Come From Milton Keynes

Wasn’t quite The Style Council song title, but, as it’s a home game, Milton Keynes must come to us instead.

It’s been nearly five years since the Milton Keynes Dons last played here, and that did not end well for us, with them running out 4-0 winners.

We go into game three of the season in sixth place, one of nine unbeaten teams in the division so far. The MK Dons are top after two games and one of three teams with 100% records.

Since our home game on the opening day of the season we have had two away games. The first was in the Carabao Cup against League One Exeter City. We took a first half lead with a much-changed side from our opening day win. But Exeter came back with two second half goals to knock us out 1-2. There will be no Carabao Cup run this season for us.

Then at the weekend we were away at Salford City, who had also won their first game of the season. Again, we took a first half lead, and an excellent first half saw us hit the woodwork four times, but we were unable to extend the lead as our play deserved. And two minutes after half time Salford equalised, and the game finished as a 1-1 draw.

It was a decent away point against one of last season’s play-off teams. In fact, four points from our first two games, both of them against last season’s play-off teams – and teams tipped to be there again this season – is a great start. It took us eight games to get four points last season.

In the last few days Joel Lynch has left the club by ‘mutual consent.’ (As someone who works in HR, this is a term used to cover a whole multitude of sins.) and he’s very nearly the last man out (only three left now) since WAGMI’s takeover. The last couple of months have reminded me of lyrics in New Model Army’s ‘Green And Grey’ – “And tomorrow brings another train, another young brave steals away.”

And speaking of WAGMI, all may not be well in the crypto clown’s world, several posts have been seen showing unrest against the very NFT buying crowd they were so proud of this time last year, with their communications with investors something akin to the communications they have had with the fans.

Tuesday nights are always a bit of a rush to get back from work, eat, and get back to the ground for the game. Especially as I like to be a bit early. Not to get a programme this season (yes, I might have lied about now mentioning it again last time out), but I am early so I can find Steve Leake and get a copy of his third book from him – ‘Tinpot And Proud.’

But I was too late to find him in Redz bar, but fortunately did see him as I walked past the end of the terrace and got my copy.

The MK Dons have a reasonable number of fans for a Tuesday night away game. The team are in all white kits, and after a bit of fannying around the ref blows for kick-off a couple of minutes late. The good thing about early season games is its still daylight at kick off, it doesn’t feel as overbearing.

The first ten minutes of the game are quite cagey, some decent possession play but not much cutting edge. But then the game springs to life, certainly from a Crawley perspective, Kellen Gordon breaks down the right into the box, and his cross is blocked, and Will Wright’s follow up shot blazes over the top of the KRL Logistics away terrace, and probably puts a dent in the away fans’ double decker coach.

And again, a couple of minutes later, another cross from Gordon comes to Liam Kelly on the edge of the box and his shot is just tipped over the bar for a corner. Which is cleared, but the ball is pumped into the box and there are half-hearted appeals for a penalty as a man goes down, but they are waved away.

A few minutes later and there is good play down the left wing, Danilo Orsi gets the ball and holds it up and passes to Kelly, who pings a ball into the box that Nick Tsaroulla gets on the end of. He takes his time and puts the ball in the top corner for 1-0.

Not long after we get another corner. It is certainly noticeable that the players aren’t scared to take a shot like they were last season. It is good to see, after screaming ourselves hoarse last season for the players to shoot. Five minutes later we nearly lose ball two over the west stand, but it hits the stanchion of the middle floodlight and bounces back on the pitch.

A poor pass out of defence is intercepted, and suddenly MK have a two on one, they fashion a shot which Corey Addai gets something on, but it trickles past him slowly and agonisingly into the back of the net and it is 1-1.

Crawley go straight up the other end and get a corner, there is a bit of a scramble in the box from it, and the ball is hacked clear off the line, only for it to be put back in and for MK to win it and break and get a corner of their own, followed by a shot on target.

