Loved The Rollercoaster

My end of season review.

Well, that went a lot better than expected. After all, we were the bookies favourites to be relegated, both Four Four Two and When Saturday Comes had us to finish bottom of the league, and there wasn’t much hope around. In my pre-season piece I had us to finish fourteenth. By the time we were originally due to play AFC Wimbledon, I wrote a piece for their programme on our season to date and how I expected it to end up for us. At that point I had us missing the playoffs on goal difference. But that game got postponed, and we went on an iffy run, so by the time the AFC game went ahead I had tweaked it again and had us with a top half finish. So much for anyone’s Nostradamus abilities.

It is possible the first game of the season set the tone. We beat playoff tipped Bradford City at home. Mark Hughes was toys out of pram again, and wasn’t long left for his job. By the end of September we were second in the league after a 3-0 home win against Sutton United, and for eight minutes were top on goal difference as games were played on that Saturday.

Then came a dreadful October, where we had four losses, a draw, and a postponement in the league, and slipped towards the bottom half of the table. We had been knocked out of the Carabao Cup in the first round away to Exeter City, and we went out of the FA Cup in the first week of November away to Notts County, but did manage to win our Bristol Street Motors Trophy group, and a knockout game, only to go out to Peterborough in January in a rearranged game.

We were going through a run of win a game, lose a game for the first part of 2024, and were stuck in mid table, but only ever a handful of points outside the playoff spots. More often than not we were more places outside the playoffs than we were points behind the seventh spot.

And away win in the AFC game seemed to galvanise us, and we went on a decent run, where apart from a loss to the steamroller that Doncaster Rovers had become, we were on fire. Back-to-back away wins after Easter where we scored four, first against Newport County, and then against the automatic promotion placed Mansfield Town saw us get into the playoff places.

Only for us to forget how to win. We lost at Wrexham, relegation threatened Colchester United beat us, and there were tense draws against playoff rival Barrow, and eventually relegated Sutton United. Which meant going into the final game of the season we had dropped out of the playoff places and into eighth.

Grimsby Town were the visitors on the last day of the season. We won 2-0, and Barrow were held to a draw, and we had beat the odds and the naysayers and made it to the playoffs. The first leg against the Milton Keynes Dons went better than anyone really expected, with a comfortable 3-0 win. The away leg saw sixteen hundred fans watch an amazing 5-1 victory, recording the largest ever playoff margin of victory of any side. And with it, booking the first ever trip to Wembley for the club.

Along the way there have been other things to reflect upon. December and January saw a wonderful temporary display of Crawley Town’s history put together by Steve Leake and Mick Fox at the museum. For a relatively new fan such as myself it was a fascinating trove of information, and I hope that a permanent home for at least some of it can be found to display it at the stadium. It would be good for our fans, and for visiting supporters to see that Crawley is far more than the new town / Gatwick airport appendage that so many see us as. As a season ticket holder and a lifetime member of the museum I was happy to have donated to the cost of them putting the exhibition together.

We have made friends with other fans (more Helen’s doing really), which considering I’m an introverted misanthrope isn’t bad going for me. I recognise a lot more familiar faces nowadays, especially from going to more away games in the second half of the season. My big yellow puffer jacket is easily recognisable, and we have seen ourselves in the stands in the EFL highlights show, and on the back of the Crawley & Horley Observer a couple of times.

Speaking of the EFL highlights show, that, along with iFollow are biting the dust. Due to the new Sky Sports contract they are disappearing next season. And the new Sky contract does worry me somewhat. Obviously, there is the good part of there being more money coming into the club. But with the number of televised games at our level increasing exponentially it does mean that the nice steady 3pm Saturday afternoon and 7:45pm Tuesday night fixture pattern is going to take a beating, and often at short notice. Games will be shifted. Any day of the week will be possible, as will pretty much any time of day for Saturday (and Sunday) kick-offs. It will make trying to organise going to games difficult. No early booking of hotels or trains, just increased costs for the fans, something we already know Sky doesn’t give a shit about. (As the rearranged Stockport County game showed.)

This season has also seen our first forays into going to away games with GH travel on the fan coaches. Only the short hop journeys to AFC Wimbledon and Sutton United, as that is about the limit of what my coach induced travel sickness will allow. But they are well organised and there is a good atmosphere on them, and for short trips I’d like to think we would use them again.

Now we wait for the season ticket release for the 2024-25 season. Regardless of whether there is a price increase or not we will definitely be renewing our season tickets and having the same seats in the east marquee. It is going to seem an empty three months before the new season starts. Speaking of the east marquee, it would be good if there could be more turnstiles in the southeast corner to help reduce the congestion getting into busy games (which we have more and more of now) – especially with the additional bag checks there are now. And if I am in cloud cuckoo land thinking, put a solid back on the east marquee. Part of this is because as I keep losing weight (and get old I suppose) I get cold a lot easier now, and not having the wind whipping in through the flappy unsecured tarpaulin would be a bonus.

And if there was a genie available for wishes, then on my list, it would surprise no one to know that bringing back the programme would be at the top. Getting them at away games is one of the highlights of going to away games for me. The next thing would be the merchandise available. When we go away, we like to have a poke around in their club shop, and they have so many all kinds of everything there, and it makes our offerings seem embarrassing. I think there are missed opportunities here. The final wish is for promotion / survival.

So the title for this piece came from stretching the lyrics of Love Rollercoaster by the Ohio Players (not the cover by the Red Hot Chili Peppers). And so it brings the season of loosely based song lyric titles to an end. It’s quite the eclectic playlist that has been put together over the course. The full playlist is below.

Average White Band – Let’s Go Round Again

Reverend & The Makers – I Could Have Been The Heavyweight Champion Of The World

Style Council – Come To Milton Keynes

Paper Lace – Billy Don’t Be A Hero

Donovan – Mellow Yellow

Peter Gabriel – Digging In The Dirt

Alexei Sayle – Ullo John (Got A New Motor)

Kelis – Milkshake

Bill Haley & His Comets – See You Later Alligator

Rolling Stones – Jumping Jack Flash

James Brown – It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World

Paul McCartney – Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time

U2 – New Year’s Day

Sabrina Johnston – Peace In The Valley

Lionel Jeffries – P.O.S.H.

Guns ‘n’ Roses – Paradise City

Kim Wilde – The Second Time

Andrea True Connection – More, More, More

Russ Conway – Side Saddle

David Christie – Saddle Up

The Cure – A Forest

UB40 – Cherry Oh Baby

Del Shannon – Hats Off To Larry

Pet Shop Boys feat Dusty Springfield – What Have I Done To Deserve This

Camera Obscura – We Have Made It In A Man’s World

Leftfield & Lydon – Open Up

The Smiths – Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

The Dubliners – Molly Malone

Weird Al Yankovic – Close But No Cigar

Jr Walker & The All Stars – What Does It Take (To Win Your Love For Me)

Teardrop Explodes – Reward

Aerosmith – I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing

Doris Day – Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)

Ohio Players – Love Rollercoaster

And of course, there is the track I’ve mentioned no end in passing this year, Modern Romance – Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey

Which brings this piece, and this season to an end. Roll on next season.

Come on you reds.

