Carlisle United battled hard and earned the right to play their football as they bounced back from two disappointing defeats to claim a share of the spoils against a Crawley side who gave as good as they got in what became an entertaining game on Tuesday night.
“We’ve seen another game where we have worked very hard and we’ve gone toe-to-toe with a very good side,” manager Greg Abbott said. “We got ourselves ahead after we took control of the game but we didn’t quite take it on from there. Crawley will probably feel they have done enough to win it as well because it was a typical kind of League One game. We’ve switched things around tonight and we have looked like a strong unit, and that is very pleasing for us.”
The game started at a comfortable pace but Crawley started to grow in confidence as they sensed a nervous edge to the Carlisle play.
Proctor was first to let fly when he left O’Hanlon on his heels but his shot was always heading high.
A cushioned lay-off from Matt Sparrow on the edge of the box allowed Mike Jones to open himself up and he drilled a low shot towards the bottom corner. Gillespie was beaten but it flew just wide of the upright.
Rory Loy tried to inject some enthusiasm at the other end with a bouncing effort from distance but Paul Jones stepped across to make the save. Matt Sparrow then followed suit with a rasper from deep and he was disappointed to see it curl just wide of the target.
The Cumbrians started to see more of the ball and O’Hanlon twice went close as he rose to meet excellent corner deliveries from McGovern. His second attempt had him ready to celebrate until it kissed the woodwork and flew into the crowd.
Jon-Paul McGovern then registered his contender for goal of the week when he took everyone by surprise with a blistering free kick from just inside the Crawley half. Paul Jones was off his line and was left to beat the floor in frustration as the unbelievable strike cannoned down off the underside of the bar and bounced back up before spinning into the roof of the net.
The Red Devils pushed forward in search of an immediate response and a flicked Mike Jones header brought hand ball appeals as the home side piled forward. United kept their concentration and blocks from Livesey and Mustoe followed.
A frantic end to the first 45 minutes saw Loy and Thirlwell mishit their volleys as Carlisle enjoyed some enterprising attacking play and Mark Gillespie did well to stop a thundering grass-cutter from Adams as he somehow found a way through a packed defence just as the whistle was blown.
Crawley came out of the blocks looking hungry and determined after the break and Joe Walsh should have levelled matters up when he lost his man at a corner. The goal was at his mercy but he couldn’t keep his off-balance header down.
Home tails were up and they capitalised on their possession with a fantastic goal of their own when Mat Sadler overlapped on the left. He left the United stopper with no chance as he thumped the ball into the top corner.
Jamie Proctor spurned a gilt-edged chance to put his side ahead as Crawley kept their foot on the gas when he somehow nodded a pinpoint Adams delivery into the night sky.
Free kick specialist Dave Symington brought the best out of Paul Jones as an outstretched hand proved to be enough to divert a whistling set-piece wide, and Aiden O’Brien went close with his first touch as he lifted a volley on the run into the stands with the game swinging from end-to-end.
Chances dried up in the closing stages with plenty of build-up play around the edge of the boxes, and with some potentially heart-stopping moments at both ends, but defences stayed strong to earn what was probably a fair end result.
Crawley - Sadler (56)
United - McGovern (23)
Crawley Town - P Jones, Dumbuya, Sadler, Essam, Walsh, Bulman, Adams, Sparrow, Taylor (O'Brien 76), M Jones (Torres 84), Proctor. Subs - Hunt, Elford-Alliyu, Connolly, Smith, Maddison.
Carlisle United - Gillespie, Simek, Livesey, O'Hanlon, Mustoe, Berrett, Thirlwell, Potts (Cadamarteri 64), Loy (Symington 64), Beck, McGovern. Subs - Collin, Murphy, Welsh, Noble, Edwards.
Referee - Mr Gary Sutton
Attendance - 2,654 (181 away fans)