We had missed our first home league game of the season on Tuesday night, the rearranged fixture against Harrogate Town that should have been our first game of the season but had been postponed due to an outbreak of Covid in their camp. (So, it was somewhat ironic that Helen was missing the game due to having post Covid viral fatigue – whereas I was just running late.) Instead, I watched the live text updates on the BBC website. It would seem I missed a good game. An early goal to go behind, then a quick flurry to equalise and then take the lead before half time, an equalising own goal before a Crawley sending off for an off the ball incident, which left hanging on to take a point. Not bad against a side in the promotion places.
Helen is still not fit for supporting duty, and so I head to the stadium to see the game against Bradford City, another side above us in the table, on the verge of the playoff places. But with our home form this season, and a recent unbeaten run (plus eleven players on the pitch) there is still a level of confidence going into the game.
It has been a bit overcast and trying to rain all day, but on the stroll down to the stadium the sun came out, it was turning into another lovely afternoon to watch the football. I had a quick chat with Alan as I was waiting to get into the ground, and then got drinks for the whole game from a much shorter queue than at the last game. I was also glad to see that the screeching row of howler monkeys that had been sat behind us for the last few games had been replaced by adults. My ears were glad of it.
Bradford’s home kit of orange and maroon was obviously thought to be too much of a clash with the red of Crawley, and so they lined up in their away kit of all light blue, and at kick off it did look remarkably like it was a Crawley home team lining up against a Crawley away team. Although to be fair the kits were both outshone by the glare of the sun bouncing off the head of the completely bald referee. For crying out loud mate, dip, don’t dazzle your forehead.
There was an early chance for Crawley, and the crowd were in fine voice with the help of the drummer from the first minute. It turned out that Bradford had bought their own drummer with them as well as they could be heard in rare quiet moments from the partisan home crowd.
Penalty!! No, not quite, it did look like the ref had given it, but it turned out to be a free kick on the edge of the area, but it was a booking for the Bradford defender. It was a strange free kick, low into the penalty spot, as if it was a miscued shot, but the shot from the penalty spot was even more miscued, going well wide.
Bradford soon had their first real chance with a one on one on the keeper, but the striker tried to be too clever and chipped it well wide as well. Their shooting doesn’t get any better as the half goes on, the first ball out of the ground soon followed with a ball that may not have landed yet, and when (and if) it does it will be in the grounds of Broadfield House. A few minutes after that another Bradford effort from forty yards out sailed out over the Ryan Canter Club stand as well.
It’s 1-0 in the thirty ninth minute as a neat little chipped through ball by Jake Hessenthaler was put away into the bottom corner by Will Ferry. There was nearly an equaliser straight from the restart, with only a fine save from Glenn Morris preventing it. Just before half time, Bradford’s second booking led to a free kick near the corner flag, and on the second attempt to get the ball into the box, a header was crashed against the crossbar, and it was quickly followed by a good save from the Bradford keeper to prevent a headed own goal.
The sprinklers came on pretty much as soon as the half time whistle was blown, and the players only just avoided as soaking. I was feeling happy there was no queuing to be done. There had been some slick play from both sides in the first half, and it could have been a bigger Crawley lead or a draw going into the second half.
Music was just about coming through the poor speakers in the stand, and I could hear Seven Nation Army, and thinking it could be used for a new song for the Crawley chanting section. “Whoa Jake Hessenthaler” has a good ring to it and fits perfectly.
Bradford came out early for the second half and were made to wait a few minutes before the officials and Crawley players came out. And it would be another five minutes before Crawley started playing.
There was another injury to a Crawley player, with the goal scorer limping off with what looked like a hamstring injury. It does seem we are somewhat injury jinxed this season. Not long after the substitution the play came to an unexpected halt as the sprinklers in the half we were defending came on. It took a minute before someone managed to find the off switch. I wonder if it will be the first time that a groundsman will get a yellow card?
Bradford were attacking again, and so ball three made its way out of the stadium, this time over the KRL Logistics stand. A first Bradford substitution followed the wasted free kick, and after Crawley had woken up a bit after their half time slumber, Bradford brought their last two subs on in an attempt to change the game for them.
It didn’t go quite to plan for them as a minute later it was 2-0 to Crawley. Two weeks ago, Nick Tsaroulla had volleyed in a last-minute winner from the edge of the area. This time, it was the same place, but a low drive into the bottom corner and mass celebrations again.
The sun coming around is a bit lower now it is later in the year, and just after the second goal it was low enough to make the cover of the stand ineffective. It may be time to bust out the prescription sunglasses for future Saturday night games, as this low sunlight is going to hit earlier and earlier.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Crawley game without giving us fans a few palpitations, and Bradford pulled a goal back with less than ten minutes to go. (Glenn Morris got a booking in the aftermath as he tried to prevent Bradford getting the ball back.) It got a bit nervy, but it would appear that Crawley are getting good at seeing games out, and a lot of time was spent in the corners at the Bradford end of the pitch.
The crowd was announced as 2,475, the largest of the season, buoyed by the 498 fans Bradford had brought with them. It was also announced that the match sponsors had chosen Ludwig Francilette as their man of the match. Not sure what game they were watching. Our new signing Mark Marshall came on as a sub for the last few minutes and helped see the game out. There was a groan when they announced four minutes of injury time, but at least there was only four minutes, rather than the masses of extra injury time that had been played recently.
The final whistle goes, and we are up to eighth in the table and only out of the playoff places on goal difference. It is now officially a streak. When I’m in attendance, and Alan is on stewarding duty, the result is a 2-1 home win, it’s three on the bounce now this season. (As a side note, he’s stewarded two games I’ve not been at, and they’ve finished 2-2, and when he was at Brighton, and I was at the game it was 0-0). Let’s see how long it goes on.
On leaving it is annoying to note that too many people just leave their rubbish and empties on the stands, expecting someone else to clear it up. The bearded father at the end of my row had brought food and drink for him and his son in a Tesco’s carrier, and then left it behind at the end of the game. Why? If you can manage to bring the bag with you, then you can manage to take it away again you lazy fucker. There are bins at the foot of most of the stairs out of the stands. Twats.