An Ode To Crawley Town FC 2023-24

Doom and gloom was the mood before a ball was kicked

To finish dead last was our fate all the experts picked

So many players gone, so many inexperienced new faces

No one knew who was going to play in which places

But we started with a win, then another and a draw

There we were in the table, sat in the top four

On the last day of September as we played we were able

To say that for seven short minutes we were top of the table

Then October came and a slide down did begin

As for the whole of the month we were unable to win

The winter months came full of ups and downs

One win, all smiles, followed by one loss and frowns

Then as the coldest spring came we began to hit form

And wins at home and more importantly away became the norm

By the start of April it was a playoff place we were in

Only for something akin to a golfer’s yips to begin

With one game left to play we dropped from seven to eight

And so out of our own hands was our promotion fate

The last game was won, the team had done their bit

Into the playoffs we went as one of our rivals took a hit

MK Dons were the opponents, a home three nil win

Away in dreamland, five one victory, get MK in the bin

Wembley here we come for the first time in our history

That tickets sold so fast was no kind of mystery

At Wembley the nerves are with us, it’s cagey, we score

Orsi, then Kelly, and it could well have been more

The final whistle goes, we have won and been promoted

What a way to end the season, feeling so elated.

Come on you reds.

Up Up And Away To A Beautiful League One

The 5th Dimension. There were lots of red and white balloons floating around this afternoon, but none of them feel as light and floaty as I do writing this.

Here it is. Wembley. The League 2 playoff final. It is sinking in. After the incredible 5-1 away victory last Saturday night against the Milton Keynes Dons, one that made Crawley Town record breakers as we recorded the biggest ever aggregate winning margin in our 8-1 aggregate win. The seven-goal margin breaking the previous six goal margin someone racked up in a 9-3 aggregate win previously.

That someone happened to be today’s opponents, Crewe Alexandra who took Walsall to the cleaners back in 2016. They made it to the final after overcoming a 2-0 home defeat against the seemingly previously unstoppable Doncaster Rovers. They won the away leg by the same 2-0 margin, even after extra time, and it went to penalties. The Crewe keeper spotted the Doncaster keeper’s water bottle had details of which way to dive when facing Crewe player’s penalties and took the water bottle and threw it into the crowd. Crewe then won on penalties to make Wembley.

They won the toss to be the nominal home team for the playoff final and so will be playing in their red kits, which means we will be playing in white. Which someone pointed out was the colour of kits worn when securing the club’s last three promotions. Saying that, we don’t have the best record against Crewe, we lost both home and away against them in the league this year (and they did look like one of the best sides we played all season), and in total we have a poor record against them, having won only the one in thirteen attempts.

Sunday was a day to try and take in just what Crawley had accomplished on the Saturday night, with securing their first ever visit to Wembley, which we passed on the train on the way back from Milton Keynes, before tickets went on sale on the Monday morning.

Ah yes, Wembley ticket sales. Which means having to deal with those ultimate of robbing bastards, Ticketmasterbators. In releasing tickets only block by block they called caused the illusion of sold-out tickets by 9:30am, half an hour after went on sale. And for fans, desperate to be a part of Crawley’s big day, to panic buy odd tickets dotted around instead of being able to get them together. Only for more blocks to be released piecemeal. At least there was a belated service to be able to ring and change tickets to ones together or in more wanted areas.

We were waiting for level two tickets to be released, and for them to be more to the side rather than directly behind the goal. More comfortable seats and a better view for this particular old git. In the meantime, our neighbour Clare secured us Club Wembley level tickets through her friend (thank you Kelly – the seats were great) and besides Helen and I, Clare’s dad Pete and another neighbour Lynn will be heading to Wembley. The fretting went away somewhat, but better communication would have helped seeing as Helen had already bought Ticketmasterbators vouchers to get the tickets with. And better general communications from Wembley and Ticketmasterbators about how they were planning on releasing tickets would have been more helpful and less stressful for fans all round. Anyway, the club had sold twelve thousand tickets by the end of the day, a figure that had risen to over sixteen thousand by the end of Thursday.

Playoff merchandise was sorted and on sale by Tuesday afternoon to order for pickup at the club later in the week. I thought I was remarkably restrained in not ordering one of everything. Instead, just getting the Corey Addai t-shirt, the Que Sera Sera t-shirt, and a scarf for me, and the Nick Tsaroulla t-shirt for Helen. Some items sold out quickly and it intrigued me to see that all items were available in the following sizes: 9-10 years old, XS, small, medium, large, XL, 2XL, and 4XL, but none in 3XL, which for a number of years was my required size.

Friday was spent wating for the email from the club to say that my order was ready for collection. But as I was out and about, I nipped into the shop at 5pm and they sorted the order there and then, so all good.

I realised in the build up to this game that will be the first time I have been to the new Wembley stadium to watch a football game. I had been to the original Wembley to see England and Tottenham play before, but I had only been to the new ground to watch numerous NFL games.

This morning saw the mass exodus from the town by train, car, and coach, and an early Thamestink train from Crawley, a change at Farringdon to the tube, and then the Metropolitan line up to Wembley.

The platform at Crawley station was busy and once everyone got on a Crawley the train was standing room only. Only for lots more to get on at Three Bridges, and then for carrying amounts of people wearing Crawley gear all the way up to Purley. The other platform at Three Bridges was absolutely jam packed with fans waiting for the faster Thamestink train from Brighton. Our train had been a couple of minutes late due to the volumes getting on at Ifield before it got to us.

Wembley has a strict bag policy, where nothing bigger than A4 size is permitted. And then they produce a programme which is A4 in size and therefore won’t fit in any bag that you are allowed to bring to the ground, You really couldn’t make this shit up. But the programme, although expensive at a tenner, is a great programme, as it should be for a game of this stature at the home of English football.

There is the view up Wembley Way when you come out of the tube station before heading down the steps at Wembley Park, and it is a view that no one should ever tire of.

We were in the ground and seated before half eleven, which meant I was there in time to watch the Utilita Kids cup final between Walsall and Bradford City, which Walsall won. Which could be a bad omen seeing as they were in red and Bradford were in white, and Crewe being in red today and us in white. Although I’m hoping the good omen of Oxford United winning yesterday’s League One playoff final cancels that out, seeing as, like us, they scraped into the final playoff spot on the last day of the season and won their final.

Having left the house with it being a bit overcast we were pleased to see that the sun was trying to get out by the time we passed Horley, and it was clear blue skies and sunny once at Wembley.

I was hoping they put enough lotion on the head of the bald pundit down on the pitch, as the one who opted for a jacket was looking uncomfortable down there in the hot sun and kept wiping the sweat from his brow.

And filed under things I never thought I would see is this shirt.

Crewe aren’t in all red, as they’ve managed to wangle wearing white shorts without us having to change to black ones. A bit odd, but here we go. Kick off.

The first ten minutes are very cagey. No shots, no half chances, nothing in either penalty area. It takes until the fourteenth minute before the first shot arrives. Kellen Gordon cross is headed out and it comes to Liam Kelly, but his volley is over the bar.

The action is starting to warm up. We work the ball down the left wing, there are some nice one-twos along the way, and it gets into the box, and L Kelly gets a shot on target which is comfortably saved by the Crewe keeper. The first yellow of the game follows shortly afterwards as Dion Conroy is taken out in the middle of the park.

On twenty-four minutes the ball goes out for a throw and a drinks break is called. Something I didn’t see watching the League One playoff game on TV yesterday. After the restart we work it down the left again and play a ball into Klaidi Lolos, he turns back and forth to get a shot off, but it is a weak effort and straight at the keeper.

It takes thirty-six minutes for Crewe to get their first shot, one from outside the box, and Corey Addai is down well to push the ball around the post for a corner. Five minutes later there is a long clearance from Addai, it is collected and passed to L Kelly, who pings it to Danilo Orsi, who turns to find room to take a shot and buries it in the corner of the goal and Crawley lead 1-0. Absolute scenes.

