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Tom Nichols warns Leeds that Crawley are up for the challenge

Crawley Town v Scunthorpe United – Sky Bet League Two – People’s Pension Stadium
(Image credit: Kieran Cleeves)

Crawley forward Tom Nichols has vowed to “give it a right go” against Leeds as he seeks to add a giant-killing to his list of memorable FA Cup moments.

Nichols has made a habit of scoring against Premier League opposition but is yet to be part of a side to spring a cup upset.

He was a goal-scoring member of the Exeter team which took Liverpool to a third-round replay in January 2016, while he registered for Peterborough in a 4-1 loss to Chelsea at the same stage a year later.

The 27-year-old, who was also on target in Bristol Rovers’ 2-1 Carabao Cup loss to top-flight side Brighton last season, insists the in-form League Two hosts have no intention of playing things safe against Marcelo Bielsa’s men.

“My best (FA Cup) memory is probably playing against Liverpool,” said Nichols.

“Obviously we drew with Liverpool the first time, we lost the second leg (replay), so I haven’t had any giant-killings.

“But I’ve scored against a few of them and I’ve got good memories of the FA Cup – the next step is to try and beat one of them.

“The boys are in good form and the gaffer has said it’s a free hit really.

“We’re not going to sit off and it’s not going to be a damage limitation, we’re going to give it a right go and see where it takes us.

“Hopefully I can play well and get a goal and the team can get a result.”

Nichols opened the scoring for the Grecians against Jurgen Klopp’s Reds five years ago but the much-changed visitors twice came back to salvage a 2-2 draw, before winning 3-0 at Anfield.

He already has three goals in this season’s competition, having hit the maiden hat-trick of his career in the remarkable 6-5 extra-time win at Torquay in the first round.

Leeds travel to Broadfield Stadium with the fifth most potent attack in the top flight but holding the second worst defensive record, while Crawley have gone nine games unbeaten and sit sixth in the fourth tier.

Nichols anticipates an eventful contest and believes the West Yorkshire club’s expansive style of play could leave gaps to exploit, particularly if Bielsa opts to field a youthful line-up.

“Their game is very entertaining, they are very end to end. It does create chances the other way which, as a forward, is good for me,” said Nichols, a boyhood Sunderland fan.

“They are very good players – they are Premier League players – they attack with a lot of bodies but they do defend with a lot of bodies as well, they’re a very fit side.

“They have very entertaining games and I’m sure it will be the same again on Sunday.

“If they want to rest players, that’s their risk. If they want to play the 23s then that will probably benefit us because it’s not an easy place to come this ground. We’ve got a good record here.

“We don’t have anything to fear, we’re in a good run of form and it’s probably the best time for us to play them really. Morale is high in camp.”

Crawley could again be without 15-goal top scorer Max Watters.

The striker, whose red-hot form has reportedly attracted attention from a host of bigger clubs, has missed the last two games and faces a late fitness test on a hamstring problem.

“I wouldn’t say I feel extra pressure when Max doesn’t play, my main focus is helping the team in any way possible and goals are a bonus for me,” said Nichols.

“The goals have been shared out – I know Max has scored a lot – but as a team we’ve been scoring a lot.”