It’s FA Cup round one weekend, and we got a home tie against Accrington. Being creatures of habit, we got tickets for the seats we always sit in, and for only a tenner. Accrington are in League One, just a place above the relegation zone there. We haven’t played them in the league for a few years now, and first played them in 2004 back in Crawley’s first season in the Conference (as it was then), and we’ve had varying levels of success against them over the years.
It’s a rainy day after the brief respite on Friday, the cold November rain continues apace. We get to the ground in plenty of time, I’m surprised there is no away fans coach in the car park, I didn’t think we were that early. I get a programme, and it takes only a few seconds to spot this editions proof reading issue. It says it is issue 11 on the front of it, which means we get two issue 11’s this season, as the last programme for the win over Mansfield Town was already issue 11.
Since the Mansfield game we have had two away games. There was Colchester United on the Tuesday after Mansfield, and then the WAGMI Derby against Bradford City last Saturday. We drew both games. Two decent away points and we now are four games unbeaten in the league and have dragged ourselves up to nineteenth in the table, although still only three points above the relegation zone.
And last Tuesday we were knocked out of the Papa Johns Trophy without kicking a ball. At full time the remaining group game was a draw, which was enough for Portsmouth to go above us on goal difference, and to top it off they won the penalty shootout as well to get the extra point. Of course, it may be churlish to say, but you have to wonder just how much effort already qualified and recent rivals, Wimbledon put in to trying to win the game.
It doesn’t look as if Accrington have brought many fans with them. With no coach in sight, there are only a few pockets of fans huddled together at the back of the away terrace avoiding the rain. Obviously despite it being November the fifth, they aren’t expecting fireworks from their team.
The Sidemen thing has been rumbling on in the build up to the game. The bloke who formed the sidemen and two of his brothers have been training with the team this week. An interview with him was interesting and threw a lot more light on what the owners are trying to do. WAGMI had given a large donation to the Sidemen’s charity game a month ago, and on the back of that they have been happy to do promotional work with Crawley Town. They felt it was a great opportunity to train with professionals, and in no way were they expecting to be anywhere near the game, but it would be good if they could be.
When the teams were read out pre kick-off, they weren’t included, so it would appear that particular promotional episode is over for the time being.
Accrington turned out in white shirts and black shorts, and it was most disappointing to see that none of the players listed in their squad on the programme (a squad even bigger than Crawley’s) were called Stanley. I think they need to try harder.
As do we. First minute and we are jittery, Ellery Balcombe miscues his first touch high over the west stand, not even at the half way line. A second ball appears rapidly, and we appear to still be asleep, as Accrington slip the ball into the box, and their striker shoots, and draws a save from Balcombe, but it comes straight back to one of their players who tucks it in, and we are behind 0-1. Only the 88 minutes to sort a comeback out.
We do just about wake up and have a bit of pressure, but when we get near their penalty area, we turn into late Arsene Wenger reign Arsenal and look to be trying to walk the ball in. About twenty minutes in we get a free kick in a decent position, and it is well taken by Jack Powell (no, not a misprint, but it is his first decent touch of the game, the only one to go to a red shirt so far) and a header is deflected over. The corner sees a deeper ball from Powell which clears everyone, only for an Accrington defender to inexplicably head it back across the six-yard box and for Jake Hessenthaler to nod in to make it 1-1.
Crawley seemed to have settled down, only for five minutes later what appeared to be a nothing ball floats over defenders in our box and a simple header from the same Accrington player sees their lead restored. 1-2.
There is some back and forth play for the rest of the half, although on the balance of things, Accrington look a better side from a higher division, it’s not that Crawley are playing badly, they just find themselves under more pressure. Although Accrington are already resorting to timewasting.
Just before the end of the half Accrington get a corner, and they play it along the ground to the edge of the penalty area where a first time shot beats the hand out from Balcombe and makes its way into the top corner to make it 1-3.
Two minutes of added time are shown although it is easily double that as Tony Craig gets treatment for an injury, and we head into the break behind.
Yes, it was the usual playlist, but the entertainment was enhanced by Helen coming back to our seats, but in a world of her own she goes up the steps to the block before ours, only to then look around and not recognise anyone there before seeing me a block over, and having to go back down and around. And for a change it is the Crawley players out first before the opposition and officials.
We make a couple of half-time subs, and it is an indication of how he was playing that the biggest cheer (after the goal) so far is when it is announced Jack Powell has been subbed off. The second substitution was Joel Lynch coming on, although he may have been putting a bit much into leg day, as everything he hit early doors went far too far and far too quickly. We had some decent early pressure, a couple of shots on target and a corner.
But it is all in vain. The scorer of Accrington’s first two goals gets the ball played through to him, and he runs through and scores. The only issue being is he looks at least twenty yards offside. And not only is it allowed, and the score is now 1-4, but Lynch picks up a booking for remonstrating with the linesman, quite understandably. He’s not the only one to remonstrate with the linesman, as a fan trots down the steps and leans over the fence to have a few words as well.
Twenty minutes later the same linesman does put his flag up for an offside and it draws the biggest cheer of the day from the crowd (yes, even bigger than the goal). And the same bloke pops down to have a few more words with the lino, who seems to celebrate with a big roar and arm pumps as he runs down the line.
The crowd is announced as being 2,770, with 149 away fans, which causes a lot of people to stand up and look at the away end, where there are 30 fans tops in the terraces. Although leaning forward more we can see the away seating area is nearly full, still doesn’t explain the lack of coach though.
There are three minutes of added time put up at the end. The ref is really just making sh1t up by this point. As this is after two bookings for Accrington players for timewasting, four physio visits to the pitch and six substitutions. There should have been at least 8 minutes, although with the result a foregone conclusion and the relentless rain it’s probably doing all concerned a favour by bringing it to a premature end.
The FA Cup run is over for this year. Before it even got a chance to get going. Another cup game on Tuesday, away at Burnley in the Carabao cup, let’s hope we can avoid going out of all three cup competitions in the same week.
Come on you reds.