And we are nearly straight back in from the restart. Going down the right Gordon gets a cross in and Jeremy Kelly has a shot deflected for a corner, and from it there is a header over the bar. There are four added minutes at the end of the half. During which Crewe get a throw near the corner flag (they were blatantly offside though), and a long throw comes in, and Addai collects well amongst bodies. We get it up field to Lolos again, and he has a shot from thirty yards out which is high and wide, and the whistle goes for half time with us leading 1-0.

We start the second half as we finished the first, on the front foot, getting an early corner. Only for there to be a kamikaze back pass from Adam Campbell which has Addai in no man’s land and the Crewe attacker one-on-one with him. The ball goes past Addai who sticks a foot out. The attacker goes to the ground and a penalty is given and Addai is shown a yellow card. But here comes our first VAR decision in a game ever, the ref goes over to the pitch side monitor and the penalty is rescinded, as is the yellow card and it is a corner instead. No, a goal kick. No, a drop ball. Not sure anyone knows what is going on at the moment. But thank you VAR. Not that there was ever any doubt that Addai was going to save the penalty.

And that is the last action for Campbell. He is subbed off, seemingly as a result of that back pass, but more likely a planned change and Ronan Darcy comes on. We get another corner; a Gordon cross is deflected behind. The corner is short to L Kelly and his cross is headed out. Gordon wins it back and charges into the box and his shot is well saved. Another cross follows, and there are some appeals for handball, but nothing given and no VAR check.

More substitutions are made, Crewe make a couple, and Gordon goes off to be replaced by Ade Adeyemo. L Kelly is hauled down and it draws another yellow card and a free kick thirty yards out on left hand side of penalty area. It comes in and is headed away as far as Adeyemo whose shot is over the bar.

Jesus wept, another kamikaze back pass sees Crewe with the ball on the byline in the box, but the cross is cleared. We break and the ball is worked across for Darcy to have a shot which is deflected over for a corner. We are having a great spell of possession, pinging it about on the edge of the Crewe box, and Darcy gets another shot off which is just over. And there is a second half drinks break as well.

We are having more pressure now. J Kelly is down the left to the byline, with a lovely piece of skill to get a cross in, but it is just too deep. Recovered by Darcy and he gets it to L Kelly whose shot is saved for a corner. It is cleared but it is won back, and Lolos can’t get space for a shot, it goes to L Kelly who can’t either, and out to J Kelly whose cross is blocked for a corner which is cleared. That is won back in midfield, and we get a free kick forty yards out which is cleared.

Crewe get a long throw near the box, and it is worked back in, but the header is easily saved by Addai. Dion Conroy steps out of defence, wonderfully cutting two Crewe players out of the game, then pings a ball of beauty through to the onrushing L Kelly in the box. He initially tries to square it for Orsi, but it is deflected back to him and with the keeper going the wrong way he slots it in, and it is 2-0. Deep breaths. Nearly there.

There are ten added minutes as the crowd is announced as being 33,341. We make a couple of more subs when the ball eventually goes out of play, with J Kelly and Lolos coming off to be replaced by Nick Tsaroulla and Jack Roles. Crewe get a couple of shots in quick succession, one is easily claimed by Addai, and the other goes over the bar. At the other end there is a late chance for Orsi to put the icing on the cake as he brilliantly leaves the defender for dead and gets his shot away, but the keeper saves.

The full-time whistle goes, and we have won. 2-0. Promoted. Can you believe what we have witnessed over the last couple of weeks.

It is party time. The players make their torturous way up to the royal box to pick up the playoff winner’s trophy, with Liam Kelly being named as man of the match, before coming back down onto the pitch for the set-up photo opportunities and ticker tape parade.

We are there a long time after the final whistle, still trying to soak up as much of the glorious atmosphere a win at Wembley and promotion can give you.

The walk back down Wembley Way is just like those floaty balloons. Walking on air. And the montage on the screen just before getting back to Wembley Park station says it all. Crawley Town certainly stepped up in the playoffs, and next season it will be a new set of teams to bamboozle and beat in League One.

The journey home is full of happy fans in crowded carriages. The parade is tomorrow night. It is not a day that will be forgotten.

Come on you reds.

Something To Pass The Time

People are strange sometimes. I was walking into town along Malthouse Road. On the other side of the road a man was walking in the same direction as me. He turned out of Brewer Road and all the way along until we got to East Park we were going at the same pace. But when I turned into East Park to then go over the railway, as I was on the side of Malthouse Road that was closer to the bridge, I was ahead of him. Cue him speeding up to almost a jog to get in front of me and then taking the stairs two at a time to keep ahead as if it was a race.

The level of service in Maccy D’s really does seem to depend on the staff in there. They pretty much force you to use the self-service kiosks. I have gotten used to that by now. But then when the order comes to be done, depending on who is working, they act as if they can’t read. I always eat in. A chance to watch the world go by, and possibly see little vignettes to write about. Therefore on the machine I select the eat in option, and I always go and collect it from the counter. When the usual Saturday crew is on, it comes on a tray, they give you some serviettes, and everyone is happy after I clear my own tray and rubbish away once I’ve finished eating. It was a replacement crew this week. When I did get my collection, it was in a takeaway paper bag, slung in my general direct and no serviettes. I checked the sticker on the bag which had the details on it, and at the top in large bold print were the words EAT IN. it’s not fucking rocket science now is it?

Speaking of which, some of the Deliveroo / Just Eat / Uber Eats delivery bods aren’t on this planet either. You do see the occasional one with the proper large bags with the different sections in for hot and cold items to keep them separate. Then you see the muppet collection two large orders this morning. He appeared to have a large, padded bag for life. Which wasn’t big enough for the larger of the two orders he was collecting, let alone both of them. And he was cramming hot food and cold drinks in next to each other and on top of each other, with bits sticking out the top of his bag. Which is exactly the reason why no one in their right mind should ever order via these shitty delivery companies. The drivers don’t give a fuck, and the food will be cold when it arrives. And no one wants to have to microwave low quality fast food. It is only just about okay when ‘fresh’ off the conveyor belt.

Que Hurrah Hurrah, Whether By Train, Coach, Or Taxi, We’re Going To Wembley

Doris Day ladies and gentlemen, somewhat traditional for this kind of thing. All the way back to her 1956 chart topper. Not necessarily hoping it’s chips though.

The playoffs continue. After the wonderful 3-0 home win on Tuesday night it’s the second leg, away to Milton Keynes Dons.

I quite often comment to say that I’ve gone straight to home games from writing group, as that finishes at one, and a wander down to the ground gives me my chance to be there as they are opening the turnstiles. It seems most Saturday home games align with writing group sessions which is handy. When they don’t and it is an away game, then it is writing and then home to watch Soccer Saturday for score updates. But today is a first. Writing group in the morning, and then straight to an away game. With it being an evening kick-off, it gives the right amount of time to meet Helen at the train station and get up to Milton Keynes with enough time to check in and drop a bag off at the hotel, and then wander towards the ground finding somewhere to get some food. It’s just a longer wander to the game than usual.

As we travel there four days after the first leg, I’m still pinching myself at the position we find ourselves in. There is a lot of confidence amongst fans. But I’m going around with fingers crossed (which makes typing the first half of this quite difficult), and a mantra in my head of ‘stop jinxing it,’ as I see the wave of social media and forum posts talking about a Wembley visit.

If our home game hadn’t succumbed to ark training and been played on Monday, then this game would have been played Thursday night. But now it’s been rearranged, it isn’t easy to drive up to Milton Keynes. The M25 westbound is closed for the weekend as they continue to work on the A3 junction, and there are roadworks at Dartford, which is why we’ve gone for the train.

Crawley were allocated two thousand tickets for the game; the minimum MK were allowed to offer. There was a lot of moaning about only having two thousand tickets available, but that is still nine hundred more than made the short trip to Sutton a few weeks ago, and we didn’t manage to sell them all anyway, the final tally of sold tickets coming to 1,630.

