It’s bright sunshine for game day. The first of six home games in thirty-two days for Crawley (with only two away fixtures in that time); there is going to be quite the little furrow tracked to the stadium from home in the next month or so.
Since our last home game – the disappointing (in lots of ways) defeat to Tranmere – we’ve had two away games. A come from behind victory against Bradford City with the winning goal coming in the ninety fifth minute; and a draw at Swindon Town, where they equalised in the ninety second minute. Anyone heading for the exits when the injury time board goes up would be a fool.
My confusion as to why there was scaffolding in the four corners of the ground for the Tranmere match was cleared up when I turned the TV on Sunday lunchtime, and it was already on BBC2 where Brighton Ladies were playing. So, it wasn’t us being televised from the People’s Pension Stadium. They must have been busy little bastards overnight as most of the hoardings had been changed.
We are playing Stevenage, less than three weeks after the rearranged away game where we had lost to them. We start the day leading the bottom half of the table, four places and five points above our opponents, who’ve played two games more than us.
I suppose it could be called the new town derby, or even twin town with their town centre shopping area looking very much like our own. Built in the same era and same style.
I’ve had a stinking cold all week (not Covid according to the lateral flow tests) and so was playing the game of “how many layers” am I wearing? Back to resembling the Michelin Man for me today.
We are in plenty of time and getting a programme was easy, they even had some inside the turnstiles this week. We were sat in our seat by two forty-two, a new record for us. And that was even after we had to ask people to move out of our seats. They hadn’t looked at the seat numbers on their tickets and should have been the other side of the rest of their family. A family which was massive and resembled the Clampetts. I’d need to look out for their charabanc on the way out.
Despite being in plenty of time I managed to forget to bring my glasses again, only remembering when in sight of the ground.
Stevenage kicked off in an ugly yellow and black kit on and within a minute there was an early attempt to lose the first ball of the game over the People’s Pension Stand, but it eventually rolled back down onto the pitch.
The first half of the first half was as non-descript as the two towns playing have been called many a time. Then in the twenty eighth minute we break from a Stevenage corner and the resulting shot is well saved by their keeper and flies out over the KRL Logistics stand.
Eight minutes later and we’re ahead after some pressure, and a second corner pings around in the box before falling to Tom Nicholls to poke into the net. A couple of minutes later a miscued clearance at halfway sails over the Mayo Wynne Baxter stand to lose the second (and final) ball of the day.
The first booking of the game comes not long after for Stevenage. The only surprise is it took so long. To say they were a bit agricultural in their challenges would be an understatement. They made Sutton and Port Vale look like pussies.
The half ends and we take a deserved lead into the break. We’ve played some good football, made some really good chances, and even got a number of them on target, and we’ve defended well.
The second half kicks off and it becomes even better. Within thirty seconds there is a bad back pass and Tom Nicholls is on it like a shot and his shot ripples the back of the net to double his goal tally and double our lead. We follow this up by nearly ten minutes of sustained pressure without really getting another clear-cut chance.
Both sides make a couple of substitutions before we get the chance to put the game out of sight, Nadesan breaks away and rolls the ball across to Nicholls, only for the shot to be a foot too high.
The crowd is announced as being 2,240 with 261 away fans. And not long after a stream of about a dozen Stevenage fans can be seen leaving, cueing up a chant of “we can see you sneaking out.”
It’s difficult to pin down exactly when the wheels started to come off. Was it the unnecessary substitutions of our two debutants, or the missed chance by Nicholls, or when the gloating chants came out (“2-0 on your big day out”, “Can we play you every week?”, “We can see you sneaking out”, “Cheerio”, “We forgot that you were here”). But if anyone finds a wheel rolling down the A23 by itself, can they return it to Crawley Town as soon as possible please.
With a little over ten minutes to go Stevenage get a goal back. There is a lack of pressing and an invitation to shoot from at least twenty-five yards out sees the ball fly into the net. Which sets up the last ten minutes of the game for the usual nervousness. And it is nervous. The players suddenly act as if they are, and the fans can feel it.
The little board goes up to say there are four minutes of injury time to play, and the fans are streaming out. Have they not been watching the results and times of goals recently? And there it is, the ninety second minute for the second game on the trot sees an equalising goal for Stevenage. It also sees a booking for the manager, obviously not happy at the award of the free kick, or the melee in the box leading to the goal. It also sees the fans in the terraces being frustrated after our next attack ends with a goal kick and in their wisdom, they decide to throw things at the Stevenage keeper. We really do have some fans with shit for brains.
And then it is full time, and it’s another two points dropped in injury time from a winning position. For the second time in a week and the third time this calendar year. Six points thrown away. Six points that could have had us on the verge on the playoff places. And not encouraging remarks as I heard from one muppet as we were leaving of “it’s another point towards avoiding relegation.” Stop being so fucking negative. It’s frustrating as hell as we could so easily be in the playoff places.
In the end, the point sees us slip a place in the league to fourteenth. We’re on the same number of points as eleventh, only we are bottom of a four-team run on the same points by virtue of our poor goal difference.
There’s a mid-week game against Harrogate Town (the team on the same points as us in eleventh) before we do it all again next Saturday. (Only hopefully without the late collapse and injury time give away.)