The last five minutes of the half see two misfired shots over the Eden Utilities stand, and another out over the west stand, also from a MK boot. The multi-ball system implemented for this season is keeping the game flowing though compared to previous years where they would have to dig a ball out of a vault somewhere to get things started again. Someone is too efficient at chucking the balls back over the Eden Utilities stand and we end up with multi-ball on the pitch as well. We find out the blokes who sit behind us and slope off to the bar just before half time were responsible for chucking the second of them back over and onto the pitch.

There are only two minutes of added time at the end of the first half. And we think we are through on goal only for the ref to pull it back and penalise Dom Telford for a foul when he was the one thrown to the ground.

The half time whistle goes, and it is 1-1, and the club turn the sprinklers on at the exact moment the officials and the head steward are walking under their trajectory. That gets nearly as big a cheer as when the MK player just fell over his own feet with no one within ten yards of him. It’s good to see (well, hear) there is different music at half time again.

The second half is only two minutes old when Gordon picks up an injury and needs to be substituted. We are having a decent amount of good, patient possession. And one move ends with a Tsaroulla shot being tipped round the post for a corner. From the corner it is played out up the wing, but some neat play sees the ball played through to Orsi and he slots it into the corner to make it 2-1. I start my own chant.

Ay ay ay ay Orsi.

Ay ay ay ay Orsi.

Ay ay ay ay Orsi.

Scoring goals again.

No one else joins in.

Twenty minutes into the half and we get a free kick out on the right-hand side, the ball is whipped in by Wright and Orsi’s header hits the bar, and the follow up shot is blocked.

There is a bit of a lull, but we pick up again a few minutes later with a decent spell of pressure, corner, long throw into the box, another corner. MK then have a bit of pressure, but we break and have another good attack which ends with a shot from Adam Campbell which goes just wide.

I moaned about Bradford being desperate and bringing on a whole county against us as a sub in Derbyshire, but MK went one step further and brought on a whole country when they brought on their sub Holland (yes, I do know the correct name for the country in the Netherlands).

We have a breakaway and Klaidi Lolos looks to shoot but passes it across to Orsi whose shot takes a deflection and is saved.

The crowd is announced as 3,282, with 505 away fans, which is only forty-nine less than at the first home game of the season, which seemed a lot more crowded than this game did. The sponsor’s man of the match was announced as Danili Orsi, which I can’t disagree with. It seems the sponsor’s might actually be watching the games this season. And there are seven minutes of second half added time.

It’s a bit nervy, but we don’t really look like conceding, but when one of the MK players goes down in the penalty area there is a sharp intake of breath, but the ref waves play on.

A long ball comes down with snow on it, but Campbell takes it down brilliantly on the edge of the MK area, and his shot just creeps wide.

The final whistle goes, and it is a 2-1 win. There is a little bit of handbags after the final whistle from one of the MK players, but it calms down soon enough. And there is something else playing apart from the Black Eyed Peas. Expanding horizons and all that.

We knew a win would leapfrog us over our opponents, but it has done more than that. We are up to third in the table, just behind Barrow on goals scored, and two points off the leaders Gillingham who picked up their third 1-0 win of the season, and the second on the trot with a Nadesan goal assisted by Nichols. And we play them at home this coming Saturday. I’m sure not many people would have had that down as a top of the table clash at this point in the season. Crawley are in the automatic promotion places. Who would have thought it.

Come on you reds.

Portsmouth Penalties

Another Tuesday night, another trip to the Broadfield Stadium to see Crawley play. This being the fourth Tuesday on the trot we’ve been here. Last Tuesday saw the great result of beating Premier League Fulham in the Carabao Cup. It also saw five hundred moronic fans invade the pitch, punishment for which we are still waiting for the Football League to impose.

There was a fair bit of press following the victory. A lot of it was fans and managers (of other clubs) talking about how the Carabao Cup isn’t a priority, and that it’s a bit of a Mickey Mouse trophy. Well, if that’s the case then tonight’s game in the Papa Johns’ Trophy might need to be described as the Goofy or Pluto cup, as it’s not even up to being Mickey Mouse.

