It had been three weeks since a home league game. In the meantime, there had been a loss at Tranmere and a win at Rochdale in the league which had left us in the top half of the table, in a very tight league where a win could take us to fourth (well if half a dozen other results went the right way); and a terrible whupping in the Papa Johns’ Trophy.
I’d been rushing about and despite knowing we were playing Exeter on Tuesday night; I had no clue who we were playing. This wasn’t helped by there being no programmes available at five to three, it was only looking at the front of the visiting team’s coach that I found we were playing Sutton United, who were on the same points as us, but ahead on goal difference.
There were queues everywhere, and it was clear that there were more fans in the ground than for any other game so far this season, and I was walking to my seat when the game kicked off. There was early pressure from Crawley, and an early penalty shout which was waved away by the ref. The drummer was in full effect, in fact two of them, as there as a second drummer over in the Ryan Cantor Club terraces.
And the well known and used refrain to goal kicks of “Wooooaaaaahhhh, you’re shit, aaaaaaaahhhhh!” was being used by both sets of fans early on. Something that never ceases to amuse Helen.
About a quarter of an hour in there was some commotion where the Sutton players went to remonstrate with the ref, who then goes to the side-line to report something. It seems obvious to me that there’s been some abuse hurled from the terrace in the Ryan Cantor Club stand. A couple of minutes later the Sutton number 4, Coby Rowe is back remonstrating with the ref, clearly upset.
It was nearly ten minutes from the original stoppage before there was a stadium announcement warning fans that discriminatory language of any kind would not be tolerated, and anyone found using it would be removed from the ground – an announcement that was applauded by most of the crowd. It’s sad to say I’m not surprised, and it’s not the first racist chanting we’ve heard in the ground, as the screeching howler monkey kids had done it before. After the game the club, alongside Sussex Police, released a statement, and asked for anyone with information on the culprits to come forward.
In the meantime, Crawley’s Dallison-Lisbon picked up a booking. And it was noticed that Sutton’s keeper liked to wander out to the middle of the pitch whilst he teammates were attacking. There was a chance to have a long-range effort, which our players did see, but their attempt to try and lob the keeper from their own half ended up being a weak effort which only just about reached the keeper as he stood on the edge of his area.
There were still fans arriving half an hour into the game, and they had missed a number of good chances for both teams, and there was some good play from both sides. Even so, it was still goalless by the time half time came around.
I’d scooted down to head for refreshments as first half injury time was being played, and I was glad I did. There was a short queue when I got there, but by the time I got to the front and looked around the queue was huge; I couldn’t see the end of it, but I think the back of it was somewhere up near Pease Pottage.
The sun is much lower now, and it would have been in our eyes during half time if the cloud cover hadn’t come in. Instead, the floodlights were turned on, so there was squinting going on in the second half.
It had been noticed that the Sutton team were a team of tall physical players. It came to me later, that playing in their all-green kit they could be referred to as the Jolly Green Giants. Only with their physical play, they were more mean green giants than jolly ones. (However tall they are, none of them match the height of the nearside linesman, who very much looked like Lurch from the Addams Family.)
There were decent signs of life from Crawley in the second half, reasonable periods of pressure, with a few offside calls, and a great piece of slick passing play to create a great chance which was ruined by a very weak finish. A number of substitutions by both sides followed, the main note I made from this was that Crawley had been working on improving the speaker system in the People’s Pension Stand, as the announcements could actually be heard clearly for the first time this season.
The drummer had also come up with some new player-based chants, with chants for both Tom Nichols and Kwasi Appiah being busted out. The take up wasn’t great away from the drum, but I suppose it’s early days.
Then in the 76th minute we get a penalty, Nick Tsaroulla is shoved over in the box and the ref points to the spot. After all the drama surrounding the award dies down Tom Nichols steps up to take the penalty only for it to be well saved by the Sutton keeper.
In the aftermath of the award, two players were booked, one for the foul, and a second – Robert Milson for trying to rough up the penalty spot. Now there is history where he’s concerned. He used to play for Crawley in the 2018-19 season but jumped ship to follow the fleeing Harry Kewell to Notts County during the season. It was a strange coincidence that I was at the last home game of that season against Notts County where he was playing for them and getting booed at every touch; something which, along with being called ‘rat’ at every opportunity, was being repeated today. Not bad for someone who only played three games for Crawley.
It was obvious that the game was getting a bit chippy now. Francillette got booked, and from the resulting free kick there was an utter shambles in the box. The keeper came to claim but it was headed up into the air by a defender and then there was another header from a Sutton player which just dropped into the goal which had no one in it.
Not long after the crowd was announced as being a high for the season of 3,572, with the 572 being away fans. So more than a thousand more home fans than for any other game this season. They also announced the sponsor’s man of the match to be the keeper Glenn Morris on his 500th league appearance.
The style of play for the final five minutes or normal time and the four minutes of injury time changed to be a hoof ball effort trying to get it up to Francillette who was playing as a target man. But it was all to no avail, as the ref blew the final whistle on a 1-0 defeat. A result that saw us drop a couple of places to 12th, and saw Sutton jump up to fifth in the table. We are still only a win away from the playoff places though, and there were signs of the team gelling more.
It’s just a shame about the racist twats in the crowd.