It was a lovely sunny day for the trip up, a wander to the hotel. The city centre is just bizarre, ghost town, wide open spaces, lots of greenery though, and a grid formation, but it makes the Marie Celeste look claustrophobic. Then out for food in the centre of the city, Ask, which just reminds us how much we miss the one in Crawley. It’s worth ten Prezzo’s.

Their stadium is seriously impressive, a case of build a stadium for what you want to achieve. They had proper searches, sniffer dogs, bag check, pat downs on the way in. The concourse was packed with chanting fans, and the noise is immense. We see Reuben to say hello, and the Mansfield brothers once in our seats. However, for such a modern, supposed state of the art, stadium, the PA system is rubbish, couldn’t pick up a single announcement from their voice over man all game.

I get a programme, it was only three quid, and was thicker than ours on Tuesday, but is half full of adverts. But at least they had the common courtesy to include four pages on their opposition – i.e. us.

It is a repeat of Tuesday night as far as strips are concerned, all red for us, and all white (flag?) for the MK Dons. Two minutes in and there is a poor pass out from the MK keeper, it is pounced on by Jay Williams who takes it into the box and slots it in the corner and we lead 1-0 on the night and 4-0 on aggregate. Can this be happening?

MK get some attacking going, and win a corner, which is put out for another corner, and we clear it. Clever work from Harry Forster down the right, ball comes across to Adam Campbell who chips it over the defenders, but Danilo Orsi can’t get a telling finishing touch on the ball. More decent work, down the left this time, but again we can’t get the final shot away.

The MK toerag, number eighteen, stamps on Williams’ thigh after the ball has gone. The officials are like the four blind mice, and nothing is given. MK as a whole are going for the kick lumps out of Crawley approach at every opportunity. Campbell is barged over with a forearm smash to the back of the head, and again the officials see nothing wrong with it. The MK players are in the ref’s face at every opportunity, as if they’re the hard done ones. A two footed lunge straight through Klaidi Lolos just gets waved on by the ref.

We are having lots of possession. But it wouldn’t be a game without a Corey Addai heart in your mouth moment. A pass out goes straight to a MK player, but their shot is straight at Addai, and we survive. A MK shot from twenty-five yards out is saved at full stretch by Addai for a corner. MK’s number eighteen is down in the box claiming a penalty like the cheating scumbag he is.

On half an hour after some MK pressure we play the ball out well, flicked on towards Orsi, the MK defender misjudges the bounce, Orsi pulls in under control goes outside the defender and pulls a shot back across the keeper and into the corner and it is 2-0, and a 5-0 aggregate lead.

Another two footed lunge, this time through the back of Jeremy Kelly at least wins a free kick, but again there is no yellow card. FFS ref, some protection from the MK thugs would be good. Lolos is clattered in the back again and down injured, but nothing is given. A couple of minutes later, Lolos wins a tackle in midfield, but to everyone’s bemusement, the ref awards a free kick to MK and books Lolos. So, the blind twat does have his cards with then.

There is an injury to Forster, and he is subbed off to be replaced by Kellen Gordon. MK win a free kick on the left-hand edge of the area as the board goes up for five minutes of added time. The ball is swung over to the back post and an outstretched leg plays it back across for the cheating thug number eighteen to score. 2-1 on the night and 5-1 on aggregate.

It looks as if we have restored the advantage almost immediately. Lolos plays it through to Orsi, who helps it on the Jeremy Kelly, and his touch beats the keeper. We are all up celebrating the goal, but it is cleared off the line. There is another hefty challenge, this time on Will Wright and yet again it goes unpunished. After seven extra minutes the ref finally blows for half time.

The second half kicks off with Wright having been replaced by Joy Mukena after the heavy challenge at the end of the first half. Two minutes in there is a ball to Lolos, who drifts inside, and plays a perfect ball to Liam Kelly, who is in on goal with just the keeper to beat, but he squares it to Orsi for a simple tap in and it’s 3-1 on the night and now 6-1 on aggregate. This is dreamland.

The MK toerag dives in the penalty area again trying to cheat for a penalty, and a goal kick is awarded. Lolos is pulled back in midfield and appears to be smacked in the face for bad measure. A free kick is given, but still no yellow card for any MK player. Lolos is subbed off, and Campbell is at the same time, Ronan Darcy and Jack Roles come on for fresh legs.

MK get a corner and force an Addai save, but the offside flag was up anyway. There is a foul by Mukena in his own half, and somewhat unbelievably, the ref books him. They play it wide, and the cross is blocked away by Addai, and he saves the follow up shot. There is finally a booking for MK as one of their players drags Roles down thirty-five yards out. It is played into the box, but cleared, played back in from the other side, two players stretch to try and get a shot away and both fail, but the flag has gone up for offside anyway.

We make the fifth and final substitution, with Williams replaced by Nick Tsaroulla. MK attack and a cross is blasted against an arm two yards away from where it is hit, and the ref has no hesitation in giving MK a penalty. Which Addai saves, and justice is served. MK attack again, but their shot from twenty-five yards out is high and wide.

A break down the right sees a cross come in only to be collected by the MK keeper, but his ball out is won back quickly and a cross from Tsaroulla is blocked for a corner. We are having a lot of the ball and passing it around amongst ourselves all over the pitch, accompanied by a series of ‘oles.’ MK get hacked off with this and hack down Darcy. Another hack on Liam Kelly follows quickly, there is a serious lack of yellow cards for such thuggish play from MK, it is deliberate brutality.

Roles gets the ball in midfield and his shot from thirty yards sees the MK keeper make a hash of the save, but he is lucky as the deflected ball comes back off the post. Another MK lunge through the back of a player, this time Gordon, and no yellow card.

On eighty minutes we break down the right, the ball is played into Orsi, who tries twisting and turning every which way trying to get a shot away to get his hat trick, and the ball ends up with Roles, who slots it in, and it is 4-1 on the night, 7-1 on aggregate. A mass exodus is occurring in the home end now.

There is finally a second booking for the thugs after a foul on Tsaroulla. Scumbag number eighteen kicks the ball away after another foul, but somehow doesn’t pick up a booking. Is he immune or something?

Four added minutes are indicated. Thankfully, it is shown how long on the big screen, as no one can make out a word the bloke on the PA is trying to say. We move the ball down the left after more sustained possession, just playing it around and having MK chasing shadows. The ball comes to Darcy, but his shot is over.

Back down the left again, it is worked through into the box and Darcy squares it across two yards out and Orsi is there at the far post to chest the ball into the net for his hat trick, and to make the score 5-1 on the night and 8-1 on aggregate. Seriously, how fucking good is this?

From the restart MK attack and they crash a shot that comes back off the crossbar. Their number fourteen hauls Darcy down, both hand pulling the back of the shirt and throwing him to the ground, and there are ironic cheers as he finally gets booked.

The final whistle goes. We have done. Crawley Town are heading to Wembley for the first time in their history. They will be up against Crewe Alexandra, who upset the odds to come back from a first leg deficit against the steamroller that was Doncaster Rovers and beat them on penalties. I don’t know if the crowd was announced, it was impossible to tell what was being said, but the MK website had the official crowd as being 10,053 with 1,630 away fans.

It took quite some time for the elated fans to come down from their seats up in the gods and may take them some time to stop pinching themselves at what they have witnessed over the two legs. The long journey home is probably still ongoing for most fans. Meanwhile it was back to the hotel to write this, watch highlights and be generally deliriously happy, only to find the lead I have to charge the camera doesn’t work as a data transfer lead, and so the photos from the night can’t be added to this.