And it may well be seen as somewhat of a distraction. After the Lord Mayor’s show of beating Fulham came the dog’s breakfast of drawing away at bottom of the table Rochdale on Saturday. We scored just before half time, only to then show why Crawley Town aren’t allowed to own dogs as we failed to hold onto the lead. Plus, Nick Tsaroulla was sent off, and the match stats weren’t pretty reading. It beggars belief how we can beat a Premier League side on Tuesday and only just avoid losing to bottom of the Football League on Saturday with the same players.

Not that I’m expecting to see the same players again tonight for the visit of League One Portsmouth. It would be difficult for Crawley to take this trophy any less seriously than last season where we managed to lose all three group games – 1-6, 0-4, 0-4, to finish rock bottom and with the worst goal difference of any team in any group. But I’m not holding out much hope.

I would love to be wrong, as taken seriously this could be a trophy we could win. League two sides have gotten to the final every year for the last six seasons, and a couple have won it. And if we hadn’t started the league season like an out-of-control dumpster fire then we might have gone for it, but I can’t see it somehow. We only have two points in the league and are only out of the relegation places on goal difference.

Apparently, Portsmouth have sold over a thousand tickets for the game, and from a Crawley Town perspective there seems to be more appetite for the games this season. Well, at least they are opening the whole ground for the game, and not keeping the east stand shut as they did last season. My knees will be happy with the extra couple of inches leg room in our usual seats.

This will be the fourth time we have played Portsmouth in this competition, and the second time at home, and we have lost all three previous games, with the previous game at the Broadfield Stadium finishing 0-1. We have played Portsmouth in the league six times, with just the one victory (in League One in 2012), and one draw (League Two, 2015).

Despite being there in plenty of time there were no programmes left they has all sold out, the seller saying they hadn’t printed very many. Eagle eyed Helen did spot one lying discarded in the stands towards the end of the game. I’m quite glad I didn’t pay for it as there was virtually no content to it. I suppose it minimises the risk of their usual errors.

Portsmouth were playing in a pastel mint green top with black shorts. The away end was full of their fans as expected. The Crawley sides of the ground weren’t as full, with plenty of room for people to move around and change seats or move to the terraces during the game. An opportunity not passed up by a number of fans.

It wasn’t Crawley’s strongest eleven out there, but it wasn’t a complete change in line up from Saturday and the previous Tuesday. Judging by the shirt numbers Portsmouth players were wearing, they were playing a decent strength side as well.

Just six minutes into the game, after giving himself a few seconds thinking time, the referee points to the penalty spot after a foul on James Tilley. And Dom Telford slots away the resulting spot kick for his first competitive Crawley goal, and we lead 1-0.

Portsmouth were having the best of the exchanges after that, and it took until the twenty sixth minute for the first ball to sail out over the West stand from a wayward clearance from their keeper.

We came back into it a bit the longer the half went on, with some decent crosses from the left-wing creating chances that were missed, and then not long before the break a ball over the top is latched onto by James Tilley and he puts it across the six-yard area where David Bremang just fails to steer his lunge for the ball in.

The half time whistle goes with a 1-0 lead for Crawley, and the usual rubbish happens. You will have read this a lot so far this season. The dreadful ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ version starts off the same half time playlist again, and the Crawley players come back on to the pitch a couple of minutes after the opposition.

As the second half kicks off it would appear that we have drafted in a kazoo player to aid the drummer in our stand. Either that or there was a duck hunt going on under the stand. Meanwhile Portsmouth had brought drummer, a trumpet player, and their world-famous bell ringer, plus another instrument I couldn’t make out, like they were bringing a mini orchestra.

A lot of the play in the second half is being dictated by Portsmouth. They seem quicker and are winning more of the second balls. Their battery of half-time substitutions helping. And with about fifteen minutes of normal time left they get a corner which is easily nodded into the net, and we are pegged back to 1-1.

Six minutes later a through ball to a Portsmouth player on the edge of our D, sees him spin the Crawley defender and rifle a shot into the bottom corner and it has completely turned around as they now lead 1-2.

