The tie did not have the frenetic edge of Reds’ 6-5 win at Torquay in the First Round nor, fortunately, the tedium of the Dons’ penalty shoot-out success at Barrow.
The Reds certainly put in a shift and looked the better side for the most part. Wholesale changes in defence paid off and the home side enjoyed few genuine openings. Tom Dallison and David Sesay fully justified their starts, as did Nick Tsaroulla on his debut. Significantly, former Reds’ striker Ollie Palmer got no change out of the returning Jordan Tunnicliffe.
Wimbledon did take the lead midway through the first half as Joe Pigott drifted into space and headed home a pinpoint cross from Ethan Chislett.
Crawley responded quickly and drew level with half an hour played. Jack Powell salvaged another uneven personal display with a precise through ball that Ashley Nadesan read perfectly and the defence didn’t. Nadesan then coolly lifted the ball over the onrushing Dons keeper Connal Trueman.
Five minutes into the second half Crawley scored the decisive goal that won the tie and almost inevitably it came from Max Watters. He crowned a bout of pinball in the home goal area with an emphatic close range shot at the far post. He is a great finisher – shades of Matt Tubbs?
Wimbledon realised they needed to raise their game and tried to do so but, by and large, failed to manage it. The closest they came was a stinging drive by Pigott from the edge of the box that Glenn Morris brilliantly turned aside at full stretch. Otherwise the Reds’ back line coped well and the Dons’ few chances came and went.
The win was hard earned and fully deserved, allowing the supporters’ thoughts to switch to Monday night’s draw. Since the pandemic has eliminated the chance of a moneyspinner away to a Premier League club perhaps we should hope for a decent chance of reaching the Fourth Round and higher prize money.
* In midweek the Reds had slumped to a second home defeat in four days as Grimsby Town won 2-1. It was a great match for four minutes by which time Max Watters had slammed in a stunner from 16 yards. Thereafter the team performance slid away to marginally above dire. A really positive display by Manny Adebowale was the only consolation.
The unhappy partnership of Joe McNerney and Tony Craig left us soft in the middle while Jack Powell again struggled to make any impact. There was little consistency and no quality in the approach play and sadly no improvement following the debacle against Carlisle United.