COLCHESTER United booked a League Cup quarter-final spot for only the second time in their history after coming from behind to beat League Two rivals Crawley Town 3-1 on a memorable night for the club.

Goals from Luke Norris, Luke Gambin and an own goal by keeper Michael Luyambula helped the U’s recover to win, after they had fallen behind to Dannie Bulman’s spectacular first-half strike at a packed Broadfield Stadium.

Backed by more than 1,700 noisy fans, this was a superb away performance by John McGreal’s side, who were deserving winners on the night to book their place in Thursday morning’s Carabao Cup quarter-final draw at the expense of their League Two rivals.

McGreal named an unchanged line-up for the third successive game for the match at Crawley.

Tom Lapslie returned and was on the bench, with Brendan Wiredu cup-tied along with Theo Robinson.

Crawley started the game well and immediately put the U’s defence under pressure, in the opening stages.

The hosts almost took a tenth-minute lead through former Colchester academy youngster Tarryn Allarakhia, whose low curling shot from 25 yards was well saved by Dean Gerken after Brandon Comley had been dispossessed just inside the Crawley half and the hosts had broken swiftly.

It took Colchester a little while to settle into the tie and they fell behind after 20 minutes.

After the U’s had surrendered possession just inside the Crawley half, veteran midfielder Bulman collected Allarakhia’s short pass and was allowed to advance towards goal before planting a rocket of a shot past Gerken from nearly 25 yards.

Colchester needed a swift response to the setback – and they got one.

They were behind for barely a minute thanks to leading scorer Norris, who powered a close-range header past goalkeeper Luyambula from close range after Frank Nouble had delivered an accurate cross from the left.

Buoyed by the equaliser, the U’s looked like they might score again after that.

They came close to doing so in the 28th minute through Norris, who prodded a shot against the top of the bar from close range after Nouble had headed Ryan Jackson’s deep cross into his path.

Ben Stevenson’s 25-yard effort flew straight at keeper Luyambula, as Colchester finished the first half strongly, having had the bulk of the possession in the opening 45 minutes.

And they almost went ahead five minutes after the break when left-back Cohen Bramall capitalised on Jordan Tunnicliffe’s untimely slip and advanced towards goal before drilling a low left-foot strike just past the post.

The U’s did not have to wait long before going ahead, though.

After Norris had been fouled by Tom Dallison nearly 25 yards from goal, Bramall curled in a fine free-kick that struck the bar and hit keeper Luyambula before sailing into the net.

Colchester were forced into a change on the hour mark when the injured Norris was replaced by Callum Harriott, with Nouble switching to a central attacking position.

But they almost made it 3-1 soon after when Courtney Senior blazed over from a good position, after being fed by Kwame Poku.

And they went a long way to sealing victory with 11 minutes remaining when former Crawley player Gambin, on as a substitute for Poku, collected Harriott’s pass, took a touch and then lashed a shot into the net.

Substitute Tom Lapslie nearly made it four for Colchester near the end when his shot was saved by Luyambula who also saved well from Comley before the end.

But it did not matter, as the U’s claimed a memorable victory.


Colchester United goals: Norris (22), Luyambula (own goal, 53), Gambin (79).

Crawley Town goals: Bulman (20).

Colchester United bookings: Nouble (foul, 36).

Crawley Town bookings: Dallison (foul, 51).

Attendance: 5,612.

Colchester United: Gerken, Jackson, Eastman, Prosser, Bramall, Stevenson, Comley, Senior (sub Lapslie, 82), Nouble, Poku (sub Gambin, 74), Norris (sub Harriott, 61).

Substitutes (not used): Sowunmi, Clampin, Brown, Ross.

Crawley Town: Luyambula, Doherty, Dallison, Sesay (sub Young, 67), Tunnicliffe, Bulman, Lubala, Grego-Cox, Ferguson, Allarakhia (sub Nadesan, 82), Bloomfield (sub Palmer, 54).

Substitutes (not used): Nathaniel-George, Sendles-White, Camara, Morris.

U’s man of the match: Cohen Bramall.

Referee: Tony Harrington (Cleveland).

NEXT UP: Mansfield Town v Colchester United, League Two, Saturday, 3pm.