2022, a new year, and it seems like a year since we were last at a game – the disappointing 2-1 defeat to Mansfield Town at the end of November. Since then, Crawley have only played two away games, a midweek 1-1 draw against Walsall followed by a 2-1 win against Leyton Orient, some payback for the 4-0 thrashing they gave us in the Papa Johns Trophy (albeit with vastly changed sides), and the first time we had scored more than one in a game since the end of September.
We were due to be playing Oldham Athletic on the 18th, which we had planned to miss so we could get up to London with enough time to be sorted ready for the Madness and Squeeze concert at the O2, only for the game to be postponed due to Covid protocols. As were the away game at Stevenage on Boxing day and the home game against Bristol Rovers on Wednesday night.
After a week of rain, we woke up this morning to sunlight, and confirmation that the game against Colchester United would be going ahead. We started the game two places and three points above them in the league and having won the corresponding away fixture earlier in the season. We also kicked off having games in hand over every team above us in the league apart from the leaders Forest Green Rovers.
Of course, by the time we set off for the game the sun was being hidden by lots of grey miserable clouds. Not only that, but we were running late as I had been fannying about trying to find the name of the actual song that the “Da da da da da da Kwesi Appiah” chant had come from. It had been playing over the radio at some point during the couple of weeks we’ve been off work, and both of us – although being in separate rooms – had both sung the chant when that particular horn bit had been played. Then both laughed at each other about being saddos for doing so. It had been three quarters of an hour with no joy, and so we were scurrying to the stadium.
It did look like no one else was heading there. We saw no one on Wakehurst Drive but did see some people when we got to the underpass. Ten minutes before kick off and there wasn’t a programme to be found, and we didn’t stop to get a drink before heading to our seats, and so we were there before the players came out, a fact Al took great delight in pointing out, asking if being on time for games was a New Year’s resolution. There looked to be more in the ground than the parking and footfall would have suggested, though for some reason part of the seating in out stand was covered up.
Crawley started quickly with some early pressure and a couple of chances. Drummers were in full effect, with the usual one in our stand in competition with the one in the terraces and the one the away fans had brought with them. Colchester meanwhile were wearing their puke green and black away kit and were going one letter on from our chant with their own. Us chanting CTFC and them chanting CUFC.
The first of many balls to leave the ground came on 9 minutes as a clearance flew over the KRL Logistics stand, surely leaving a dent in someone’s car in the car park. Three minutes later we got into a great position, only for the attempted cross to be skewed wide and high over the same stand. From the restart ball three went over the Mayo Wynne Baxter stand, and if it carried on at this rate we would be running out of balls before the end of the game.
And then it was 1-0, Tom Nichols crossed from the left and Ashley Nadesan headed home. We followed this up a few minutes later with another couple of good chances with a couple of good saves from Colchester’s keeper in quick succession keeping the score at 1-0.
Just past the halfway point in the first half ball number four sailed out of the ground over the Ryan Cantor Club stand. Not long after it sounded as if there was a steam train chugging along the A23 behind our stand. Turned out it was a steam engine, some kind of tractor that we could see the smokestack of as it went around the roundabout.
37 minutes in and it’s 2-0, a corner comes in, goes back out, in, out, everything bar the hokey cokey before Francillette prods it forward and Joel Lynch fires in from close range. An almost unheard of two goal lead this season. It stayed that way until half time. A half which I think was out best performance of the season so far. It seemed as if the three weeks off had done the team the world of good.
The rain arrived with the half time whistle, and there were some really dark ominous clouds around the ground. The phrase “it’s black over Bill’s mother’s” is one I use a lot. Well today, it would certainly appear that she lives in Broadfield.
Colchester started strongly in the second half, whether that was due to a kick up the backside at half time, or their New Year’s Eve hangovers wearing off was hard to tell. But it didn’t last long, in the 55th minute it was 3-0, Ashley Nadesan scoring his second of the game after decent work and a good cross from Kwesi Appiah. The first time in over a year we had scored three at home in a league game, only the second time this season we had scored three (the other was in a 6-3 away loss to Forest Green Rovers back in September).
Half an hour into the second half and we get a free kick on the edge of the penalty area, which Jack Powell powered against the top of the crossbar and the post, causing ball number five to fly over the top of the Ryan Cantor Club stand.
A few minutes later and Colchester pulled one back to make it 3-1, a bit of pinball in the penalty area and a shot ricocheted off the post and into the back of the net. It would lead to somewhat of a nervous end to the game for the Crawley players and fans. A couple of substitutions were made to freshen up the tiring players, and the third sub was made when they put the board up for five minutes of injury time.
The sponsor’s man of the match was unsurprisingly named as two goal “hero” Ashley Nadesan, and the crowd just managed to scrape over the two thousand mark at 2,022, with 332 of them being away fans.
Injury time brought about ball number six leaving the ground, this time over the KRL Logistics stand as Colchester threatened again. But the general nervousness came to an end when the ref blew for full time, and we could celebrate a 3-1 victory. The first win of a season that wasn’t by a single goal margin, and one that lifted us four places in the league to a much more respectable 14th place.
A good start to the new year, and hopefully one that can be continued into the second half of the season.
And typically, five minutes after getting home (after a very nice curry stop at The Downsman), I found the song that had delayed us getting to the game. The chant for Kwesi Appiah is to the music from Kungs vs Cookin’ On 3 Burners’ “This Girl”.