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22:39 7th December 2010

Report: Town 2 Crawley Town 3

Ten-man Town went down to a last gasp 3-2 defeat to Crawley Town at The County Ground after leading 2-1 at half time courtesy of goals from Jon-Paul McGovern and Charlie Austin.

It was a fairly drab opening to the affair which was almost illuminated by an excellent 30-yard free-kick from Dean Howell which Phil Smith had to scramble to palm wide.

The game came alive on 16 minutes and it was Crawley who took a deserved lead, as Craig McAllister headed the ball across goal and Ben Smith swept it expertly past Smith and into the near corner.

But the visitors had barely finished celebrating when Jon-Paul McGovern equalised for Town, stealing in at the back post to head a wicked Michael Rose cross into the far corner.

That few minutes of entertainment aside the half was a largely scrappy affair, edged in the main by the visitors, who were seemingly adapting to the difficult conditions better than their hosts.

Jon-Paul McGovern

And they might have restored their lead on 35 minutes, had it not been for Rose's awareness in back tracking to nod a looping Kyle McFadzean header off the line.

Despite the visitors' dominance, it was Town who took the lead on 40 minutes, as a long ball forward from Phil Smith was well flicked on by Vincent Pericard for Charlie Austin who raced into the box and lifted the ball neatly over Michael Kuipers and into the net.

But just as Town looked to have seen the half out, Jonathan Douglas was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Glenn Morris.

The Town skipper had lost control of the ball in his own half, raced to make up ground and after going in strongly and winning the ball, saw Morris fall to the ground, and Crawley's management and players remonstrate aggressively with the referee in a style only too familiar in the modern game.

Despite the fact that Douglas had won the ball, he was shown the red card and as the half time whistle blew, Town faced an uphill battle to keep hold of their lead in the second period.

The visitors inevitably began the second half on the front foot, and were denied on two occasions early in the period by Phil Smith, as first he palmed a Scott Neilson header onto the bar, and then denied Neilson again, fingertipping his curling shot wide of the post.

After a brief Town rally, the visitors again went close, as Neilson nodded a looping header against the crossbar and out for a goal kick.

The ten-man hosts were really up against it as Crawley had complete control of possession, and it came as little surprise when the visitors equalised through a Michael Rose own goal on 70 minutes, the unfortunate left-back slicing a Dean Howell cross past Phil Smith and into his own net.

Charlie Austin celebrates his 14th of the campaign

Town finally began to settle after conceding, and though they still conceded a lot of possession, they might have re-taken the lead on 80 minutes as Kuipers spilled a Rose long throw, but Alan Sheehan could only slice the loose ball over from eight yards out.

The visitors then went close again as Matt Tubbs showed good skill in the box and curled the ball over Smith, but could only watch as it rebounded off the bar and out for a goal kick.

Both sides looked equally likely to win it as the game hurtled into a frantic final five minutes, and it was Crawley who nearly did just that as Tubbs flew in to meet a low McAllister cross, but Smith made a brave save at his feet to keep Town in it.

Town finished the stronger of the two sides but couldn't snatch a winner and one of the most ridiculous professional football matches of all time moved into extra time.

The first half of extra time began in a similar vein to that of the second of normal time, with Crawley using their numerical advantage and looking the more likely of the sides to score, but they failed to seriously test Smith during the first period.

The second half of extra time was similarly uneventful, but just as the match looked to be drifting towards penalties, Town failed to clear their lines as the ball ping-ponged around in the box, and Ben Smith poked it home into the corner to send the away fans into raptures.

There was barely time for Town to create another chance, as what was an absolutely bizarre game came to an end, along with Town's hopes of reaching the third round.

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    Data provided by Press Association