Crawley Town defeated Cheltenham Town 4-2 here this evening to pull Cheltenham down from top position and go joint on points.
A sensational start to the game saw three superb strikes of the ball hit the back of the net within the first quarter of an hour. Luke Garbutt's drive handed Cheltenham the lead before two outstanding strikes from Sanchez Watt and Tyrone Barnett put Crawley ahead despite the early setback. Barnett made it 3-1 before half time and there was a fourth after the break too courtesy of Sanchez Watt. Both Mark Yates and Steve Evans were dismissed to the stand before Darryl Duffy gave Cheltenham slight hope with a 75th minute goal.
Alas it wasn't to be however and Cheltenham suffered defeat at the hands of their promotion rivals. All attention now turned to Hereford United next week and another big test for the Robins.
Cheltenham made just one change to the side that beat Macclesfield 3-1 with Russ Penn replacing Brian Smikle in midfield. Jeff Goulding and Jermaine McGlashan kept their spots in the starting line-up following their impressive displays at Moss Rose.
A cold evening at the Broadfield Stadium began with a fast pace and Crawley looking to dominate Cheltenham early on. Sido Jombati was perhaps a little lucky not to to have picked up a yellow card with a high foot and Sanchez Watt unlucky not to see a decent effort steal the first goal. Crawley's debutant striker Billy Clarke came incredibly close to making it 1-0 with a rasping effort but Brown was able to watch the ball glide past his post.
Despite the early pressure from Crawley, it was actually Cheltenham that stamped their authority first. Marlon Pack's long shot was well saved by Shearer and Penn's shot moments later was well blocked but it was Luke Garbutt who picked up the clearance and fired in a thunderous drive past Shearer and into the back of the net for 1-0. That was Luke's second goal in two games and one to remember for the young defender.
The hosts weren't about to settle for being behind however and they were back in the game six minutes later courtesy of Sanchez Watt. The Arsenal loanee picked the ball up in the middle of midfield and unleashed a sensational strike from 30 yards which completely bypassed Scott Brown for 1-1. An unbelievable strike was followed up by an even better strike by Tyrone Barnett to hand Crawley the lead and shock Cheltenham Town. Tyrone Barnett's 25 yard dipping volley was unstoppable, sensational and a lead taker. It was advantage Crawley and back to the drawing board Cheltenham.
The game settled down after a crazy fifteen minutes and Cheltenham started to ease into their own game but Crawley still seemed to control the majority of play in midfield. An exchange of words by Mark Yates and the always lovely Steve Evans rose tensions once again but the game was soon turned on it's head again. A direct ball found it's way to a centrally placed Tyrone Barnett and the big striker smashed another superb shot past Brown for 3-1.
That goal really took the sting out of Cheltenham's attacking intentions and the half time whistle was probably needed with the Robins needing inspiration at the break.
Half Time: Crawley 3-1 Robins
Cheltenham Town needed a response in the second half and they almost got one through the left foot of Luke Garbutt. The young defender curled a good freekick in at the near post but Scott Shearer was on hand to maintain his side's two goal lead. That very lead could have been extended following a Crawley counter attack but Billy Clarke's effort on goal struck the crossbar and bounced away from danger.
Mark Yates reacted early on in the second half with a triple substitution which saw Brian Smikle, Jimmy Spencer and Darryl Duffy replace Jermaine McGlashan, Russ Penn and Jeff Goulding respectively. Moments later Alan Bennett was yellow carded for an apparently unlawful challenge on Howell followed by another yellow for Kaid Mohamed after he kicked the ball away in frustration.
Cheltenham Town's evening got worse after Crawley broke down the right and sent a ball deep into the area. Scott Brown lost his footing on the slippy surface and Sanchez Watt picked up possession on the far post before slipping it into the back of the net for his second of the evening. It was 4-1 Crawley and pretty much game over for the Robins. Matters only got worse with Mark Yates sent to the stands along with Steve Evans at the referee's request.
The introductions of Jimmy Spencer and Darryl Duffy certainly added much more bite to the Cheltenham attack and it was Duffy who got a goal back for the Robins after prodding home at the back post following the corner. 4-2 and Cheltenham gave themselves a glimmer of hope on an eventful evening nearing it's end. Debutant Clarke could have grabbed a deserved goal after 84 minutes but his flick header following the long ball was directed into the arms of Scott Brown.
Crawley introduced another debutant late on with Karl Hawley replacing Billy Clarke and that was quickly followed by a decent effort on goal by Watt and then a yellow card for the young winger for dissent. An ambitious strike from Marlon Pack was pretty much the end of Cheltenham's spirited come back this evening with the referee blowing for full time soon after. 4-2 was the final score with Crawley pulling Cheltenham down from the top of the table and carving the promotion race wide open.
Full Time: Crawley 4-2 Robins
Crawley Town FC (4-4-2): Shearer (GK): Hunt, Mills (C), Davies, Howell; Watt (Simpson 90+1), Bulman, McFadzean, Torres; Barnett, Clarke (Hawley 87)
Subs not used: Kuipers (GK), Akpan, Neilson
Cheltenham Town FC (4-5-1): Brown (GK); Jombati, Bennett (C), Lowe, Garbutt; McGlashan (Smikle 60), Summerfield, Penn (Spencer 60), Pack, Mohamed; Goulding (Duffy 60)
Subs not used: Hooman, Low
Referee: Mr. Graham Scott
Attendance: 3,871 (374 from Cheltenham)
Cheltenham Star Man: -
James Brown from the Broadfield Stadium