In the three weeks since we were last at a home game, the loss to Bristol Rovers, Crawley have played three games, a 2-1 loss away to Exeter City in a midweek game, where there was a lot of controversy about the winning goal that followed a push on Glenn Morris. The Saturday after saw us take an early lead thanks to a first minute own goal, but Port Vale came back to beat us 4-1 for the second time this season.
Then there was last weekend’s home game against Swindon Town, who are competing for an automatic promotion place, and for whom a win would have taken them second in the table. However, we were away in Budapest for the weekend, and without us there to jinx the team they ran out with a great 3-1 victory.
We start today’s game against Rochdale in thirteenth place. Our opponents today, who we beat 1-0 in the corresponding away fixture thanks to a Kwesi Appiah goal during the period where he was the only able to hit a cow’s arse with a banjo. They start today’s game six places and eight points behind us in the league and one of the league’s poorest recent form records. That should be reasons for optimism, however we all know how that wound up against Oldham Athletic and Scunthorpe United.
It’s a lovely sunny day for a nice amble down to the ground, with plenty of time to get a programme, get in, have a quick chat with Al, for Helen to get refreshments and for us to be seated before the teams came out.
Rochdale are playing in their away kit of black and white vertical stripes. There is a pre-kick-off collective groan as the ref is named as Trevor Kettle, who has made some abysmal decisions in previous games he refereed of ours.
There is another early injury to a defender, a head injury and blood, but at least for a change there doesn’t need to be an early substitution. It takes nine minutes for the first (and what turns out to be the last) ball out of the ground, a wayward Rochdale shot that flew out over the Ryan Cantor Club stand.
The black and white stripes of the away kit seem to be inspiring Rochdale to be playing like Juventus (and not Notts County) in the early going. Or it could just be that we’re not playing very well.
But that soon changes. In the eighteenth minute there is some good play down the right wing and Tom Nicholls plays a ball back from the by-line just inside the penalty area and it hits a Rochdale arm, but penalty claims are waved away. It falls to James Tilley whose shot is deflected by Ashley Nadesan and is saved by the keeper, it comes back toward Nadesan who is on the ground, and he manages to poke it in for a 1-0 lead.
There are some chances for Crawley, but half an hour in there is nearly an equaliser, with only a good save from Glenn Morris prevents an own goal. There are a lack of free kicks being given in the middle of the park for a series of pushing and shoving incidents from both sides. The ref is walking everywhere in the hot sun. you have to wonder if he is boiling (yes, I’ll get my coat). Chances are coming at either end, interspersed with some more bizarre Kettle decisions, and after two minutes of added time we reach half time 1-0 ahead.
The second half starts, and it doesn’t fizz at all really. There are substitutions by both sides, although one of the Rochdale ones appears to be teeny weenie and looks like he’s come from a primary school game. It does make a change for an opposing team to have smaller players than us on the pitch.
The ref didn’t really move out of the shade of the Mayo Wynne Baxter stand for the whole of the second half. He obviously doesn’t want to be boiling this half (yes, I’ll get the scarf and hat to go with my coat).
The sponsors man of the match is named as Glenn Morris, which kind of shows what kind of game it has been, and no sooner has the announcement been made than he is forced into action again. The crowd is announced as 2,164 with 191 away fans, meaning there are just under two thousand Crawley fans again.
There are four minutes of added time, in time added to the time added (for a Crawley injury) there is a good chance for Rochdale which only just creeps over the bar, and the full-time whistle is blown and the game ends in a 1-0 victory.
It’s a first victory for me whilst wearing the Crawley shirt, so let’s hope there will be more now. The win, coupled with a Hartlepool loss sees us climb back into the top half of the table.