Another Tuesday night, another trip to the Broadfield Stadium to see Crawley play. This being the fourth Tuesday on the trot we’ve been here. Last Tuesday saw the great result of beating Premier League Fulham in the Carabao Cup. It also saw five hundred moronic fans invade the pitch, punishment for which we are still waiting for the Football League to impose.
There was a fair bit of press following the victory. A lot of it was fans and managers (of other clubs) talking about how the Carabao Cup isn’t a priority, and that it’s a bit of a Mickey Mouse trophy. Well, if that’s the case then tonight’s game in the Papa Johns’ Trophy might need to be described as the Goofy or Pluto cup, as it’s not even up to being Mickey Mouse.
And it may well be seen as somewhat of a distraction. After the Lord Mayor’s show of beating Fulham came the dog’s breakfast of drawing away at bottom of the table Rochdale on Saturday. We scored just before half time, only to then show why Crawley Town aren’t allowed to own dogs as we failed to hold onto the lead. Plus, Nick Tsaroulla was sent off, and the match stats weren’t pretty reading. It beggars belief how we can beat a Premier League side on Tuesday and only just avoid losing to bottom of the Football League on Saturday with the same players.
Not that I’m expecting to see the same players again tonight for the visit of League One Portsmouth. It would be difficult for Crawley to take this trophy any less seriously than last season where we managed to lose all three group games – 1-6, 0-4, 0-4, to finish rock bottom and with the worst goal difference of any team in any group. But I’m not holding out much hope.
I would love to be wrong, as taken seriously this could be a trophy we could win. League two sides have gotten to the final every year for the last six seasons, and a couple have won it. And if we hadn’t started the league season like an out-of-control dumpster fire then we might have gone for it, but I can’t see it somehow. We only have two points in the league and are only out of the relegation places on goal difference.
Apparently, Portsmouth have sold over a thousand tickets for the game, and from a Crawley Town perspective there seems to be more appetite for the games this season. Well, at least they are opening the whole ground for the game, and not keeping the east stand shut as they did last season. My knees will be happy with the extra couple of inches leg room in our usual seats.
This will be the fourth time we have played Portsmouth in this competition, and the second time at home, and we have lost all three previous games, with the previous game at the Broadfield Stadium finishing 0-1. We have played Portsmouth in the league six times, with just the one victory (in League One in 2012), and one draw (League Two, 2015).
Despite being there in plenty of time there were no programmes left they has all sold out, the seller saying they hadn’t printed very many. Eagle eyed Helen did spot one lying discarded in the stands towards the end of the game. I’m quite glad I didn’t pay for it as there was virtually no content to it. I suppose it minimises the risk of their usual errors.
Portsmouth were playing in a pastel mint green top with black shorts. The away end was full of their fans as expected. The Crawley sides of the ground weren’t as full, with plenty of room for people to move around and change seats or move to the terraces during the game. An opportunity not passed up by a number of fans.
It wasn’t Crawley’s strongest eleven out there, but it wasn’t a complete change in line up from Saturday and the previous Tuesday. Judging by the shirt numbers Portsmouth players were wearing, they were playing a decent strength side as well.
Just six minutes into the game, after giving himself a few seconds thinking time, the referee points to the penalty spot after a foul on James Tilley. And Dom Telford slots away the resulting spot kick for his first competitive Crawley goal, and we lead 1-0.
Portsmouth were having the best of the exchanges after that, and it took until the twenty sixth minute for the first ball to sail out over the West stand from a wayward clearance from their keeper.
We came back into it a bit the longer the half went on, with some decent crosses from the left-wing creating chances that were missed, and then not long before the break a ball over the top is latched onto by James Tilley and he puts it across the six-yard area where David Bremang just fails to steer his lunge for the ball in.
The half time whistle goes with a 1-0 lead for Crawley, and the usual rubbish happens. You will have read this a lot so far this season. The dreadful ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ version starts off the same half time playlist again, and the Crawley players come back on to the pitch a couple of minutes after the opposition.
As the second half kicks off it would appear that we have drafted in a kazoo player to aid the drummer in our stand. Either that or there was a duck hunt going on under the stand. Meanwhile Portsmouth had brought drummer, a trumpet player, and their world-famous bell ringer, plus another instrument I couldn’t make out, like they were bringing a mini orchestra.
A lot of the play in the second half is being dictated by Portsmouth. They seem quicker and are winning more of the second balls. Their battery of half-time substitutions helping. And with about fifteen minutes of normal time left they get a corner which is easily nodded into the net, and we are pegged back to 1-1.
Six minutes later a through ball to a Portsmouth player on the edge of our D, sees him spin the Crawley defender and rifle a shot into the bottom corner and it has completely turned around as they now lead 1-2.
The crowd is announced as being 2,340, with 1,111 away fans. At which point the Portsmouth fans start singing ‘We brought more fans than you!’ It would appear that maths is not their strong point. The sponsors’ man of the match is announced as James Tilley. Not many would argue.
A minute before the end of normal time, a Portsmouth shot is smashed way over the KRL Logistics stand, and that may not have stopped travelling until it got to Cheal’s roundabout.
Six minutes of injury time are put up. There had been a lot of subs and people lying down. Just past halfway through the injury time there is a big cheer as the ref slips over in midfield. A bigger cheer comes about ten seconds later when he is called into action to award Crawley their second penalty of the game. (It has to be said, I would not be unhappy to have this ref again, we’ve got the rub of the green a bit. I’m sure the Portsmouth fans aren’t so enamoured and had been making their feelings clear throughout the second half.) This time David Bremang steps up and hammers the ball into the top corner and it is 2-2.
Which is how it stays at full time. 2-2 and a point apiece. But under Papa Johns’ Trophy rules, in the group stage, drawn games then have a penalty shoot out for a bonus point. I don’t think all the fans knew this, and a lot were leaving before it was announced over the tannoy system what was going on. The penalties were taken at the Eden Utilities stand end, and the terraces there had filled up a lot from how they were during the game as people got close to the penalty taking action.
Portsmouth were first up, and their first penalty was missed well past the left-hand post. 0-0. Jack Powell strolled up to take Crawley’s first penalty and scored. 1-0. Portsmouth scored 1-1. David Bremang scored his second penalty of the night 2-1. Portsmouth scored 2-2. Tony Craig scored our third one 3-2. Portsmouth scored 3-3. Man of the match James Tilley had his penalty saved 3-3. Portsmouth scored 3-4. Ashley Nadesan scored to even things up and send it into sudden death 4-4. Portsmouth scored 4-5. Mazeed Ogungbo scored to keep it going 5-5. Portsmouth have their penalty saved by David Robson 5-5. Rafiq Khaleel scores to make it 6-5 and give Crawley the bonus point.
It gives us a decent chance of going through. The next game in this competition is against AFC Wimbledon, and we can’t possibly play as badly against them as we did earlier this season. They won against the Aston Villa under 21s.
It turns out Al was working the game, not sure where he was hiding for most of it, but he was inspecting the empty terraces of the Eden Utilities stand as we were leaving, only to manage to then be directing the traffic near the roundabout as we crossed over.
And we move on. Another trip to Greater Manchester for the team with Salford City away at the weekend. Let’s hope for more than the trip last weekend to play Rochdale.