It’s the first of three home games in eight days. A Tuesday night in March and a rearranged fixture against Doncaster Rovers which was originally postponed due to a waterlogged pitch back in January. After our fine win in our last home game against Harrogate, last weekend saw our first away win of the season in a tense low quality affair against recent rivals AFC Wimbledon, where an early Ashley Nadesan goal saw us win 1-0. It also saw us climb out of the relegation places and are now in twenty-second, a point above Hartlepool, and now four points behind Colchester United with two games in hand (the first of which is tonight).
Doncaster start the night just inside the top half of the table in twelfth, then places and eighteen points above us, but with the third worst recent form guide in the division having only taken four points from their last six games, only Colchester and AFC Wimbledon have worse recent records. The away fixture played at the end of September saw one of our most dismal performances of the season where there was a total capitulation in the second half and a 4-1 loss.
This isn’t one of the games included in the two at two pounds promotion, and with it being a not so warm evening it remains to be seen what kind of crowd there is going to be, we haven’t done great numbers for crowds for evening games in the league this season.
We were a bit last minute dot com getting to our seats just as they were swapping ends after Doncaster had obviously won the toss and were attempting to pull a Carlisle on us. We’d had a chat with Al as we were waiting to get in through the turnstiles. There were four coaches parked at the away end, the most coaches I’ve seen from an away team at the ground, but the away end wasn’t as packed as it has been for some other games this season. Doncaster were in all black apart from the green front of their shirts.
I’d just about managed to get a programme, where we are now on issue 24 having jumped from the number 22 the last two had been. I was half expecting it to be number 18, as that was when we were due to play them, and the programme numbers did jump from number 16 to number 20.
Anyway, the match. We were having some decent early pressure, and there was some nice composed play, but there wasn’t much in the way of clear cut chances. Joel Lynch had gone down injured and had treatment and didn’t seem himself as he booted ball one out over the east stand half way through the half. Ball two disappeared via ricochets over the turnstiles at the north end of the west stand a couple of minutes later.
The ref stopped play continuing at free kicks a couple of times to check on Lynch, and could be seen washing something off the pitch with a water bottle, unsure if it was blood or puke, and then finally he is subbed off, which should probably have happened the first time he went down if it was, as it looked, concussion related.
It was a surprise there were only five minutes of added time at the end of the half. Straight away we have a decent free kick that their keeper only really flaps at and it somehow manages not to go in. Doncaster get a dubious looking free kick over on the left wing. The ball is floated in, their striker misses the intended header, despite having the freedom of the penalty area, but it hits his shoulder and goes in the corner of the goal, and with their first shot Doncaster lead 0-1. There is barely time for the restart before the whistle goes for half time.
During which the DJ has found some different tunes to play.
The second half nearly starts the same way as the first half ended. A dubious free kick on the left wing goes in, there is a bit of panic and it comes out to the edge of the area, where thankfully the shot taken is closer to the corner flag than the goal.
After that though Crawley start to build a bit of pressure, they are taking shots, getting corners from saves, taking more shots, but there is still a lack of urgency and they are slow getting the ball forward. Kellen Gordon may have well been invisible for the first twenty minutes or so of the half, virtually by himself down the right wing, he was ignored time and again. And when they finally noticed then our attacking intent increased.
Doncaster are time wasting from the outset of the second half. They can’t have been doing their endurance training either, having had one player subbed with cramp, there is another player down in midfield acting as if he has cramp as well. The ref ignores him, and play continues. A shot is pushed back out of the area and comes out to Rafiq Khaleel who smashes a low shot into the corner of the net to make it 1-1 with nine minutes of normal time left.
Two minutes later Khaleel leads another break, the ball keeps getting played forward and I have no idea how we didn’t score. It is played through to Jack Powell who is standing on the goal line inside the near post and he attempts to control, turn and shoot. It is knocked sideways and the shot from Ashley Nadesan is somehow kept out and booted away as their keeper ends up claiming injury lying on the ground in the six yard box.
With a minute to go we have the ball in the net. A shot by Aramide Oteh is parried away by the keeper and Ashley Nadesan is on hand to put the ball into the net, and the celebrations start. And stop quickly. The flag has gone up for offside.
The crowd is announced as being 2,815 with 307 away fans, but the sponsor’s man of the match announcement is drowned out by cheers as the fourth official puts up the board for five minutes of added time.
Most of which is spent camped in the Doncaster half trying crosses, shots and anything to grab the win at the death, but the final whistle goes and it ends 1-1.
The prick DJ is back and playing ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ again. It isn’t needed after a draw, especially after one of the better all round performances of the season. Three points would have been better, but a point is better than nothing, and it moves us another point clear of the relegation places, with a game in hand on the teams directly above and below us, and another home game to come on Saturday against bottom of the league Rochdale.
Come on you reds.