Top Of The League You’re Having A Laugh

It’s been two weeks since Crawley’s last home game. Two weeks since their last game full stop. We haven’t played due to the cancellation of the away fixture at Salford City last Saturday due to issues with the pitch in the wake of one or more ridiculously named storms we’ve had recently. And cancelled too late to be of any use for the fans travelling up to Manchester.

At the end of the disappointing loss to Hartlepool last time out, we were sat in the top half of the table, and still three points ahead of Hartlepool. However, with other teams playing last weekend, and some having two midweek games as well we have dropped two places to fourteenth and are now four points adrift of Hartlepool (and the top half of the table). So even a win won’t see us back into the top half of the table today.

Todays marks the first of four home games in the space of eleven days. A spell of games that could see a push for the playoff places. It would need an improvement on our home form as well, as it has been patchy at best this season, and more of our wins have come away from home (our away form is in the best ten in any of the top four divisions).

The opponents today are table topping Forest Green Rovers. Ten point clears at the top of the table with games in hand with their closest rivals. On the plus side their long unbeaten run in the league came to an end last weekend with a defeat to Walsall. Which probably means they will be more up for it today to get themselves back on track. Out away game at FGR saw us score a season high three goals in a game. However, it also saw us concede a season high six goals.

We’ve bringing supporting reinforcements with us today as well, with Helen’s son Ciaran joining us. It is a lovely sunny day, but a bit windy, and the extra layers are in a bag. Helen and I arrive nice and early, I get a programme and the teams are out warming up, with FGR trying to do so around the sprinklers in their half. And even before kick off ball one is out over the Ryan Cantor Club stand in the warm up.

There is no sign of Al, I hadn’t seen the fixtures, but I assumed Brighton must be at home and he’d be stewarding there instead. (they were).

FGR came out in a white tiger striped kit, which drew quite a few appreciative words about it in the seats around us. Ciaran made the kick off by the skin of his teeth, putting in the kind of performance we used to. He was even in after the drummer.

There is nearly a very early goal for FGR, as there was in the away fixture, but there was a good double save from Glenn Morris to keep us on level terms.

“Pull your shorts down” is not a chant you expect to hear, but the FGR number 3 has got them tucked up shorter and tighter than they used to be in the 80’s kit. It didn’t get any less funny the longer the game went on.

Ten minutes in and we have an injury to Oteh, and after a few minutes treatment it leads to our first substitution. There was a nice touch from the FGR number 21 who helped the physio help Oteh to limp off the pitch.

Just before the twenty-five-minute mark, Ashley Nadesan who had come on as that substitute breaks on to a long ball, beats a defender for strength and slots it past the keeper to give us a 1-0 lead. A couple of minutes later a ball comes out from a corner and the shot back in is fired well over the KRL Logistics stand for the first match ball lost for the day.

After a few decent chances a corner is swung in just after the half hour mark and it is headed in at the back post by Jordan Tunnicliffe. And as if by magic the taunting chants kicked in. Those same ones that worked so well when we last had a 2-0 lead against Stevenage a couple of games ago. From the restart the ref is knocked over and needs treatment, to much amusement all around.

There are a couple of new taunting chants added. With FGR being top of the league we had “Top of the league, you’re having a laugh”, and with them being famously green and vegan, “can you hear the vegans sing?”.

Just before half time there are a couple of chances for FGR, but their attack ends with ball number two flying over the Ryan Cantor Club stand. There are four minutes of injury time indicated, but a couple extra than that are played before we go into the half with a 2-0 lead. It took me until half time to realise that Mr Spotted Crawley was sat behind Ciaran. We were surprised by how well Crawley played and it was warmer than expected, there wasn’t any need to crack the extra layers out.

There was an announcement that there was to be a substitution of the referee at half time, obviously his little knock in the first half was more serious. It was a shame, as the replacement ref was an absolute tool.

Not long into the second half the third match ball went out over the corner of the KRL Logistics stand after a miscued clearance. The play for a lot of the second half was fairly even with chances at either end. But as the half went on, the more bizarre the reffing decisions became. There were two bookings for Crawley players that weren’t even fouls. And from one of these a free kick came in, bounced around in the area and was then fired in by the FGR number 3 – him of the dodgy shorts – to make it 2-1.

Cue the usual last ten minutes of panic time. Make that fifteen as there were five minutes injury time. Which started with FGR getting the ball in the net. It did look like the ref had allowed it, blowing his whistle and seemingly pointing to the centre circle. But he had actually given the blatant foul on Morris in the build-up.

FGR were getting frustrated. One of their players got booked for dissent when they didn’t get a penalty, obviously after seeing two bookings for legitimate ball winning challenges elsewhere on the pitch, they though the same would happen when the ball was won in the penalty area. With that being denied they tried a blatant dive, which was waved away, but the diver didn’t get a booking.

It was a fractious end to the game, but Crawley saw the game out and took the 2-1 win. The aggro continued for a few minutes after the final whistle with verbals and pushing and shoving (mainly from FGR) before the officials finally felt able to leave the pitch.

The crowd was announced as 2,086, with 240 away fans (there didn’t look to be that many away fans, and the Crawley stands looked fuller than for the last couple of games). Sponsor’s man of the match was Joel Lynch.

It was a good performance all told, despite the last fifteen minutes of panic stations. More of the same please on Tuesday night – just without the panic part.

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