Roll on the bun fight for the tickets for Wembley, there should be more than enough to go around. One more win for that unexpected promotion.

Come on you reds.

I Dons Want To Miss A Thing

A bit of Aerosmith lyric mangling for our last home game of the season.

Here it is – The Playoffs. A first for Crawley Town. Victory in the last home game of the season saw us grab the final playoff place, and today is the first leg of the semi-final against the Milton Keynes Dons. It hasn’t been a quiet ten days since that win against Grimsby Town. The usual post-match curry at The Downsman had a change of venue, as The Downsman is closed for refurbishment until the end of May. The refurb I can understand (get rid of the furry lightshades etc.), but whoever thought of the timing needs a kick up the arse. Missing the last home game of the season seemed silly, but with a home playoff game, and both legs of the playoffs being televised, they will be missing out.

The Sunday night saw Helen and I go to the Crawley Town end of season awards ceremony at Lingfield Park, and they had a different kind of horsey / Orsi to the ones usually found there. It was a good night and something I’ve already written about.

Then came Tuesday and the start of the ticket sales. I wandered down to the ground Tuesday lunchtime and it took and hour in the queue before getting tickets. Being able to work from home and flex to do the hours at other times of the day helped. The queue kept moving though, which by all accounts is more than the phone lines were managing to do. Wednesday was calmer, only for Thursday to be mental again as general sales started. Queues were mental, phone lines were mental, and the website packed up and fucked off for most of the day until all seats and the south terrace tickets had sold out. Queues dispersed only for the north terrace tickets to go on sale forty minutes later.

Friday saw the last lot of one hundred north terrace tickets on sale, plus the away leg tickets went on sale for the season ticket holders. The queue when we got there at nine was back to the player’s entrance and it took nearly an hour to get tickets, and it wasn’t long before the final first leg tickets sold out. There were not separate queues for the two sets of tickets, which wasn’t helping matters. Spotted Crawley nicked my photo to show the queue on their Facebook page.

Talking about missed opportunities, there did seem to be one in the club’s car park. With all the queues all week, it would have been the perfect spot for a mobile fast-food van to set up. Teas and coffees, sausage and bacon baps, chip and burgers, and anything else. A captive audience in the queue. The club could have made some money as well by charging them for the pitch. Or was that just my stomach thinking?

Then came the rain. Noah would have been busy. The pitch was declared unplayable, and the game was moved from the Bank Holiday Monday at 3pm to the Tuesday night at 7:30pm. There was a lot of moaning about the pitch not being covered when they knew rain was coming. But it really wouldn’t have made any difference. I live a ten-minute walk away from the ground, and in the nine years I’ve lived where I have the little front garden has never flooded before, but this was the state of it at 10am, and it stayed like that until well into the late evening.

It may well be out first playoff appearance, but the MK Dons have been here five times before at various levels. And they have gone out at the semi-final stage every single time. It would be nice if we could help them keep that particular streak going.

We played them at home back in August in our second home game of the season and we won by my perennial favourite prediction score of 2-1. The return fixture at their place came between Christmas and New Year and they won that one 2-0 which Scott Lindsey and many watching suggested was not a fair reflection of how well we played.

But none of that matters now. All that does is these two games, and the opportunity to make it to Wembley.

I am happy as the rumours that we would be producing a programme for our home leg happened to be true, with pictures of it being shared on the club website on Sunday. It did mean that I made my way to the ground even earlier than I usually do to make sure I got myself one.

It also was a chance to take some pregame photos. The TV gantries are up as the game is also live on the so-called necessary evil of Sky Sports. We have two neighbours with us again, with Clare and Lynn joining us, which I’m hoping is a good luck charm, as the other games they have attended of the last couple of years have ended with home wins for Crawley.

I got a programme, four quid for twenty pages, not terrific value for money, but better than nothing, and not as error strewn as the ones we had last season, although, somewhat disgracefully, there was nothing about the MK Dons in the programme. Somewhat ironically, they were watering the pitch pre-kick-off.

Not only were the Sky cameras set up in various places in the ground, but the centre circle was covered by a big advert for Sky Bet.

New banners were unfurled before kick-off across the front of the south terrace.

MK were in an all-white kit, and we hadn’t even kicked off before there a was a red smoke flare going off in the south terrace. MK get a first minute corner which takes them at least another minute to take before they waste it. Corey Addai is coming a long way out his goal to clear it, and his second one is caught by the MK keeper and booted back, the striker takes it round Addai, but his shot is brilliantly cleared off the line by Will Wright and the follow up is saved by Addai.

We break down the left and Liam Kelly swaps passes with Adam Campbell on the edge of the area, takes a step into the area and fires a shot into the back of the net and four minutes in we are leading 1-0. Smoke flare number two quickly follows.

A corner follows, swung in, and cleared, but Campbell picks the ball up and his shot is saved, and then cleared. It is a bit nervy. A pass from Addai out to Jay Williams nearly ends in disaster, and not long after an overhit back pass has Addai scrambling to stop an own goal, but there is an outrageous piece of control, before he skips over a desperate lunge from a striker before clearing.

At the other end Klaidi Lolos is causing his own usual brand of chaos, and feeds Danilo Orsi who gets a shot off that goes just wide. We work the ball into the box a couple of times, but just can’t seem to get it to fall for someone to get a shot off. A nice ball is worked to Orsi and his shot from outside the box is just tipped over the bar and on to the top of the net. The corner is headed straight at the keeper by Laurence Maguire from point blank range and cleared.

Harry Forster is giving the ripping the left back a new arsehole, and after skinning him again draws a booking. The MK captain takes Campbell out about a week after the ball had gone, but somehow escapes a booking. Orsi gets a shot that is saved, but the flag goes up for offside.

Liam Kelly is chopped down on the left wing and Wright fires the free kick into the box where Williams stretches out a leg and gets a touch on it to steer it past the keeper and as we reach the end of normal time in the half, we lead 2-0.

I was too busy celebrating the goal to see how many added minutes went up on the board, but two minutes were played, and we go into the break 2-0 up.

We have a steady start to the second half and work a chance to Forster on the edge of the penalty area, but his shot is just over. Maguire gets a booking for an innocuous challenge in midfield. MK get a shot from the resulting free kick, which Addai saves. At the other end a Wright long throw ends up with Lolos, whose shot is blocked, as is Wright’s follow up effort. Forster is taken out again, and another MK player goes into the book.

There are a couple of substitutions made, with Campbell and Forster coming off to be replaced by Ronan Darcy and Kellen Gordon just before the hour mark.

MK have a break, but their striker puts it wide trying to curl it around Addai. We attack and Darcy gets the ball in the right corner of their penalty area and shoots, it looks like it takes a deflection on the way to looping over the keeper and into the net and we lead 3-0. Wow.

Dion Conroy gets a booking for kicking the ball away in midfield. The free kick from MK gets to their striker, but the shot is easily saved by Addai. MK have a spell of possession. They work it to the absolute tool wearing the number eighteen shirt and his shot flies high over the KRL Logistics stand to a chorus of ironic cheers, and that is the only ball loss of the game.

At the other end Darcy has the ball again just outside the box and tries to chip the keeper, but it hasn’t quite got enough pace on it, and the keeper manages to get to it. MK have a corner, which Addai collects, but he gets clouted by a stray knee in doing so and gets some treatment.

Jeremy Kelly is substituted, with Nick Tsaroulla coming on to replace him. Another Wright free kick causes chaos in the box, there are a couple of efforts before the ball is bundled over the line. But the flag is up on the far side for offside.

