colchester were not to be denied. Former Crawley man, Luke Gambin, turned on the proverbial sixpence to fire high into the net, sparking wild scenes behind the goal and an exodus amongst the home crowd.

Luyambula used his feet to deny Tom Lapslie, then superbly saved from Callum Harriott as Colchester threatened to run riot. But the North Essex side had done enough and will now hope to pull out another plumb tie when the draw is made on Thursday evening.

Colchester United return to Sky Bet League Two action on Saturday, November 2 when they travel to the One Call Stadium to face Mansfield Town (3pm).

Crawley Town: Michael Luyambula, Josh Doherty, Tom Dallison, Reece Grego-Cox, Nathan Ferguson, Mason Bloomfield (Ollie Palmer 54’), Tarryn Allarakhia (Ashley Nadesan 82’), Jordan Tunnicliffe, Dannie Bulman (Capt), Bez Lubala, David Sesay (Lewis Young 67’) Subs not used: Glenn Morris, Jamie Sendle White, Panutche Camara, Nathaniel-George

Booked: Tom Dallison (foul)
Goals: Dannie Bulman 20’

Colchester United: Dean Gerken, Ryan Jackson, Cohen Bramall, Luke Prosser, Courtney Senior (Tom Lapslie 83’), Luke Norris (Callum Harriott 61’), Brandon Comley, Tom Eastman, Ben Stevenson, Frank Nouble, Kwame Poku (Luke Gambin 74’) Subs not used: Ethan Ross, Omar Sowunmi, Jevani Brown

Booked: Frank Nouble (handball)
Goals: Luke Norris 22’, Michael Luyambula (own-goal) 53’, Luke Gambin 80’

Referee: Tony Harrington
Assistants: Timothy Wood and Daniel Leach
Fourth Official: Antony Coggins

Attendance: 5,612 (1,700 from Colchester)

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Brian Jeeves

Email: sport@yellowad.co.uk