I did miss the last home game against Exeter City after a shit day at work and getting back later than intended. That had turned into another loss, with the hinderance factor being a sending off. Then away at Scunthorpe United last week we had conspired to lose to a team bottom of the table, with the hinderance of an own goal. And this week we were playing Port Vale, a fact I wasn’t aware of on Thursday, but it was pointed out to me by someone who’d seen the billboard at the ground as they drove past. Something I’d failed to notice at any point so far this season despite driving past it at least three times a week.
Port Vale are the only league side who are not named after a physical place in England, having started life as Burslem (a suburb of Stoke on Trent) Port Vale in the nineteenth century, but dropped the Burslem part soon after. They sat second in League Two before kick-off, so with Crawley’s poor run of form recently, it looked a difficult fixture for the Reds.
We were cutting it fine again, but with a much-reduced crowd compared to the Sutton game, I was able to bag myself a programme, plus we got to our seats before kick-off. Port Vale seemed to have brough a decent contingent of fans with them, obviously buoyed by how there are doing so far this season. With it having turned into a sunny day, I’d busted out a cap to protect the eyes from the low sun creeping under the top of the stand.
It was all red versus all white kits, and it was a slow start, with little crowd noise, and it took until the tenth minute for the drummer to get involved. Port Vale definitely weren’t shy at having a shot or two, and Glenn Morris had made a couple of saves before we decided to shoot ourselves in the foot again. Twelve minutes in and we’re down to ten men again. Joel Lynch being sent off for an off the ball incident after a Crawley corner. Neither the ref nor linesman (whose surname of Blunden turned out to be one letter out as the game went on, Blunder is much more appropriate) seemed certain. It is said Lynch had Nathan Smith in a headlock, and Smith had certainly gone down like an extra in Platoon, only to spring to his feet with a miraculous recovery once the red card had been shown.
Two quick Port Vale bookings in the middle of the half bookended a foul throw from a Port Vale player. He’d gone to launch it long into the box only to hit the back of his own head with the ball, which spun up into the air and landed two foot in front of him. And the ref blew for him to take it again. Not play on and not a Crawley throw, but a retake. I’m not sure what rules the ref and lino were playing now.
A free kick in the Port Vale half led to a bit of Crawley pressure and from the fourth cross Kwasi Appiah rose and headed home to give us the lead just before half time. He is our only scorer in the last seven games. Not sure where the four minutes of injury time came from, but the whistle went eventually and Crawley lead going into a well-deserved break for the players.
What was obvious to us watching was the acres of space the Port Vale left winger Mal Benning was being given. He was regularly on his own with no one within twenty yards of him. It makes you wonder if he stinks or something. It’s a good job none of his teammates seem to like him either and they didn’t bother passing him the ball.
Early in the second half a somewhat dubious free kick was given to Port Vale, who obviously scored directly from it to even the scores up. Thirty seconds after the restart the same contact at the other end was waved away as no foul. With Port Vale playing all in white I have to wonder if the ref kept giving decisions their way because they reminded him of his white stick. Either that or the Crawley players need to stop shitting on the officials’ pre-match meals.
The only ball out of the ground came from a badly miscued, third time unlucky shot from Tom Nichols which flew over the Ryan Cantor Club Stand twenty minutes into the half.
In the 76th minute, the inability to be able to defend simple crosses surfaced again. A bit of Pinball around the edge of the six-yard box and the ball rolls out to a Port Vale player who just passes it into the corner of the goal through the tangle of players, and just like that we are losing again. Although to be fair, by that stage it could have been a lot worse as a combination of Port Vale’s piss poor finishing and a couple of good Glenn Morris saves had kept it level.
But not to worry, Crawley to the rescue again, with another own goal, and George Francomb again, turning another low cross into the goal to make it 1-3, and he probably injured himself in the process as he hobbled off not long after to be replaced by the final sub of the afternoon.
I was surprised to see that the Port Vale kit hadn’t changed from all white to all green as the game progressed with the amount of time they spent diving to the ground at the slightest contact, or even no contact at all. A blatant dive with no one within five yards was ignored by the ref, which is especially galling considering Ashley Nadesan got a yellow for diving under heavy contact and with it being a second yellow got sent off against Exeter two games before. There is a lack of consistency in refereeing at this level which is comical, or it would be if it wasn’t affecting the outcome of games so much.
It did bring me to try and start a chant aimed at the ref of “Did you leave your dog at home?” (It’s a bit difficult to try and shoehorn the word guide in there as well). The quick double of goals had come literally seconds after some bright spark a couple of rows behind had said “We’re getting really good at playing with ten men.”
The crowd was announced, and it was back to usual levels, 2,234 with 389 of them being away fans, and the sponsor’s man of the match was Glenn Morris, which for once I couldn’t argue with.
And then it was 1-4, a mix up near the back left Port Vale two on one against Glenn Morris and as he tried to go down at the feet of the player with the ball, he was just danced around, and the ball was popped into the empty net. It was such a late goal, that no sooner had the kick-off for the restarted been kicked then the ref blew the final whistle.
Not a great afternoon, but it could have been better, there was some decent play, but seriously, stop with the red cards and own goals (and injuries to key players). And please, please, please, stop shitting on the officials’ lunch.