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Crawley Town 3 Chelmsford City 0
12:48pm Monday 3rd December 2012 in News
NICKY Adams, Billy Clarke and Gary Alexander put ten-man Chelmsford City to the sword as Crawley Town advanced to Round Three of the FA Cup amongst the Premier League giants, but Clarets boss Glenn Pennyfather maintained "perspective" afterwards, acknowledging: "We'll have to go and do it all over again next year!"
Chelmsford's Manager had led his team to the Second Round Proper for three consecutive campaigns only to be beaten by Wycombe Wanderers, Macclesfield Town and, now, Crawley.
He'd hoped 2012 would be third time lucky, but an unfortunate 23rd-minute opener, followed by the dismissal of Donovan Simmonds a dozen minutes later for a second caution, meant City will seek further glory in other competitions.
Adams' cross-cum-shot drifted into the net to put the npower Football League side ahead against their opponents from three tiers below, then they pressed home their advantage against the depleted Clarets with a second as Clarke volleyed home four minutes before the interval.
Chelmsford remained in mild contention, without troubling Crawley, until Alexander converted an 88th-minute penalty to wrap things up.
"We've got to put everything into perspective," reacted Pennyfather, with a potential run in the FA Trophy to construct as Hampton & Richmond Borough visit Melbourne on Monday night.
"We've just lost to a team who beat Derby County and Bristol City last season from the Championship, and given Man United a good run for their money. I'm proud of the players, and when we take stock we've gained a lot from this cup run."
"When you're playing a higher level side you have to make sure you keep up with the tempo of the game. We did until they scored, then it was all uphill after the sending off - it'd be hard enough with eleven men. But Crawley... wow!
"They moved the ball quickly, didn't let us settle, and we can have no complaints with the result. It's easy to look at them and say that they were a Conference National side two years ago, but they're miles away from that now."
Regardless of the result, the entire club can reflect on this season's run with an enormous sense of satisfaction having claimed national plaudits since defeating Colchester United 3-1 in the last round.
Underpinning that success has been the terrace support - 1,096 away fans made up around a third of the crowd - and Glenn added: "The supporters have been magnificent, as usual. Our fans made the most noise on the day, so in that respect we're winners!"
He was able to welcome regular goalkeeper Stuart Searle back between the sticks as his deputy seven days earlier, young David Wootton, assumed a place on the bench.
The return of Richard Brindley to right-back enabled Anthony Cook to revert to the wing again, and Sam Corcoran became a substitute. Suspended centre-half Kenny Clark's place was taken by Justin Miller, while Ishmael Welsh was selected wide in midfield ahead of striker Rob Edmans.
It was a solid opening for the visitors, with no shots for either side until the 12th minute when an excellent save was required by Searle to make a block from a strike ten yards out. Three minutes later Crawley's Sergio Torres received the ball from the left, dribbled to the edge of the box, then saw his effort hit the head of a team mate and fly over.
Later on, former Republic of Ireland Under 21s striker Clarke watched his close-range strike on 20 minutes hit the foot of defender Miller and divert gratefully into the arms of Searle. Then that was quickly succeeded by Adams' 25-yard dipper for Town which moved in the air before being caught well by Searle at the second attempt.
The hosts were clearly building a head of steam, but their breakthrough arrived in fortuitous circumstances when Adams' mishit, 23rd-minute cross from an acute angle on the right wing deceived Searle and somehow dipped under the crossbar.
It was certainly deserved, however, and full-back Mat Sadler tried to add a second on the half-hour. He got forward but his low shot wide was the product of being outmuscled on the edge of the box.
City had been limited going forward, and their cause wasn't helped when the over-enthusiastic Simmonds was shown a second yellow card as he tripped an opponent from behind, reducing the Clarets to ten men.
Glenn recalled: "They were two yellows, and we can have no arguments. When you get the early one you run the risk of picking up another, and the second was right under the referee's nose. It was accidental, yes, but it's still a booking."
Already on top, the game was now Crawley's for the taking and they effectively did so on 41 minutes through Clarke. A cross from the right flank drifted over everyone in the goalmouth and the striker shifted a couple of yards away from his marker's attention at the far post before coolly volleying left-footed into far bottom corner.
Severe improvement, not to mention considerably more attempts, would be required for City to rescue the game after half time. There was the possibility that they'd be buoyed by shooting at the goal where masses of away fans were congregated, but the first impact was from unmarked Town defender Claude Davis, who headed a corner over from close proximity.
They continued to search for a third as Torres looped wide from the edge of the box in the 54th minute, succeeded by Mark Connolly four minutes later as he ran forward from defence.
He got a sight of goal from 30 yards and rammed over Searle onto the underside of the crossbar and back out for hosts. Searle also made another vital save just beyond the hour when play opened up for Hope Akpan on the edge of the box and his shot was beaten away.
Searle was by far the busiest of the two custodians, diving down to his left for another grab, then Crawley goal scorer Clarke dropped his shoulder on the right-hand corner of the box, though his curling effort was dreadfully wide.
He injured his hamstring in the process but his replacement, John Akinde, was quickly into the action, fighting for possession on the edge of the area and a loose ball was half-volleyed straight at Searle by Josh Simpson.
Akinde wasted a glorious opportunity to seal the game twelve minutes from the end, guiding his header low and wide after a perfectly-weighted Crawley centre from the left found him six yards out.
But the third did arrive on 88 minutes when Cook and Torres both flew in to compete for a bouncing ball in the City box. The referee deemed Cook to be the aggressor and awarded the penalty which Alexander dispatched, sending Searle the wrong way.
It was a cruel decision, but certainly not a harsh scoreline, and Glenn reflected: "The players are disappointed that they couldn't go one step further for our excellent supporters today, but we've got to pick ourselves up to go again in the FA Trophy on Monday and to secure our overall priority target of promotion from the Blue Square Bet South."