Crawley Town are the lowest-ranked side still standing in the FA Cup but after the way they outplayed Hull City, there was more to manager Steve Evans' post-match wish for a draw against one of the big boys than sheer bravado.
By Evans' admission, his ideal fifth-round date would have been a repeat of last season's trip to Manchester United, which brought a 1-0 defeat. It may not be United awaiting the League Two promotion-chasers in the last 16 but the prospect of the 2011 finalists Stoke City visiting the Broadfield Stadium is pretty tasty, and on Saturday's evidence Crawley will not be overawed by hosting Premier League opposition.
"When we beat Bristol City we made them look like they should be in League Two and we should be in the Championship," said Evans after Crawley had done just the same to Hull. As befits a team who flew off to a training camp in Portugal yesterday, this was not a battling underdog triumph: the Sussex side took control from the outset, showed greater urgency and purpose and, significantly, out-passed a Hull side placed sixth in the Championship.
Kyle McFadzean –the best player on the pitch, according to Evans – and Sergio Torres ensured that the visitors controlled the midfield while up front matchwinner Matt Tubbs and Tyrone Barnett were a constant threat. The only pity for Evans is that one or more of that number may be gone by the time the fifth round comes around.
"When we left Crawley [on Friday] lunchtime, there were three or four bids that the directors were sitting on," said Evans, who has already seen Barnett reject a move to Blackpool this month.
Tubbs, whose 57th-minute winner was his 18th of the campaign, admitted that his future was uncertain. He said: "I honestly don't know if I will be at the club next week. I will see what happens. If it happens, it happens. I am sure it would be good for me and good for the club, but I am having the time of my life here."
The 27-year-old's goal was a low finish under the Hull's on loan from Arsenal goalkeeper, Vito Mannone, after he had latched on to Dannie Bulman's fine through-ball.
Tubbs fizzed an early overhead effort over the crossbar , and it was a statement of intent he duly delivered on. "It is a bit easier scoring goals against Championship sides as you get more space but it is a lot more physical and there is more pace involved," he said. "But most of the lads we have got are Championship standard anyway."
Hull were more Bagpuss than Tigers, yet manager Nick Barmby was unapologetic about making seven changes for the game, pointing out he had done the same for the victory over Ipswich Town in the previous round. He was more complimentary about Crawley's football than their staff – Evans' assistant, Paul Raynor, and Hull's fitness coach, Sean Rush, were sent to the stands after claims the visiting bench had tried to get players sent off.Reuse content