The Dark Age

It’s been nearly three weeks since our last home game, the thrilling 3-2 victory over Stockport County on a Tuesday night. It lifted us a few places up the league and it really did look like we were beginning to get it together.

Since then we have lost away at Crewe Alexandra, with their goal being scored by a striker who many thought should have already picked up a second booking and not be on the pitch to score said goal.

Then came the whole Sidemen thing. A big announcement was made about Crawley doing promotional work with the Sidemen (as someone who doesn’t follow YouTubers or Insta posers, I have no idea who any of these people are, but lots do). It’s a non-traditional route that’s for certain, as with a lot of things the new owners are trying. And they are getting a load of flak for it, both from our own fans and certainly from fans of other clubs. Which isn’t surprising when the hook-up with the Sidemen mentioned scouting their charity game for a player / players to play in our 1st round FA Cup game in November.

The day they were off scouting that we were playing away at Doncaster Rovers, 1-1 at half time, it went pear shaped in the second half. A contentious penalty was followed by some capitulation and a 4-1 shellacking. Another away game in the Papa Johns Trophy came on the Tuesday night where an early sending off saw us playing with ten men for an hour of the game, but the team fought well only to end up losing 3-2. Out goals were credited to Jack Powell and Ludwig Francillette, but having seen the clips online, they both look suspiciously like own goals.

Yesterday saw a twitter video from co-chairman Preston outlining what the owners are trying to do, and a message that he’s coming over to England early. It seemed to me (as a person who speaks mainly in quotes from the film Snatch), that it was reminiscent of Cousin Avi’s “Doug, I’m coming to England” quote. I wonder whether his first words when arriving at the club would be similar to Cousin Avi’s “Sit down and shut up you big bald fuck”, with big bald being replaced by incompetent.

Anyway, onto today’s game. We have company for this one as Tom and Terri join us. I’m not very prepared as I’ve been working all morning (and will be after the game as well due to how things have gone). Walking to the ground it seems a bit quiet, and there are plenty of parking spaces down Wakehurst Drive, but getting to the ground there are a lot of people milling around and a decent queue to get through the turnstiles. I see Al on the way in, he was collecting empties off people queuing to get in, so another string added to his bow of stewarding. During the game he was patrolling our stand for the first time this season.

I get myself a programme, since last time out they have got rid of the General Manager’s comments, and the league table has disappeared. And the list of games with the player’s appearances and other stats is still as shambolic as last time out. None of the missing goals have been added back, and the used/unused sub being used twice with no yellow/red card labelling is still the same. I did think there was another typo when it said Stevenage were founded in 1976, but it turns out that’s true.

Oh yes, we’re playing Stevenage today, whereas we sit third from bottom only just above the relegation places, they sit third in an automatic promotion spot. Their manager is Steve Evans (so should they be called Stevevansage instead?), our former manager when we were promoted into the football league. It could be said that this is the New Town derby, or the twin town one, as after a few bevvies it would be forgiven to think you were in the other town if you happened to be around Queen’s Square. As always, I wonder how Steven’s relatives are getting on. It would be nice to know how the other ages are; old, new, golden, bronze, iron, and stone.

Stevenage are playing in all purple strips, as if they’ve escaped from a giant box of Quality Street. There is the shortest knee taken in history, the ref blows the whistle, gets down, and blows again to get up before most of the players had even hit the ground. He appears to like quick concurrent blasts on his whistle as he does the same again when Stevenage kick off, blowing to start and then blowing again straight away to restart.

The first quarter of an hour is quite frenetic, and Tony Craig gives away a free kick on the edge of the penalty area, picking up his traditional yellow card in doing so. We haven’t defended these very well so far this season, so it is a relief to see the kick go straight into the wall, and the rebound sail high and wide.

A Stevenage player falls over comically trying to stop a high ball going out of play. The ball bounces into the west stand and a fan throws it back at the Stevenage player as he lays on the ground. In a bit of a temper he kicks it back out, only for it to hit one of the wheelchair supporters smack in the face. The player does get straight up and over to apologise to the fan. You could bet your bottom dollar if the roles had been reversed and it was one of our players away from home, that would have seen a red card.

I blink as I jot the above down and the throw in ends up in our penalty box and a shot sees it in the back of the net and we are 0-1 down, and I’m not sure how it happened. The goal prompts a red smoke flare to be released by the visiting fans in the away terrace. The game hardly restarts before Corey Addai is down and getting treatment.

A few minutes later we have a penalty shout as James Tilley’s shot is blocked by a sliding defender’s arm (above his head). It isn’t given, unlike the soft one the week before away at Doncaster.

The half hour mark sees ball one gone from the ground as a miscued hoof from one of our lot disappears out over the East Stand. This is followed by a couple of decent Crawley attacks and quite a few more blocked shots. Only for Stevenage to work it down to the other end of the pitch, get a player free in the area and their shot to come back off the angle of post and bar when it looked easier to score. A bit of a let off that one.

Not long before half time a blatant push in the back on Tom Nichols in the penalty area. It beggars belief how these things keep getting missed. Just after four minutes of first half injury time is shown there is another penalty shout as James Tilley gets upended in the box whilst attempting a shot. Nothing doing again, and the subsequent clearance disappears out over the East Stand, for ball number two of the day.

The half time whistle is blown with it 0-1. Yes, half time was the same as it ever was. Well, apart from there being no need for the sprinklers. The pitch is showing signs of being soft with all the recent rain before any more water is added to it.

Within two minutes of the restart we have an equaliser. There are a couple of shots in the box and the keeper fails to hold onto the ball and Ashley Nadesan is there to prod the ball home from about three yards and it just about trickles in to the goal to make it 1-1.

There is a lot of back and forth, and it appears that the whistle can only be blown if it appears to be a foul be Crawley. The same thing is ignored if it is instigated by Stevenage. Their players don’t need any excuse to fall over either. Half a dozen have fallen over when not within yards of a Crawley player, and others are halfway down before they instigate contact with a Crawley player, and each time they fall, the ref falls for it. It is well beyond a joke now.

Oh, and what’s this? Handball apparently by one of our players. It’s impossible to say who as there didn’t appear to be a handball there at all, and half a dozen of the team were in the general vicinity. The Stevenage penalty taker tucks it away as the Crawley players make their displeasure well know to the referee. Tom Nichols going for it big time. It’s 1-2, the only surprise is there is no yellow card for dissent. It seemed less of a handball than the one given the previous week at Doncaster, or the one not given in the first half for us.

Five minutes of injury time are put up, and the crowd is announced as being 2,732 with 319 of them being away fans. Stevenage time waste most of that five minutes without any fear they might be told to hurry up or get a yellow card for it. A joke when you count up the number of yellows given to us so far this season for less blatant time wasting. Absolutely no fucking consistency. The final whistle goes and it’s another defeat. 1-2. We stay third from bottom, now only on goal difference, and Stevenage stay third. There is no way the gap between the two teams is that much.

Looking at the match stats after the game tells a bit of a story. Apparently, the foul count was Crawley 16 – Stevenage 4. In what was an even game. It just shows what a shit show it was from the officials. Again.

Back to work for me now. Next week we are away against Grimsby Town in Cleethorpes. I wouldn’t have minded going to that to get some photos for some pieces I want to write, but it’s not practical this year. Perhaps next year.

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