Away day number four of the season for us, more than we might have envisioned at the start of the season. It is the final game of what has been an absolute clusterfuck of a season for Crawley Town. Safety, and therefore another season in League Two next year, was confirmed by the 0-0 draw against Walsall in our last home game of the season last weekend. A point which meant Hartlepool could no longer catch us. And which should have been three points, but in a now traditional last home game of the season screwing over of us by officials they didn’t signal for a goal in front of the home terrace when the ball was over the line. Granted, it wasn’t as blatant as the one against Leyton Orient last year, but still, they should have gone to Specsavers.
The away trip is to Wiltshire, and specifically to play Swindon Town. A game our manager Scott Lindsey would love to win after leaving them earlier in the season under somewhat of a cloud. In addition, club captain Ben Gladwin was another January acquisition for us from them to go along with the summer signing of Dion Conroy. So, there shouldn’t be any lack of a will to win from our lot. Although, by the same token I’m sure Swindon would like to get one over on their old boys as well.
And they will be looking for some revenge over us after we beat them earlier in the season. That was the first game of Matthew Etherington’s short lived chaotic stint as our manager, and at the time Swindon were in the playoff places. A heavily deflected Nick Tsaroulla effort and Jack Powell’s ‘wonder’ goal from near the halfway line with the Swindon keeper stranded saw us win 2-0 in what was a rare clean sheet for us. It was a game that led to a poor run of form from Swindon that saw them drop out of playoff contention and part company with Scott Lindsey.
The match report for that game is below.
The game is a 12.30 kick off on a Bank Holiday Monday, which is a ridiculous time for a game of football, mainly due to being bumped from the Saturday because some bloke with big ears is getting a new hat in London.
Saying that, ridiculous kick off times may become the new normal. The new Sky Sports deal with the EFL had headline figures of 236 League Two games to be televised per season. That is just over five per set of fixtures (46 * 5 = 230). Which, seeing as there will be the same amount of League one games being televised and double the number of that for Championship games, it will see the standard 3.00pm on a Saturday and 7.45pm on a Tuesday fixtures disappear. Friday night, 12/12:15/12:30/12:45 Saturday lunch time, 5:15/5:30 and 7:45/8 pm Saturday evening games. Multiple time slots on a Sunday, and then midweek fixtures played any night of the week. It is going to be carnage. If all teams were equally covered it would mean they would be on TV 20 times a season. I’m hoping that isn’t the case and that the number of games quoted is going to cover the whole of the five-year period of the contract and not every year. Granted some teams would get covered more often than others (Wrexham spring to mind), but there would probably be a minimum of 10 games disrupted by TV.
Helen and I had travelled over to Swindon on Saturday evening and had spent Sunday wandering around the town. It’s not as bad as it had been made out to be. The ground is by the Magic Roundabout, which looks a counter intuitive nightmare, and would be permanently blocked by crashes in Crawley. We got a bus up to the ground from the hotel we were staying in, and we saw the three supporters coaches come roaring past us as we were at a bus stop.
We were seated up quite high in the away stands, the highest up I’ve been for any normal game of football in nearly twenty years. The last time being when I was dragged to a Southampton away game at Blackburn when I lived in Manchester. The most memorable thing about that game being the thirty or so kitted out Blackpool fans who turned up. They were there to cheer on Brett Ormerod who had moved to Southampton from Blackpool that year.
Being nice and early we got a decent seat, and I got a programme. I was really impressed by it, it’s a really good programme, despite big ears being on the cover. There are many lessons that could be learnt. The piece in it, and the announcement of tribute to fans who had died during the season was a nice touch.
Crawley are playing in white shirts, black shorts, and black socks. Meanwhile off the pitch, despite a more vigorous search team on the way in the first of the red smoke flares is let loose by the Crawley fans. And the national anthem is played. Almost as if something happened this weekend.
Crawley definitely settled into the game quicker, with lots of possession and some nice interplay, but as with so many other games this season, the final ball is letting them down. Another ongoing theme of the season is the seemingly biased decision set by officials. Swindon are getting every 50-50 decision, and most of the blatantly 100-0 ones as well.
The away support is loud and raucous and is all we can hear. Plenty of taunting going on as well. After being comfortable for 39 minutes, a ball is headed on and Charlie Austin beats the last defender for pace and slots the ball in and it is 0-1. And having been the target of some of the taunting he classily celebrates by taunting the away fans.
A couple of minutes later and it isn’t getting any better. Ben Gladwin gets a booking for a silly foul, and it lines up Swindon for a free kick from about thirty yards out. Which the taker smashes into the top corner leaving Corey Addai no chance and us 0-2 behind.
Two added minutes are played at the end of the half and the half time whistle goes with it being 0-2. There have been a few more smoke flares during the half, and the police have been filming the fans, the fire marshals have been up a couple of times and the lead stewards have all been having conflabs with lots of pointing up at the Crawley fans. One of the chief stewards looks as if he is going to bust a blood vessel with the stress of it all.
The second half is only thirty seconds in and Swindon waltz through our defence again, but Addai saves and the follow up shot goes wide. At the other end we get a free kick in a similar position to the one Swindon scored in the first half. It is tapped sideways for Tom Fellows to smash goalwards, but it is saved by the keeper. It is recycled a couple of times and then Ashley Nadesan gets a shot away but straight at the keeper.
On the hour mark Tsaroulla drives into the penalty area and is tripped, and we have a penalty. Dom Telford stands over it. And scores, and it is now 1-2, and it triggers another red smoke flare. I hope they bought them in bulk to reduce the cost.
Five minutes later and it is Swindon’s turn to be awarded a penalty. It did look suspiciously like Johnson got the ball. Saved. Addai does it again, a second penalty save in the last few games, and it is still 1-2.
The stadium announcer announces Gladwin being subbed, only it appears our bench wasn’t ready to put Anthony Grant on, and it is another five minutes before the substitution is made. We have some very slick play down the left-hand side and the ball is crossed, but the shot and the rebound both are straight at the keeper before it is hacked away.
Four minutes of added time are announced, and the crowd is 10,450 with a magnificent 528 Crawley fans. The game kind of fizzles out and the full-time whistle goes for a 1-2 defeat. The latest in the string of smoke flares takes longer to fizzle out, and the players come over to applaud the fans the fans applaud the players, and a lot of match shirts are given away.
And so, the season is done. We finish twenty second, a massive three points clear of the relegated teams. Time to head off back to the hotel and the car to do the drive back to Crawley. The 2022-23 is a wrap. Roll on next season.
Come on you reds.