The crowd is announced as being 2,340, with 1,111 away fans. At which point the Portsmouth fans start singing ‘We brought more fans than you!’ It would appear that maths is not their strong point. The sponsors’ man of the match is announced as James Tilley. Not many would argue.

A minute before the end of normal time, a Portsmouth shot is smashed way over the KRL Logistics stand, and that may not have stopped travelling until it got to Cheal’s roundabout.

Six minutes of injury time are put up. There had been a lot of subs and people lying down. Just past halfway through the injury time there is a big cheer as the ref slips over in midfield. A bigger cheer comes about ten seconds later when he is called into action to award Crawley their second penalty of the game. (It has to be said, I would not be unhappy to have this ref again, we’ve got the rub of the green a bit. I’m sure the Portsmouth fans aren’t so enamoured and had been making their feelings clear throughout the second half.) This time David Bremang steps up and hammers the ball into the top corner and it is 2-2.

Which is how it stays at full time. 2-2 and a point apiece. But under Papa Johns’ Trophy rules, in the group stage, drawn games then have a penalty shoot out for a bonus point. I don’t think all the fans knew this, and a lot were leaving before it was announced over the tannoy system what was going on. The penalties were taken at the Eden Utilities stand end, and the terraces there had filled up a lot from how they were during the game as people got close to the penalty taking action.

Portsmouth were first up, and their first penalty was missed well past the left-hand post. 0-0. Jack Powell strolled up to take Crawley’s first penalty and scored. 1-0. Portsmouth scored 1-1. David Bremang scored his second penalty of the night 2-1. Portsmouth scored 2-2. Tony Craig scored our third one 3-2. Portsmouth scored 3-3. Man of the match James Tilley had his penalty saved 3-3. Portsmouth scored 3-4. Ashley Nadesan scored to even things up and send it into sudden death 4-4. Portsmouth scored 4-5. Mazeed Ogungbo scored to keep it going 5-5. Portsmouth have their penalty saved by David Robson 5-5. Rafiq Khaleel scores to make it 6-5 and give Crawley the bonus point.

It gives us a decent chance of going through. The next game in this competition is against AFC Wimbledon, and we can’t possibly play as badly against them as we did earlier this season. They won against the Aston Villa under 21s.

It turns out Al was working the game, not sure where he was hiding for most of it, but he was inspecting the empty terraces of the Eden Utilities stand as we were leaving, only to manage to then be directing the traffic near the roundabout as we crossed over.

And we move on. Another trip to Greater Manchester for the team with Salford City away at the weekend. Let’s hope for more than the trip last weekend to play Rochdale.

Everything is Goulden

Week fifteen of the season saw teams playing their fourteenth games of the season. Very few eyes were on the game in the later slot, of the San Francisco 49ers hosting the Seattle Seahawks.

It was looked upon as a David vs Goliath affair, with the relative newcomers from the Californian backwater (with only the mere five Superbowl titles) not given a hope in hell of beating the extremely historic Washington State powerhouse (with their amazing haul of a single Superbowl title and an ultimate choke job).

The teams had met just a couple of weeks before, where the Seahawks had flown out easy winners in a 173-6 blowout. When asked about the game, one of their fans, an Elisha Starbuck, twenty-one, said it was the best performance she had seen in the thirty-one years she had been watching the Seahawks, and she was expecting much the same in the forthcoming game.

On the first possession it did look as if it might go the same way, the Seahawks flew down the field and got an early touchdown. They were so confident about the result that their kicker deliberately missed the PAT attempt. He’d have been better off deliberately missing the kick-off attempt as the 49ers returned the resulting kick-off ninety-eight yards for a touchdown. It was their first touchdown from a kick-off return in one hundred and twenty-four years (ed. are you sure this is right?)

When asked in the post-match interviews, the 49ers coach Kyle Shanahanahan said that it gave the team confidence that they could score touchdowns from anywhere on the field; which is why they were more than happy for the Seahawks to keep downing punts within the two yard line.

