Home league game number two of the season for Crawley Town, and the first Saturday afternoon fixture for us. The opponents are Northampton Town, who have the great nickname of The Cobblers due to the boot and shoe industry in the town. They brought a lot more support than Salford City did for the last game here. Three big coaches and a few minivans and cars, plus from some of the conversations I heard whilst on the way to our turnstiles, there were some local fan groups, including one from Horsham.
Despite record amounts of fannying about at home before the game we managed to get to the ground in enough time for me to get a programme pregame (and therefore have semblance of a clue about who our players were on the pitch this time). Also managed to get a drink and sit down before the players came onto the pitch.
It’s a warm afternoon, but a bit overcast (overcast would be a perfect summary to the game that was to follow), and there were some spots of rain trying to make an impact (as would trying to make an impact) as we made our way to the stands. Not that there was any worry about that affecting the game, more about it affecting the cushions left out on the garden furniture.
It was definitely a better start to the game for Crawley than last week (when they conceded in the first minute away in a hammering by Forest Green Rovers), and the previous home game. There was a shot on target early on which raised the spirits of the crowds, and the chants were soon up and running with the accompaniment of the local drummer. It was a bit much for one young fan who was crying and covering his ears as he was led by his father to try and find a quieter seat.
The ref looked a good (or bad) six inches shorter than any of the players, and although he had more hair than most refs the start of male pattern balding was showing through. I wonder if it is a job requirement at this level that you have to have MPB before you are given a whistle and a can of shaving foam.
There were some chances for either side as the half progressed, and it took until the half hour mark before the first match ball disappeared over the stands. It was an impressive effort, as this one made its way over the top of the main stand, and not the short arse terraces at either end.
By half time Crawley had had more shots on target than when they won against Salford, but they were a bit soft, so much so that even I, some seventeen years after retirement from Hit The Bar could have saved them. Glenn Morris was called into action to make a couple of saves, but most of the game was being played in the centre of the pitch.
Half time allowed for a stretch of legs, a new drink, a read of the programme and the sun to start sneaking out before it was back into the action. (Action may be a strong word here.)
I think someone must have gone around sticking all the Crawley fans with pins at half time as they seemed quite deflated in the second half, there wasn’t much chant action going on, and the drummer must have gone home (turns out he hadn’t as I saw him leaving at the end of the game, but he may well have had his drumsticks confiscated after deafening that kid early on).
As the game went on Northampton were slightly on top, meaning they spent slightly less time out of the centre of the park, and a double substitution by Crawley on the hour mark did little to improve their play or attacking intent.
By now the more entertaining part of the match was needle between two fans in the next block to us. A young guy had annoyed an old bloke as he kept “kneeing” him in the back as he got up and down on his many trips from the stand. To be fair the old bloke was twice the size of me, so avoiding touching him would have been difficult. There were lots of verbals and angry pointed fingers. Then they shook hands, and it was done with. Or not as they continued verbals afterwards and as the young guy got up a few more times as the half progressed.
A last-ditch tackle from a Northampton player saw him get injured and a long interruption to play as he was treated and then stretchered off (suspected broken ankle was the initial report). Whilst that was going on the sun fully broke out from the clouds and beamed down on the pitch. We found that we were at the right level in the stands where the sun was on our knees, but not in our eyes. Which means as the nights draw in, it will fully be in our eyes by the end of September.
When Northampton made their substitution for their injured player the stadium announcer bottled it and just read out his surname of Koiki, as opposed to his full name as printed in the match day programme – Abd-Al-Ali Morakinyo Olaposi Koiki. I’m not sure why.
The second ball made its way out of the ground just a minute or so later, another impressive effort launching it over our stand and onto the A23. Jake Powell was booked for the most obvious pull back we’re likely to see all season, which led to a period where the ref though it was only possible to give decisions in Northampton Town’s favour, with some real head scratchers in there. Which only stopped when he had little choice to book one of their players for a dive so obvious Tom Daley’s been in touch about partnering for the next Olympics.
The crowd was announced as 2,284 with 451 of that being away fans. Although it is 105 more than the last fixture, I hope it is only due to it being the bank holiday weekend that it was so low, as there were nearly 400 more away fans than Salford brought, so the Crawley support was nearly 300 down.
Eight minutes of injury time seemed an unfair punishment on those who had sat through what had turned out to be a bit of a nothing game. It was no surprise when the ref blew the whistle for full time and it was 0-0, as to be honest they were lucky to get nil.
The Harrogate Town game which had been postponed due to Covid in their camp has now been rearranged for a Tuesday night in September. They are unbeaten, and unless Crawley up their game they are likely to stay that way. It’s a shame we couldn’t have played them when they were Covid bound.
Anyway, after a match like that there is really only one appropriate description for the game considering the opposition.
What a load of cobblers.