More Ref Robbery

It’s the final home game of the season for Crawley, against a Leyton Orient side who are the only team who can prevent us finishing the season in the position we currently occupy – 12th. We are six points behind 11th plus a whole shed load of goal difference, but only five points ahead of today’s opponents who are in 13th.

We have already played Leyton Orient at home this season in the Papa John’s Trophy back in the dim distant past of the Autumn. We put out a much-changed side and got a 4-0 whupping. However, in the reverse league fixture in Northeast London we managed another away win, one which sent Leyton Orient into a bit of a tailspin which leaves them behind us now. If they beat us and win their last game, and we fail to beat already relegated Oldham Athletic in our last game of the season then they can overtake us and put us in the bottom half of the table.

Since out last home game on Easter Monday, we have had two away games, one against Mansfield Town last Saturday and a midweek catch up game against Sutton United, both of whom are challenging for playoff places (and in Mansfield’s case for an automatic place). We lost both games and in doing so failed to secure the top half finish and throw more spanners in the works of promotion playing teams as we had done recently (Swindon Town and Newport County spring to mind).

We have Tom and Terri in tow with us for the second time this season with the second batch of free tickets from our season tickets (nothing like leaving using them until the last possible moment). I meet them and Helen at the ground after writing group, but not checking my phone before arriving meant, not only did I get a programme, but Helen got one as well, so two programmes to make up for the couple missed during the season (Sutton and Swindon if anyone has spares, they’d like to let me have).

It’s a bright sunny day and as we are at the ground early, we have a drink in Redz Bar. There is someone outside playing music on a keyboard and singing – well attempting to. They could have run a competition to see who could guess what he was supposed to be playing. The longer he sings, the more serious the danger of rain arriving. But as it stands there are only the sprinklers spraying water everywhere.

Leyton Orient have brough a large vocal crowd with them, but still part of the away end had the canvassed off area, which splits the away support in two. The canvas covering of a block of seats in our stand has been removed for this game.

It is a very grey away kit for Leyton Orient. Hopefully, they’ll be as bad as Manchester United were in their infamous grey kit against Southampton all those years ago.

The opposition make the brighter start, and on seven minutes, before the other three have managed to get to their seats, there is a soft, soft goal, a gentle lob over Glenn Morris from the edge of the penalty area that falls into the back of the net as if in slow motion, and a 1-0 lead for Leyton Orient.

Just after the goal I finally spotted Al. he was patrolling the away end this week. He seems to have put himself in charge of the section covered by the canvas between the two sets of away fans, but without any actual fans to look after. A nice cushy number if you can get it, I suppose.

On seventeen minutes there is a penalty awarded to Leyton Orient. Up to this point the game is following the pattern of the Papa John’s Trophy game. The Crawley players are arguing about it, but it was blatant. However, it was a poor penalty, saved by Morris with his feet and the header from the rebound was weak and dropped into Morris’s arms.

There are some quickfire chances for Crawley straight after the saved penalty, but it was more like pinball wizard as it wouldn’t go in.

A lot of small white feathers are floating around in the air. I’m not sure who blew up half a dozen chickens before the match, but I wish they hadn’t have bothered.

A few minutes before half time ball one disappears over the People’s Pension Stand. It probably went straight over the A23 and into the school beyond as not even the netting behind the stand was going to be stopping that one.

We’ve only just subbed Joel Lynch when Jordan Tunnicliffe goes down, as does one of the Leyton Orient players, and another one of ours is limping. There are more crocks out there than the London to Brighton old car rally.

We are behind 1-0 at half time. There is a reason I shouldn’t be allowed out in polite company. My head is a total sewer. The charity collectors this week were sat behind us. They are collecting for Parkinson’s research. They are finding it surprisingly easy to shake their buckets.

There is some impressive drumming early in the second half, only for me to see the drummer making his way back to his seat from the bar, which meant someone else was using his kit in his absence.

There is a lot of early Crawley pressure in the second half, and we have a penalty shout waved away (it looked remarkably similar to the one given to Leyton Orient in the first half). It would help if the referee was even looking in the right direction as he had – inexplicably – his back to the play.

Ball two flies out over the Ryan Cantor Club Stand, one of those ambulances out there is going to have a big dent in it. The resulting corner for Crawley is wasted. Yet again. Not long later ball three disappears. This one doesn’t go over one of the stands, it goes into the KRL Logistics Stand and the away fans refuse to give it back.

Leyton Orient have some good chances, one of which is blocked by Will Ferry in a great goal line clearance. This brings about a change from the usual “Morris in our goal” chant with a quick burst of “We’ve got Ferry in our goal.” Ferry then has a mini meltdown at the lineman on Leyton Orient’s next attack as their striker obviously bats the ball past him with his hand and gets a shot away and neither the linesman nor ref notice it.

Four minutes of injury time are shown, which is a joke as the Leyton Orient players have been down injured, or just generally having a kip for at least ten minutes during the half. Cue Murray and Murray in front of us leaving. You would have thought they would have treated themselves and stayed until the final whistle at least once this season.

But Crawley have a breakaway and Tilley fires in a shot off the bar and we are all up off our feet cheering the equaliser, but wait, the linesman has waved it away saying the ball hasn’t crossed the line and it is ruled out. Our stand in manager gets booked, as does at least one player for arguing with the officials. Replays on the big screen (after the game as they aren’t allowed for ‘contentious’ issues during the game) show the ball was at least two feet over the line.

The crowd is announced as 3,373 with 688 away fans, giving a total of 2,685 home fans for the game, our highest of the season. And Glenn Morris is announced as the sponsor’s man of the match.

In the sixth minute of injury time (yes, of those four measly minutes announced) there is a Leyton Orient breakaway and a blatant offside is ignored, their striker runs on and curls it over Morris into the corner of the net to make it 2-0 to Leyton Orient. It brings out chants of 2-0 to the referee, and a fire drill exit of Crawley fans.

An orange flare is thrown onto the pitch from the home terrace which holds play up some more and the final whistle goes after over nine minutes of injury time. Post-match one fan makes it on to the pitch and runs around the pitch and players before heading back towards the KRL Logistics Stand, only to slip and fall just before the goal line. But he got up, evaded the somewhat slow stewards who weren’t in a massive rush to get hold of him. So much so that as he ran for the exit on the far side of the pitch, the head steward for that section jumped over the fence and on to the pitch to get out of the way instead of blocking him.

We stayed behind to applaud the players for the final time at home this season. Quite a large crowd remained behind to do so.

And so, there is just the one away game left this season. Although it still hasn’t been decided whether the game will be behind closed doors yet after Oldham fans invading the pitch on their relegation.

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