“It was just like the old days” said one fan to me after an extraordinary evening. It was certainly true as the crowd of 5109 made the place rock in a way we have rarely experienced since Crawley Town reached the Football League.
Carabao Cup attendances often disappoint especially at Premier League grounds but 1700 travelling Norwich City supporters did a great job for their club. With the visitors fielding a completely new line up following their defeat by Chelsea you might have thought the competition wasn’t important to them. But it was.
Their frustrated manager Daniel Farke collected a yellow card while their Argentine midfield ace Emiliano Buendia struggled to control himself. We were all relieved, however, that we did not have to face Teemu Pukki.
Don’t think that Norwich were not a good side as you couldn’t be more wrong. Before Crawley scored against the run of play they had stretched us this way and that with a combination of pace and accurate interplay that showed the gulf between the divisions.
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In response Reds gradually stepped up to their level and then went beyond it. This was a team that simply would not give way and their new found belief in themselves served them admirably.
Bez Lubala scored when his fierce drive benefited from a deflection but the Canaries could not manage a reply. They hit the woodwork twice and forced a number of superb saves and desperate defensive blocks but Crawley would not allow them through.
It was, indeed it had to be, a team performance in which there were absolutely no passengers but I thought several individuals played out of their proverbial socks. I missed any announcement about a Man of the Match but for me it was Michael Luyambula. I’d be inclined to say that Crawley now has the two best goalkeepers in League Two.
The Birmingham City loanee’s game was a marvellous blend of agility and solidity. In front of him Jordan Tunnicliffe and Tom Dallison proved indomitable with assistance, as ever, from the amazing Dannie Bulman. Perhaps he is playing for a pension off the club’s sponsors.
Reece Grego-Cox tormented Norwich with his electrifying pace and crosses that nearly led to more goals. Panutche Camara was as bewildering as ever but was not missed after he hobbled off following a collision with Timm Klose. The reason was that substitute Filipe Morais struck me as being the best outfielder on the park. I was surprised but delighted to realise just how good a footballer he is.
We might have won by two or three but Nathan Ferguson’s big chance was a Row Z job whilst Ollie Palmer was desperately unlucky. That said we might have been three down in the first quarter hour.
Reward for the Reds came with a home tie in the Third Round against Stoke City of the Championship and a chance for revenge against a side that won on their previous visit to Crawley.