MK get a shot over the bar. Then run the ball out of play and their number eighteen boots the pitch side microphone in frustration. It’s his best shot of the game so far. We make another substitution, with Orsi leaving the field to be replaced by Ade Adeyemi for the final five minutes plus added time. Of which there are six minutes.

We pick up another booking for kicking the ball away, but it is telling that the referee didn’t book an MK player for doing the same thing just a minute before. Lolos goes on another of those mazy runs where you think he’s lost the ball half a dozen times, but he still has in the box, but his pass is cut out when everyone was screaming for him to have a shot.

The full-time whistle goes, and we have won 3-0. It is a great result. But it is only a job half done. Yes, there is cautious optimism going into Saturday’s second leg, but nothing to take for granted. Think Peterborough last year giving up a 4-0 first leg lead to miss out.

The crowd was announced as 5,564 with 675 away fans, and the atmosphere was electric. The official man of the match was announced as Jay Williams. All in all, that was probably out best home performance of the season and saved for exactly the right time. More of the same on Saturday please.

Tickets are purchased, train tickets are booked, hotel is secured. Milton Keynes here we come.

Come on you reds.

Purely Horley Crawley Surely

Another random set of words slung together from observations and doing random shit. The title doesn’t make any sense, but it rhymes.

It was time to take the car in for its annual service, done at the Kia dealers so we can keep the seven-year warranty going. The drop off time is early at 8am, but we are actually there early to drop the car off. A quick walk to Charlies for breakfast (the café on the industrial estate and not the burger van in Three Bridges station car park). And then onto the Broadfield Stadium to get tickets for the away leg of the playoffs.

Because we were going to be doing a fair bit a busing around, I got a two-adult bundle of Crawley day rider tickets on the Metrobus app. Only for me to activate it but then have issues once on the bus. It scanned my ticket but wouldn’t register it as for two people, or flick through to a second ticket QR code to scan. The driver got hacked off with me trying and failing to get a second code and just waved us on. Once sat down and able to take a look, it turns out that the two adult day rider bundle isn’t a ticket for two adults. It is two tickets for a single adult to use on two different days. Helen had to use her phone to get another ticket for her to use for the rest of the day. It does mean that I have got another day rider ticket for use at some stage in the next twelve months. The app isn’t clear about this at all. I was cursing myself as I had already counted out the exact change to pay cash for two day rider tickets before changing my mind and using the app. I knew there was a reason I hate there being fucking apps for everything.

After getting match tickets it was back on the bus going in the opposite direction as we were going to Horley for a mooch about.

A visit to the original factory shop before pottering around charity shops. It must be ten years since I last did that in Horley, back when I was only ever looking for records. I remember it quite clearly though, as I had never seen so many James Last records in such a short space of time.

There was a lot of decent stuff around in the charity shops today, and we had a good look in the first three of them we went in. But in the fourth one that was cut short as the atmosphere in the St Catherine’s Hospice shop was toxic as two staff members were having a political so-called discussion. When a third person joined in people started walking out.

From there it was into the lovely Art Deco building that houses the Wetherspoons called The Jack Fairman. The building used to be a car showroom owned by the Fairman family. Jack Fairman had been a formula one driver back in the fifties. When we were sat at the table, for some reason I kept thinking I had already got a drink, and so I kept reaching out to pick it up and have a swig. But drinks hadn’t even been ordered let alone brought to the table. I kept seeing the ketchup bottle out of the corner of my eye and reaching for that until Helen moved it.

We went into Collingwood Batchelor. It was somewhere I’d seen plenty of times but had never been into. I had never seen an advert for the place either, only to then see an advert for it the following night on every ad break whilst doing a NCIS watching marathon.

The service was done, and it had the bonus of them doing a free mini valet as well, so it saved us the trip to the car wash. I wandered back into town. I was looking for a decent sized travel rucksack, one with a separate pocket large enough for my beast of a laptop. I did find one in TK Maxx, but I got some strange looks as I went into various shops and had the tape measure out measuring the inside of various compartments in lots of rucksacks before finding an appropriate one.

I went into HMV. Not for a rucksack mind you. And the escalators still aren’t working in either direction but do act as very weird steps to climb up and down.

I also went for a haircut. Which with my requirements should be an easy ask. It is always the same. A number four on top, number two for the back and sides and a number one for the beard. Just get the clippers out and change the plastic guard length a couple of times. A five-minute job tops. But no. It took the best (or worst) part of an hour. I have no idea why it would take so long. Or why there were twenty-one different implements used. A hair dryer to start things off. Three different clippers, all with no length guard at some point, but five different guards were used as well as four different combs, three different pairs of scissors and a cutthroat razor, shaving gel, a brush, a couple more trips out for the hairdryer, and two different mirrors.

I’m sat in the chair not trying to have the look on my face of “what the flying fuck is going on here.” I wasn’t sure just what to expect next. I was half expecting him to pull a six iron out of his bag, or busting a snooker cue out. I say these latter two things because there were several times when he stopped and was looking at my hair or beard from every conceivable angle just as if he was lining up his next shot at St Andrews or The Crucible. It’s a set price of twenty-five quid, which as it took an hour, isn’t a bad hourly rate, but some of his colleagues got through a couple of people in the same time.

Programme Notes

In the hours leading up to the kick off to this season it would be safe to say outside of the dressing room, the confidence about how the season would go wasn’t high. Crawley Town had a terrible 2022-23 season and only just escaped relegation with a game to go.

We could have named an eighteen-man squad from players who had departed from the club in the previous twelve months. A lot of the fan favourites had gone. And a lot of replacements had come in. Although a lot them had had league experience previously, we had signed the majority of them from non-league clubs. It didn’t inspire confidence.

Off the pitch was a mixed bag as well. There had been improvements in the match day experience. Season ticket prices, reduced the season before, had been held at the same level (which has contributed to the continued increase in home and away support). The Fanzone was up and running, and there are more food and drink options in and around the ground. Yet to some fans there was disgust (definitely mine), the programme had been scrapped. Completely, not even online. And for the second season running the new kits weren’t available before the season started.

The bookies had us as favourites for relegation. Both Four Four Two and When Saturday Comes predicted we would finish rock bottom of League 2.

And then we kicked off. A home game opener for the first time in six years. And a win against the team WAGMI tried to buy before taking us over – Bradford City. With it, the glorious sight of Mark Hughes throwing his toys out of the pram on our touchline. Again.

There was a quick exit in the Carabao Cup away at Exeter City, a contrast to the only real bright spot of the previous season in the same competition where we got to the third round and beat Premier League Fulham along the way.

The new players gelled quickly, and it looked and felt a lot better on the pitch. The grumbling about the wholesale changes of personnel gave way to an acknowledgement the players who had gone over the summer were those on the pitch as we finished twenty-second last season, and therefore them going wasn’t necessarily the terrible thing we had thought it to be.

After the good start, however, came a thumping away 0-6 at Swindon Town following a 0-1 defeat to early leaders Gillingham. But after that we went on a great, and on the whole, unexpected run. We played more attacking football, created chances, scored goals, and picked up points. And towards the end of September, we were top of the league for about eight minutes on goal difference. Not long enough to get a screen grab of it for posterity though.

Then came a dreadful October. Gillingham sacked Neil Harris and our manager Scott Lindsey was closely linked with the vacancy. The saga went on for a while, and it seemed to affect the team and we only picked up a single point in six games during the month, and then went out of the FA Cup in the first round away to Notts County the first weekend in November.

Since then, it was a case of win one, lose one, or win a couple, lose a couple. We are scoring goals in most games, but at the same time, we are conceding goals in most games as well. It is exciting, but not necessarily particularly good for the nerves. But since the turn of the year the form hasn’t been great, and we’ve had postponements and have slipped into the bottom half of the table and out of playoff contention (but not mathematically, so there is always hope).

