Leave It Late

Home game three of the season, it’s deceptively warm out there today. Not exactly being Mr and Mrs Current Affairs, we are struggling to recall who exactly Crawley are playing today. When we arrive at the ground (with quite some time to spare thank you very much), there is only one big coach behind the away stand, but that doesn’t help as unlike for previous games it just gives a phone number of the coach company and not where it comes from.
I get a programme and find we are playing Carlisle. Jeez, that’s a journey and a half for away fans, I’m not surprised there’s only one coach, so it is a surprise when they announce the away fans being at the ground as 219 (it might have been 290, but it didn’t look that way; but there was no way of differentiating over the poor PA system.

I have a quick look and see where Carlisle are in the table, eighth, and they’ve only lost one of their six games. We’re third from bottom and just outside the relegation zone after a late goal condemned us to another away loss against a previously poor Bristol Rovers the week before, and a 6-1 battering by Charlton Athletic in the Papa John’s Trophy. It has to be said none of the above inspires confidence.

The Redz bar seems busier than it has been for the previous games, we are earlier, and it is now sunny, which might explain things. And there is a queue at the turnstiles for the first time, which translates into a queue to get a drink inside, and the players are taking the knee before I get to my seat.

The line of annoying kids in the row behind us has expanded since the previous game, and despite a bright start by Crawley in the bright sunshine, we are getting tired of the high-pitched screeching and shouting of the brats behind us. Brats which, as Helen tells me later, say that aren’t even in the right seats.

The not so funky drummer was even later to his seat than I was, and it takes a while before he gets going, and the screeching mob behind me keep trying (with no success) to get chants going, often ones that have no relevance to what is going on; including one I missed, but Helen again told me about later where they were referring to one of the Carlisle players as a monkey. Something that if they pull that shit again when sat in the wrong seats behind me, they won’t be sitting anywhere.

The game falls into a kind of morass; there is an injury, and the stoppage sees all the players (apart from the goalies) hiding in the shade of the south stand. And then Crawley score just after the half hour mark. A corner comes in from our side of the pitch, and bounces in the middle of the penalty area and Tom Nicholls, last season’s player of the year and second top scorer, strokes it into the net through the mass of players in the box; his first of the season.

A couple of minutes later there is the first booking for Crawley of the day as new signing Joel Lynch gets a yellow for a foul. The only other excitement is the first ball launched over our north stand seats onto the A23 in injury time at the end of the half.

There is a note to self for future half times: don’t dilly dally before going to get drinks. The queue was horrendous, and I was at the back. Someone said that the bar sold cans, so I headed there only to arrive and find they’d shut the bar because there was less than five minutes before the restart. The original queue hadn’t grown in my absence, but it hadn’t gone down much. There seemed a lot more people there than for previous games, so I was surprised when the announce the crowd was only 2,151, the lowest of the season so far.

The second half started with me still in the queue, and an incomplete view as to what was going on, there were chances at either end, and a Carlisle booking, quickly followed by a triple substitution, all of which I missed before getting back to my seat, with no drink for myself as they’d sold out of fizzy drinks.

Will Ferry got booked not long after. Apparently for timewasting / holding on to the ball after a free kick had been given. However, there was no action taken against Carlisle players for pushing him over, stamping on him, or launching into him with a knee. He was still chuntering to the ref and linesman about it a couple of minutes later when, wisely, he was subbed off, to prevent him doing anything stupid enough to warrant a second booking.

If did look as if Crawley were playing to hold on to the win, and made their three substitutions in quick succession, which was equally quickly followed by a third yellow card for the team as captain George Francomb got one for a pull back. Ball number two found the A23 almost immediately before yellow number four of the day as Jake Hessenthaler got one for an unnecessary foul. Which led to a Carlisle equaliser, which, being honest, wasn’t unexpected.

What was unexpected was the last-minute winner as full back Nick Tsaroulla smashed in a shot from twenty-five yards after an effort from substitute Ashley Nadesan had been blocked. Cue mad celebrations, and what seemed like a large running conga line across the terraced stand from the fans going to join with the ecstatic scorer, who picked up Crawley’s fifth booking of the day for over exuberant celebration as he whipped off his shirt to show off his very impressive sports bra beneath.

The board had gone up for two minutes additional time, but we played seven before the ref finally gave up any hope of Carlisle getting and equaliser and blew the final whistle.

A second 2-1 home victory of the season, sandwiching a 0-0 performance. It is worth noting that Alan was stewarding again for this game as he had been for the victory over Salford, but he had been on Brighton duty for the 0-0. Let’s hope that if he is the lucky mascot, Crawley don’t have too many home games on the same day as Brighton home games.

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