From The Jaws Of Victory

It seems a long time since the last home game, and in the league it is. It was October the last time Crawley had a home league game, the disappointing outing against Port Vale. Since then we have had two home cup games; the first was another disappointing defeat to Tranmere in the FA Cup, and then a third whupping in the Papa John’s Trophy, this time to Southampton under 21s. The next away league game at Swindon Town was called off due to international call ups (theirs not ours obviously!) We did have a stunning 6-1 away victory last midweek in a cup competition, but that was against Lancing in the Sussex Senior Cup, but a win is a win. And we followed it up with a first league win in five games last Saturday with a 1-0 victory away at Barrow to jump above them in the league and stop our slide down the table.

I will hold my hands up in that I’ve been saying we were playing Exeter City tonight. Only to get the programme and find we were playing Newport County. The Exeter game was a midweek game ages ago. So instead of playing second in the league we were up against a team in eighth and only just outside the playoff places.

I was cutting it fine again to get to the game, but managed to get there, get a programme, get drinks and sit down a massive thirty seconds before kick-off, following the drummer down to my seat. It was a brisk walk to get there in time and I was quite warm on arrival.

I did wonder if the game was going ahead on the walk over as there wasn’t any other hardy souls walking down Wakehurst Drive and the parking wasn’t as manic as usual. It didn’t look to be a massive crowd, and so far, Crawley still haven’t announced how many were there.

The drumming didn’t start near me, as the backup drummer in the Ryan Cantor Club Stand terrace was the first to bang the drum, only for our stand’s drummer to take up when they stopped, something that happened a few times during the game.

I could see my breath early on, and it didn’t take long for me to wish I’d spent the extra thirty seconds or so at home to find a woolly hat. And through my breath I could see that Newport were wearing a very fetching strip in a turquoise shade that I hadn’t seen any team wear before.

It was goalless at half time. Crawley had played well, and had some good moves, only to be let down by the final ball time after time. And the couple of shots they did get on target lacked power. Meanwhile Newport County had one decent chance which forced a good save and a corner. It would have been typical of our season so far if they had scored from the chance or the subsequent corner as the ball had obviously been controlled by an arm before the shot was taken, but missed by the ref and lino. (However, on the plus side they did have a good penalty shout waved away.)

And by half time I was thinking that picking up my new gloves might have been a good idea as well.

It struck me that the Newport attack was all coming through their big bald fella, who looked like he was Jonjo Shelvey’s older uglier brother.

Ten minutes into the second half after a longish injury stoppage for one of the Newport players we won a free kick not far from the edge of the area. The ball was swung in and there was that man Kwesi Appiah again to nod the ball in for a Crawley lead. The Newport keeper took this well and responded by booting the ball over the corner of the Ryan Cantor Club Stand.

I think it is always good when Appiah scores, as it should shame the little racist brats that used to sit behind us and shout out “Kwesi Appiah, get out of our club”. Now we get the drummer going and the Kwesi Appiah chant.

For the second home league game on the trot it would appear the ref and lino don’t understand the foul throw rules, as once again a Newport player did a foul throw only for the ref to give it back to him to take again. It really is baffling.

The half way point of the second half was celebrated by the Newport keeper putting another ball out of the ground with a massive hoof over the Mayo Wynne Baxter Stand. This was the cue for Reece Greco-Cox to come on as a substitute for his first league game in two years after injury woes. Five minutes later and we used our final sub as Ferry – who himself had come on as a sub at half time – was subbed off after injuring himself whilst shooting (wide) after a decent run.

And then it happened, in the 84th minute Newport got an equaliser, after a low ball was allowed to trickle across the penalty area and was prodded in by their most prolific striker.

And so, started some of the best pressure we’ve seen all season. A wonderful ball from Francilette was chested down wonderfully by Appiah, who then went to lob the keeper only for the ball to agonisingly bounce back off the crossbar.  Greco-Cox forced a decent save for a corner, and during six minutes of injury time it was like the Alamo, but for a change in the opponent’s penalty box. But it was all to no avail and the final whistle went to close the chapter on a draw.

As we filed out the stadium announcer declared the sponsor’s man of the match to be Kwesi Appiah, though I’m not sure they could have picked anyone else.

To me, this was easily our best performance of the season, we just need to convert more of these chances into shots with better final balls, convert more of the shots to being on target, and to have more of those shots become goals.

Looking at the match report online I was surprised to see Newport had 62% of possession, it didn’t seem anywhere like that from the stands. In fact, the only stat they won obviously was cynical fouls that got bookings to prevent quick breaks.

The Newport fans didn’t exactly endear themselves to anyone. Apart from a brief flurry of celebration when they scored, the hundred or so that made the journey only seemed to have a single chant of “Fuck Crawley”. Though to be fair, it’s not a great trip to have to make on a school night, and they wouldn’t have got home until tomorrow. Only for the EFL to rub salt on that wound by having them play another weekday evening game by having moved their away game at Colchester (an even further trip for them around more of the M25 than any sane person needs to be travelling) to the Friday night slot. It’s not even as if they are televising it. Or perhaps they’re just not happy about the shade of their away kit.

Anyway, for us roll on Saturday and Mansfield Town and hopefully another good performance, only with a better end result.

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