Downing The Dale

Hot on the heels of our home game on Tuesday night against Doncaster Rovers; a game where it is still a mystery to me how we failed to win and only get a point from in one of our best performances of the season so far, it is on to a Saturday game against Rochdale.

With the performance on Tuesday, and the fact that Rochdale are bottom of the table there should be high hopes about getting a win. But our recent record against clubs at the bottom of the table isn’t great. We only got one point from twelve against the two relegated clubs last season, and have already lost at home to Hartlepool when they were bottom of the table earlier this season.

In a game we really have to win, I am somewhat nervous about what is to come. There have been far too many occasions this season where we have failed to turn up at all, and games where we’ve made sides as bad as us look as if they were world beaters. We seem to play better against the better teams and until recently we had gained more points from games against teams starting in the playoff places than we had against teams in the bottom half of the table.

Earlier in the season we drew 1-1 away against Rochdale at the time we were really struggling and had back to back away games in Greater Manchester. Despite this point our know-it-all, know-nothing, director of football, Chris Galley, put in his programme notes for the next home game that we had lost against Rochdale. Which just went to prove he hadn’t got a clue what he was talking about . And his column in the programme disappeared not long afterwards.

Rochdale, along with Hartlepool and Crewe were the sides I remember from my youth as being the ones perennially at the foot of Division 4 and having to reapply for re-election every year. Long before the automatic promotion from non-league started.

Forty years on and all three are in the lower reaches of the Football League again, and unfortunately, we are right there with them this year.

It is difficult to know what to wear. We have been having April showers a couple of weeks early; and it had been blowing a gale, plus there was sleet last night. It may well be a day that requires sunglasses, fleeces, raincoats, and shorts.

Yet again, it is writing group before the game, and so I’m at the ground and seated nice and early, but carrying more stuff with me than is ideal. As I’m off to another writing event straight after the game as well, where I will be mangling the Gaelic language live in front of tens of people. I’m more nervous about the game than I am of that.

The programme says issue 25, and I confuse myself by turning it over to find there is another front cover also saying issue 25. It is a double issue to cover the game on Tuesday night against Grimsby as well. Note to self, there is no need to buy a programme Tuesday night.

There are a couple of visiting fans coaches. The socials had said there weren’t many home tickets left and that the north west corner of the away terrace was going to be available to home fans to cope with the demand (easier I suppose at two quid a ticket). The tarpaulin over that side has been moved across a bit and home fans are filling that space up early on as well. Looks like it is going to be a bumper crowd.

It had been a bright morning, but I was glad to be seating early as the dark clouds are moving in and there is water in the air, the wind is whipping something straight into the east marquee.

Rochdale are in what looks like dark blue shirts with white shorts and socks, like a league two Everton or Leicester City, but when the players get over to our side the shirts are actually dark blue and black horizontal stripes.

There hasn’t even been thirty seconds on the clock and Ashley Nadesan is through one on one with the keeper. His low shot isn’t quite beyond the keeper, who gets studs to it and it trickles wide for a corner, that really should have been a first minute goal.

Within five minutes we have lost ball one. On the lowest trajectory possible, it’s sneaked out over the corner next to the marquee and the yellow corrugated steel hut in the away end.

There really need to be more turnstiles in the southeast corner of the ground. There are only two to service the whole of the east marquee and half of the home terrace. Compared to the six available the other side of the ground for the west stand and home terrace. Fans are still coming into the ground twenty five minutes into the game with queues at those two turnstiles going back across the length of the home terrace and Redz Bar. It isn’t the first time this season that has been the case, and it needs looking at if they are trying to get as many fans in as possible.

The game was a bit back and forth, but Crawley were building a more sustained period of pressure. The ball ends up at the feet of Dom Telford who has his back to goal about eight yards out. He turns and gets a shot away and it is in the corner and we lead 1-0.

From the restart we break from the Rochdale attack and there are two more chances in quick succession, first one blocked from James Tilley, and then one deflected out for a corner from Atamide Oteh. The corner is played short and Tilley swings in a cross out to the back post where Dion Conroy rises above the defenders to put a header into the bottom corner and it is 2-0.

There are three minutes of added time at the end of the first half and Telford plays a great ball across to Nadesan who steadies himself and again one on one with the keeper takes the shot, it comes back off the inside of the post and straight into the arms of the keeper who is on the ground form his dive to try and save it. It could easily have been more, but we are leading 2-0 at half time.

Crawley start brightly in the second half as well, but there are more frequent attacks from Rochdale as well. Ball two disappears over the KRL logistics stand from a Lindsay clearance about ten minutes into the half, and ball three goes a very similar way with a deflected block over the same stand ten minutes later.

A lot of substitutions are taking place and there is a drop in intensity compared to the first half. And for the first time in ages there are taunting chants from the home fans, with any error by a Rochdale player being met with “That’s why you’re going down”. There are also chants from the home terrace aimed at WAGMI, peppered with swear words and suggesting they might want to leave.

Five minutes of added time are indicated, the sponsor’s man of the match is announced as James Tilley, and the crowd is 4,717 with 366 away fans. Whilst it may not be the biggest ever crowd at a Crawley home game, it does turn out to be the largest amount of home fans at a Crawley game ever, so a record breaking day.

And the final whistle goes with it being a 2-0 victory, the third win in four games and ten points out of twelve.

The points don’t lead to a change in position in the table for us, we remain twenty-second. But we are now four points clear of Hartlepool below us, and only a single point behind Colchester above us, and we have a game in hand on both of them. Plus we are only two points behind Harrogate (we were nine behind them before kick off against them three weeks ago).

We go again on Tuesday night against Grimsby Town, a rearranged game that had been postponed twice in January.

Come on you reds.

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