I’ll start by continuing what I wrote at the end of the last match report. Newport County, our opponents on Tuesday night made the trek all the way around to Colchester for their Friday night game, and it finished as another draw. Which meant that Crawley dropped a place in the league as Colchester’s point meant they leapt above us on goal difference, and that they also leapt above our opponents today, Mansfield Town. So, at the start of play Crawley were 18th in the league and playing the team in 19th. Not a good place for either side to be.
It was another cold, windy and rainy day, although the wind did manage to hold off long enough for us to get to the ground unmolested by cold water. After freezing on Tuesday night, I sorted out and layered up. I dug my parka out, got the woolly hat down, and found my new gloves. However, in doing so I managed to leave my glasses at home, and so the match wouldn’t be in quite as sharp a focus as it usually is.
I managed to get the last programme going as we walked around the outside of the ground to our seats, and we were in and settled in enough time to see the teams come out and to participate in the minute’s applause for former manager Dermot Drummy on the fourth anniversary of his death.
Whilst walking down to our seats we were dazzled by the big new shiny scoreboard in the northwest corner of the ground. And during the game the 35% of it we could see from our seats looked good as well. The corner flags were flying the LGBT+ rainbow flags, although I’m not sure what the occasion is for the flags to be changed out this week.
It was also good to see that Mansfield Town were wearing their usual kit of yellow and blue instead of some horrible pastel away kit monstrosity like our previous opponents were (and it wasn’t even as if there was a colour clash then either, black and yellow stripes don’t clash with red).
It took eight minutes for the first ball to disappear, as a Mansfield shot was deflected out over the Ryan Cantor Club Stand. The drummer and the crowd were in fine form, which is more than could be said about the team on the pitch. It was as if they had all been introduced two minutes before kick-off, and they weren’t a patch on their Tuesday night selves.
Granted the strong wind was against them and it was making it difficult to clear the ball, but the wind wasn’t at fault for the Mansfield goal on 24 minutes. I will describe what happened. There was a slow ball played into the box and it came through to an unmarked opposition player standing in the centre of the goal area, and they prodded it home. You may want to stop me at any point if you’ve heard that sentence before. We just don’t seem to learn.
There was a lot of Mansfield possession as Crawley struggled to keep the ball down, and against the wind. Although I’m not sure we help ourselves with the tactics we employ. There are a lot of high balls played, which is somewhat counter intuitive as most of our players seems to be midgets. When we get the ball on the ground and pass it around, we play really well. However there needs to be a bit more urgency when passing, as a lot of it is sideways and backwards, or we try too many passes in the opponents’ box, trying to walk the ball into the net. For crying out loud, have a shot.
Meanwhile, the wind is chilling the fans, and after the Mansfield goal it seems to have affected the drummer as well as he seems unable to hold the sticks in the biting cold. I think half time is a relief for all concerned.
For the second game on the trot, we make a half time substitution. In addition, we managed to clear up the identity of the mystery player in the first half, as there was a Crawley player with no number or name on the back of his shirt, but I think they must have printed one in the club shop at half time, and we found out that it was our number 5 Tony Craig. And the wind changed sides as well and it was now helping us.
And within three minutes we had an equaliser, some passes on the edge of the area ended up with James Tilley and he turned and curled in a beauty from twenty-five yards. Ball number two disappeared over the Ryan Cantor Club Stand a few minutes later from a miscued Mansfield clearance, and that was quickly followed by a hoof of a ball clear over the KRL Logistics stand.
We almost had the lead, a Jake Hessenthaler cross cum shot was wind assisted past the keeper only to come back off the inside of the far post and for there to be no one in the area to react to the rebound. Not long after ball number four flew over the KRL Logistics Stand, but the next time the ball was at that end of the pitch it was for a Mansfield goal, two long passes on the ground and their striker beat our defence for pace and slotted the ball into the net past the outrushing Morris. It was certainly against the run of play.
After the restart we tried pressing again and ball number five disappeared over the People’s Pension Stand from a Mansfield clearance. There was a lull in chances for the next ten minutes or so, but the sixth ball of the day sailing out over the Wynne Mayo Baxter stand (completing the set), kicked us into life for the last few minutes of the game and injury time. And it was into injury time when there was a Deja-vu moment. Kwesi Appiah hit the crossbar as he did on Tuesday night, but with a header this time. We put on a very late sub (a strange choice of a defender coming on for the goal scorer), and there was a late chance for the captain George Francomb, but the shot lacked power (a common theme in recent games) and the game was gone.
Another defeat, and another game where we only scored a single goal. The last time we scored more than once in a game was at the end of September, and since then we’ve dropped from being just outside the play off places to 19th and being nearer to the relegation zone than promotion.
The crowd was announced just before the final whistle blew, down to below 2,000 now, 1,824 with 232 away fans, and the sponsors man of the match was announced as the goal scorer James Tilley. The crowd was actually more than the very late announced crowd of 1,483 on Tuesday, and there is a certain understanding of that with the cold wind numbing the fans. With the cold and the results, you can see the fair-weather fans sneaking out in all senses.