We have picked up a lot of bookings. The team is relatively inexperienced. They are getting drawn in, falling for the gamesmanship that more experience brings, they are getting bullied off the ball far too often. We have a lot of possession but play ourselves into trouble trying to play out. We create chances, but the shot accuracy isn’t great.

The transfer window was always going to be a worry. Scott Lindsey mentioned he expected there to be changes. But there has been no indication from the owners about how much they were willing to back the team with incoming players. There has been pretty much complete radio silence from WAGMI this season. After last January’s window, where we lost some of players, including out to relegation rivals, back to parent clubs, or out on loan for off field reasons, there is an anxiety about losing players.

For me Liam Kelly, Klaidi Lolos, Danilo Orsi, and Nick Tsaroulla would have been players we couldn’t afford to lose, and we didn’t. There were many other players who divide opinion. Some of our loan players went go back to parent clubs due to the lack of playing time. And we got a couple of new signings in the last couple of hours of the window, a central defender, and a midfielder, but attempts to get an additional striker fell short.

Looking forward, is a play-off place a realistic expectation? Blind faith would say why not? We were close, and aren’t that far away on points, but are probably a couple of players short of being able to make it. In a pre-season piece, I went with what felt like an optimistic prediction of fourteenth and a bit of a cup run. We have had the latter in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy, making the third round for the first time in our history, beating a couple of League 1 teams along the way before losing to Peterborough. And I’m going to upgrade my prediction to a top half finish for us but missing out on the playoffs. Our recent form hasn’t been great, but up is where I’m looking, and not down, getting dragged into another relegation battle is unlikely.

Come on you reds.

Learn To Accept An Award

An apt title possibly, but more mangled lyrics, this time taking Reward by Teardrop Explodes in vain.

Last night saw the end of season Crawley Town awards ceremony at Lingfield Park. (And yes, we know, the season hasn’t actually ended yet – woo and hoo!) It was the first time Helen and I had attended anything like this. Steve Leake had been looking to try and get enough numbers together to get the reduced group rate for tickets but hadn’t drummed up enough support, but he had sorted getting ours, only for him unfortunately not to be able to make the night himself.

We were on a table with other supporters, including Alain from GH Travel who was going to be presenting his own award. I had meant to bring my proper camera with me but doing that got a bit lost as we were scrambling for time to get there for the start, and so had to use the pretty useless phone camera. And even then, remembering to take photos for each award got a bit lost along the way, especially early on.

The night was compared by Dan Windle, who is a commentator / presenter on various TV and radio channels. But he was struggling with microphones for most of the evening, the first one he had made him seem like he was doing a Norman Collier tribute gig, and subsequent ones still made him sound like he had done something to piss the sound man off, as others using the same mics didn’t sound as muffled. Not sure if the mics could be blamed for being charisma blockers though.

I had a chance to introduce myself and have a chat with Reuben Watt, the CTSA chair. And ask the question I’d been wanting to ask for months. His name is not a common one, and I had seen it crop up as a new hire at the company I work in HR for back in September and had been wondering since if it was the same person. Turns out it is, and it is a small world indeed.

The first award of the night was the PFA Community Champion award, presented by the Crawley Community Foundation, and it went to Danilo Orsi.

Next up was the GH Travel away player of the season. This is one that is totted up over the season by the fans travelling on the supporters coaches voting for their player of the game on the way back from each game. Alain was presenting this one, something he said he felt really nervous about when he got back to his seat. But not as nervous it would seem as the recipient of the award, Liam Kelly, who didn’t look like he enjoyed being on the stage at all, and only said a couple of quick words before getting off as soon as possible.

I don’t consider myself as being tall nowadays, being over six feet tall is commonplace, but a couple of the players seem very small in comparison, Adam Campbell is one, and Liam Kelly is another. Liam looks really young as well, despite being one of the squad’s older players, and seemed to be like a nervous teenager upon the stage, and I wondered to myself if he’d keep getting id’d every time he went to the bar.

It was then the turn of the Crawley Observer player of the year award, with Mark Dunford from the paper giving it out to Will Wright. And then it was on to the first of the more serious events of the evening, the meal’s first course.

After the first course came the CTSA young player of the year award. Unlike the first couple of awards, where only the winner had been shown on the screens around the room, the nominations for the award were shown on the screens, and when Jay Williams saw himself up on the screen he got up to go to the stage before realising it was only a nomination, and earned himself a ribbing by team mates. When Reuben spoke, it was to announce the winner was Klaidi Lolos.

Then there was the Clubman of the year award, for the member of staff of the year. Prior to the Sutton United game, I had been listening to them announce their employee of the year award, which had been given to the person who produced their programme (and had done so for the previous eighteen years). No chance of that being the case tonight obviously. It goes to Steve Hafner.

Nick Tsaroulla is then called to the stage and is presented with a framed shirt with his name and the number one hundred on, for him reaching the milestone of one hundred appearances for the club. They played the whole of The Champs’ “Tequila” whilst he was stood on stage clutching the large, framed shirt. Someone on our table mentioned that he had spoken to Nick at some point recently and had been telling him that they had missed the rearranged Stockport County game due to being at a Radiohead concert, and Nick had told him that he’d never heard of Radiohead.

It was now time for the main course of the meal and the army of servers coming out with plates. But with so many to feed, I’m sure some people had finished by the time those on the last tables had been presented with the plate.

And after another food interlude it was back into another round of awards. Nuffield Health’s 2023-24 goal of the season went to Klaidi Lolos for his goal away against Harrogate Town. Which was a good goal, but the general consensus around our table was Harry Forster got robbed for his effort against Bristol Rovers. Someone on our table mentioned that those presenting on behalf of Nuffield Health weren’t exactly selling the benefits of a health provider.

It was then time for the player’s player of the year award, and the lesser spotted Ben Gladwin was on stage to present this one. And it went to Jay Williams, meaning he did get a legitimate visit to the stage for an award. Plenty of f bombs were dropped (or as Welcome To Wrexham might phrase it, lots of enthusiasm was shown).

Food interrupted again with the dessert coming out before it was back into the final stretch as manager Scott Lindsey took to the stage looking dapper in his tuxedo and black tie. If only suits and trainers had been acceptable in the eighties, it would have made my teenage clubbing so much easier on my feet on the dancefloor. There wasn’t a manager of the year award, as we only had the one this season, not the five we had last time around. But there was a lot of positivity from Scott as to our playoff hopes and that much-wanted trip to Wembley and League One beyond.

It was then time for the last award of the evening. The last that the fans had voted on, the Eden Utilities sponsored player of the year, which went to Danilo Orsi, who was also presented with the club’s golden boot for his twenty-ones goals (so far) this season. It was good to see that my choice for this of Corey Addai was in the top four shown on the screens.

With that the awards part of the evening, Dan Windle was off to his usual job of helping insomniacs fall asleep, the squad had a picture in front of the stage, and then the lights went down, the music increased in volume as the squeaky voiced DJ started, and most people headed to the bar.

For me, I think there should be a match of the season. There would be two games, against the same side, for totally different reasons, which would have got my vote. The opponents would be Bradford City. To win at home on the first day of the season against a side tipped for promotion was the springboard to the season for us. I think everything came from that winning start. And the away game was probably the best feeling I’ve had at a live game. Playing OK and taking the lead, then playing like dogshit for an hour and being behind, only to get a late equaliser, and then get, not only what we thought was the winner deep, deep into added time, but then to add to it in the hundredth minute to come away with a 4-2 win was amazing. (Obviously, any future wins this season are likely to trump it.)