The 49ers were never behind in the game again, eking out another touchdown in the first half, before moving into overdrive with a display of field goal kicking for the ages. All whilst managing to stop the Seahawks from going on their own mega scoring binge as they had just two weeks before.

Shanahanahan spoke about how they had managed this in the post-match interview.

“Well, during the week I had a chat with good old Bobby Baldy our DC, and we came up with a plan to try something new and unheard of in San Francisco – tackling. Granted we think it needs a bit more work as a couple of Seahawks touchdowns showed in the second half, but it wasn’t a bad effort for a first attempt. We might try this new-fangled tackling thing in future games as well.”

The game was astonishing for an unbelievable series of events from the officiating crew, who consistently called penalties against both teams. Yes, even against the Seahawks. For a change it wasn’t just the 49ers shooting themselves in the foot with penalties. The Seahawks were getting called for everything they normally didn’t. They even got called for their speciality trick play of lining up a line-backer directly behind the quarterback at the snap. In total the Seahawks got called for one hundred and fourteen penalties worth a mile and a half in distance.

Billy Bob Microsoft, seventeen, a resident of Bellevue commented after the match. “I’ve been a Seahawks fan for thirty five years now, and a twelfth man for longer than that. This was my first away game. I couldn’t believe we were getting penalties called against us. It never happens at home games. We kept getting called for having twelve men on the field and a five yard penalty. What’s the point of being the twelfth man if we can’t be on the field? It’s a stupid rule.”

Seahawks head coach – Petey Carrollsinger – was so incandescent at this unheard of turn of events he almost swallowed his chewing gum. In the post-match interview he made his feelings clear.

“I couldn’t believe we were getting called for penalties whilst on defence. It has never happened in my thirty-two years here with the team. We never get called for GBH and attempted decapitation normally. I almost swallowed my gum I was so mad about it. What happened to the all the additional money we put in the zebra’s 401k’s. If I had have swallowed my gum then there would have been serious consequences, I can tell you. I’m only two years short of the thirty-seven years I need to break the world record for the longest time spent chewing the same piece of gum. And I don’t leave it on my bedpost overnight like that Lonnie Donegan amateur.”

The game ended up going to overtime after some more excellent tackling from the Bobby Baldy defence. The Seahawks won the toss with the double headed coin they had bunged the referee, but failed to get out of their own half due to some more tackling. The 49ers then managed to cobble together enough forward motion to give their kicker Robbie Goulden the chance to kick his fourth field goal of the game to win it all. Which he did. He really does put the Gould into red and gould.

The commentary boxes were chaos and mayhem. Even Harry Doyle popped up, shouting, “The 49ers win it, the 49ers win it, oh my god the 49ers win it.”

The 49ers move to a season best four wins, and are lining up a run to the 2024 playoffs.

The game also saw the first appearances of the 49ers on NFL Redzone this season that didn’t involve showing a touchdown scored against them. In fact there were relatively long period of screen time for the 49ers, a move which may bring additional fans to the previously little heard of new franchise.

A Hector Palo Alto, eighty-one, was quoted as saying, “I like the look of this new-fangled 49ers team, hopefully they can get a couple of minutes on future redzones instead of us seeing established teams like the Browns, Jags and Texans all the time.

When asked about the screen time the 49ers had got on Redzone this week, the host Scott Mmmbop Hanson said,

“We didn’t really have a lot of choice. There was only one other game in the same window. The one everyone wanted to see with the Patriots playing the Steelers. However beggars can’t be choosers, so we had to keep flicking to the Seahawks – 49ers games to fill in all the breaks in the other game. After all we do advertise ourselves as seven hours of commercial free football. We did try to dilute it with rehashing some highlights from earlier games, but there is a limit to what you can do with that. We are hoping that normal service is resumed next week.”

With two wins on the trot now for the 49ers, they are hoping that this is now normal service and they can wrap up the season with two more wins to match last season’s total to ramp up the false hope for coming seasons.