Carlisle United 2 Crawley Town 1: Ten-man Reds suffer opening day defeat at Carlisle
Ten-man Crawley Town opened their 2019/20 League Two campaign with a 2-1 defeat at Carlisle United this (Saturday) afternoon.
Harry McKirdy put the Blues ahead on six minutes before summer signing Beryly Lubala equalised on 16 minutes. Stefan Scougall then netted what proved to be the winner on 32 minutes.
Crawley defender Lewis Young was then shown a straight red card deep into second-half stoppage time after he showed violent conduct towards Carlisle substitute Jack Iredale to compound a disappointing start to the new season.
Reds head coach Gabriele Cioffi gave starts to new signings Nathan Ferguson, Jordan Tunnicliffe and Lubala while fellow new boys Michael Luyambula and Mason Bloomfield had to settle for a place on the bench. Dannie Bulman's start also meant the veteran midfielder made his landmark 400th appearance for the club.
Defender Joe McNerney was ruled out through injury and midfielder George Francomb was absent due to family reasons.
The visitors had the first chance of the game on five minutes. Ferguson's 30-yard rocket took a deflection and dropped to Panutche Camara in the box but the Bissau-Guinean forward skewed his shot wide of the target.
It was Carlisle who opened the scoring five minutes later. Nathan Thomas cut inside from the right-flank and let fly. Reds keeper Glenn Morris got a hand to it but McKirdy was on hand to head the ball home to give the hosts the lead.
Despite the setback Crawley hit back on 16 minutes thanks to one of their summer signings. Lubala skipped pass Carlisle defender Christie Elliott before squeezing a shot between Adam Collins' legs to restore parity.
The visitors saw plenty of the ball after equalising but couldn't quite carve out the second goal. David Sesay and Filipe Morais provided great balls from out wide but their crosses managed to just evade Ollie Palmer in the area.
And Crawley were left to rue making these crosses count as Carlisle went ahead on 33 minutes with almost a carbon copy of their first goal. Thomas, again, saw his shot from the right parried by Morris but this time it was Scougall who swept home, firing in via the bottom of the crossbar.
The Reds responded by forcing two successive corners, the best opportunity from these coming on 37 minutes. A driven corner fell to Camara but the forward managed to launch his attempt out of Brunton Park.
The hosts almost doubled their advantage two minutes later but struck the post. An enterprising run from McKirdy saw him find the electric Thomas in space. The 24-year-old's lovely curled shot beat Morris but, thankfully for the 81 Reds fans who made the trip to Cumbria, clipped the post and went out.
Thomas then had a penalty appeal turned down on 41 minutes. The midfielder got the wrong side of a Crawley defender and went down, but referee James Oldham remained unmoved and waved on the play.
The restart for the second-half saw Cioffi shuffle his pack as the Italian withdrew Bulman for Reece Grego-Cox. This saw the substitute move out to the right, while Morais moved into the middle of midfield to operate more centrally.
Crawley had the first decent opportunity of the second period on 52 minutes. Goalscorer Lubala made a buccaneering run down the left and fired in a cross to the back post. Substitute Grego-Cox got his head to it but couldn't direct it towards the Carlisle goal.
Two minutes later and the hosts nearly found their third. Olufela Olomola picked out McKirdy on the left flank. The 22-year-old midfielder cut inside and struck a wicked shot that took a massive deflection off a Reds defender and went inches past the post.
On the hour mark, great work from Young on the left saw the defender pick out Morais on the edge of the area but the Portuguese midfielder blasted his shot into the side netting.
Goalkeeper Collin was then forced into a fantastic double save to preserve Carlisle's lead on 62 minutes. The Blues stopper palmed away Camara's stinging attempt from the edge of the box before quickly getting to his feet to get the rebound behind for a corner.
Ten minutes later and Morris showed his goalkeeping prowess. Scougall's deflected effort wrong footed the Reds keeper but he still managed to get his hand to it. The ball began perilously rolling towards the goal line but outstanding work from Morris saw him scramble it away before expertly denying Jon Mellish and McKirdy to keep Crawley in the game.
Ferguson then had a gilt-edged chance to snatch a point for the Reds with five minutes remaining. Grego-Cox fired a pinpoint cross into area from the right flank but Ferguson couldn't keep his header down and the ball flew over the bar.
Head coach Cioffi was then shown a yellow card by the ref for dissent, and this was instantly followed by Scougall heading wide of the mark after a great ball in by Carlisle substitute Ryan Loft.
To compound Crawley's difficult day, Young was then sent off in the seventh minute of stoppage time for violent conduct towards Blues replacement Iredale.
Crawley Town: Morris, Young, Tunnicliffe, Dallison, Sesay, Ferguson, Bulman (Grego-Cox 46), Camara, Morais, Lubala (Nathaniel-George 67), Palmer (Bloomfield 63). Unused: Luyambula, Doherty, Payne, Galach.
Carlisle United: Collin, Elliott, Mellish, Knight-Percival, Webster, Thomas (Iredale 80), Scougall, Jones, Bridge, Olomola (Loft 64), McKirdy (Carroll 75). Unused: Gray, Hayden, Galloway, Braithwaite.
Referee: James Oldham