Hoping to end a run of three games without victory, Scott Lindsey’s men got off to the perfect start in Group J against Charlton, taking the lead when Harry Forster burst onto the scene, before slamming home the loose ball just inside the area with just 41 seconds gone, notching up his first goal since signing from Bromley in the summer.
Yet to keep a clean sheet this season, however, the hosts – with a starting XI with an average age of 22 - looked vulnerable when Charlton stepped onto the front foot, and the Addicks soon turned the game on its head with two goals in four minutes.
They equalised through Miles Leaburn, who took advantage of Crawley’s failure to clear their lines. The forward rose highest to head beyond a helpless Luca Ashby-Hammond with 23 minutes gone. The Red Devils conceded a second when Tyreece Campbell’s fine effort crept past Ashby-Hammond’s near post in the 26th minute.
After a tentative start from both sides in the second-half, George Dobson took it upon himself to liven things up with a thunderous strike from range to give Charlton the lead once more just before the hour mark. With plenty of room, the midfielder turned, before unleashing an unstoppable effort into the top left corner.
Dobson’s goal opened things up, and it was to the benefit of Crawley, who soon scored the game’s sixth goal, and their third to equaliser, coming in the 70th minute. This time, it was substitute Nick Tsaroulla wheeling away in celebration after his strike inside the area deflected past Harry Isted, who was left rooted to the spot. The hosts then rounded off a seven-goal thriller - putting their own spin on Charlton’s first-half turnaround by taking the lead in the 81st minute. The hero of the evening was Khaleel, who found the roof of the net from close-range to give Isted no chance, repeating last season’s feat of scoring the winning goal in an EFL Trophy group game, in the process.
Ending their winless run in dramatic style, Crawley now sit top of Group J, above Aston Villa U21s, Sutton United, and a defeated Charlton.
Crawley Town: Ashby-Hammond; Omole; Ransom (Wright 45’); Mukena; Johnson; Darcy (Kelly 45’); Forster (Tsaroulla 45’); Roles; Khaleel; Lolos; Simon-Swyer
Charlton Athletic: Isted; Edun (Roddy 61’); Elerewe; Ness; Chin (Laqeretabua 45’); Dobson; Taylor; Campbell (Campbell 77’); Watson (Kanu 61’); Kirk; Leaburn (Slobodan Tedić 45’)