For us it was time to wander off. A good night, a decent excuse to get dressed up and give the new suit another airing, and its hopefully something to attend again in the future.

Come on you reds.

What Does It Take To Win A Playoff Place

Motown making an appearance at this late stage in the season as I mangle the classic Jr Walker & The All Stars song.

It’s the final league game of the season, and we are at home for a change. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster season as we limp into the final game after two losses and two draws in the last four matches. Results which have seen us slip out of that final playoff place and into eighth in the table after midweek games saw Doncaster extend their winning run to ten games and jump above us in the table.

It is no longer in our own hands. There are many scenarios. In simple terms.

If we lose then we miss the playoffs, and depending on other results we could end up as low as tenth in the table.

If we draw then we need a whole host of other things to happen – Barrow have to lose by two goals, Bradford City have to not win, and Walsall must not win by four goals or more. That set of results would lift us to seventh.

If we win then it would need Barrow to lose or draw, OR Crewe Alexandra to lose, OR Doncaster Rovers to lose. If any of that happens then we are in the playoffs. For each of the three above that happens if we also win, we go up a place in the league, so if all three were to lose (or Barrow draw) then we would finish fifth.

So, it means that there will be a lot of people with at least half an eye on phones etc. to see what is happening elsewhere as our game takes place. In an ideal world the scoreboard would show the live scores during the game. But under league regulations they aren’t allowed to. Not for the fans or the players / managers etc, but because the match officials aren’t allowed to know what is happening elsewhere. Several officials were suspended / demoted a couple of seasons ago after having mobiles with them during the final games of the season.

It’s unlikely that the televised Sky game will help. Crewe need a point to guarantee being in the playoffs and their opponents Colchester need a point to guarantee survival, so that game has West Germany vs Austria from the 1982 World Cup written all over it.

Anyway, today’s opponents are Grimsby Town, who managed to secure safety from relegation last Saturday, and hopefully will come and not be bothered, with having nothing to play for. But we all know it rarely works like that. The away fixture was back in September, when after being 2-0 down, Danilo Orsi scored a ninety-sixth minute winner in a 3-2 result (that was after Klaidi Lolos had done the same the week before at home to Tranmere Rovers). And we did think – however briefly – that Orsi had done the same last week against Sutton United, only for the flag to go up (somewhat dubiously) and dash our hopes.

The game is another sell out (from a home tickets perspective), so let us all hope that it goes better than the other sellout or near sellout games this season at home, as we have lost all four of them. We have one additional person in tow for this game, with one of our neighbours – Clare – joining us as she knows the Grimsby Town No 30, as she sits next to his dad and uncle in her season ticket seats at Tottenham and has seen him grow up from a baby.

It has been what seems like a hell of a long four days since the Tuesday night results came in. There are nerves in play, a touch of anticipation, some hope required, a bit of dread, and no doubt for those who believe in such things, some prayers as well.

Grant, who sits behind us had got permission from the club to do some drone filming of the stadium, and the players warm up pre-game, and he’ll be cutting that and letting the club have it, so looking forward to that.

Grimsby are in their traditional black and white vertical stripes shirts, black shorts, and white socks. It isn’t the most coherent of starts, and eight minutes in Grimsby have their first attack, the ball is played across the six-yard box from the left and at the back of the box their attacked is there with a free hit, which is high over the bar and over the Eden Utilities Stand for the only ball loss of the day.

We are having a lot of possession, but the final ball isn’t quite there again. Adam Campbell picks the ball up about forty yards out and heads towards goal, gets into the box before shooting, but the shot is wide. Ade Adeyemo’s pace and trickery is used to good effect down the right wing, but his cross is overhit and goes across the box and out for a throw on the other side.

It takes sixteen minutes for the first corner of the game, and it goes to Grimsby, but amounts to nothing. There is a bit of a buzz from the phone watchers, there is a goal elsewhere. Mansfield Town have taken the lead against Barrow. We get a corner of our own, but it is easily cleared and Grimsby break and get another corner of their own. It goes all the way over to the back post and from a tight angel two yards out the header comes back across the face of the goal and out for a goal kick. Grimsby are creating more chances and get another shot away which goes wide.

On twenty-three minutes Adeyemo plays a ball across the park to the left wing to Jeremy Kelly and his cross is taken down by Danilo Orsi, who slots the ball into the net, and we lead 1-0, and as things stand, we are in the playoffs.

A couple of minutes later there is a free kick twenty-five yards out, just left of centre. Will Wright stands over it and his shot is heading for the top corner but is well saved, the follow up is put out for a corner, but that goes out for a goal kick. We are having more of the ball and creating more now. A ball is worked across to Adeyemo from the left wing and his long shot along the ground is easily saved by the Grimsby keeper.

Just after the half hour mark there is a ball in the air down the right wing, Campbell and Orsi get headers on, and the ball falls to Klaidi Lolos, he cuts outside to the right, beats a player and gets a shot off across the keeper and it nestles in the bottom left hand corner of the net and we lead 2-0.

There are scores elsewhere, Colchester have taken the lead against Crewe, I’m not sure that was really in either team’s script. And somewhat unsurprisingly, Doncaster are two up against Gillingham. As it stands, we are up to sixth.

We are on the attack again and Adeyemo’s shot is blocked. It goes for a throw and Wright lobs a missile in, but it is cleared. Grimsby attack, and they have a curling shot from just outside the box on the left-hand side which Corey Addai just tips around the post for a corner. There are two added minutes at the end of the half, and the half ends with us leading 2-0.

Elsewhere the half times are Barrow 0 – Mansfield 1, Colchester 1 – Crewe 0, and Gillingham 0 – Doncaster 2, and as it stands, we are sixth and will be playing the on a roll Doncaster.

The second half sees Grimsby start the quicker, and they get a corner, and on another attack a shot on goal before Crawley start to settle into the half. Adeyemo gets down the right wing and his cross is blocked for a corner, which is cleared, put back in and cleared again.

About quarter of an hour into the half and Barrow have equalised in their game, which doesn’t affect our place in the playoffs. Lolos has another attempt to twinkle-toes his way into the box, but the ball runs away from him to the keeper before he can get a shot off. Substitutions are made. Grimsby get another corner which Addai catches.

Gillingham are suddenly level in their game against Doncaster, and Doncaster are down to ten men, so that’s getting interesting.

There is a bit of nervy passing around the back, it is not as comfortable as the scoreline should make it. Grimsby get another corner, but it is cleared, and we break, and it ends with another Lolos shot straight at the keeper. Jeremy Kelly is having fun against the Grimsby right back; he turns him inside out near the halfway line. The look of disgust / resignation on the right back’s face is a picture to behold.

We are keeping possession down the left; we win a corner and just try to keep it there. No board has gone up to indicate how many added minutes there are at the end of the half, but there ends up being four added minutes played before the final whistle goes and it is confirmed as a 2-0 win.

There is a pitch invasion, and red smoke flares are involved, but the final results are through from everywhere else yet. Doncaster comes first, they finish with a 2-2 draw and secure their place in the playoffs, Crewe come next, they get a ninety-second minute equaliser to grab their point to guarantee their playoff spot. And we wait for the Barrow score to be finalised. The final whistle goes there, and they have only drawn, and therefore it is now official. Crawley have qualified for the playoffs. Barrow drop out of the playoff places on the last day of the season having been in them since October.

The season continues. Tomorrow night is the club’s award ceremony at Lingfield racecourse, which we are going to, and then the playoff games start. We are playing the MK Dons, with the home game being on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, and the away game on the Thursday night of that week. Just need to see when the tickets go on sale for them, and sort transport and possibly hotels for the away game.

How good is this season?

Come on you reds.