See You Later Harrogater

Apologies to Bill Haley & His Comets this time around.

Two weeks on from our last home game, the excellent 3-1 win against Accrington Stanley and the Milk Marketing Board, it is back to home league action again today. Since that victory we had one of the longest trips of the season up to Barrow. I didn’t go this season, but we scored nil again, and Barrow won, but only 1-0. And Scott Lindsey was less than happy about the officiating in the build up to the goal, but at least he didn’t have a full Arteta style breakdown about it.

That result saw us drop back to twelfth in the table, a place that sees us two places and a point (and four goal difference) ahead of today’s opponents Harrogate Town who we managed to beat in the same game last season. A repeat of that would be good.

In the meantime, since the last game, I’ve been drawn into watching the Welcome to Wrexham docu-series. Now I’m too tight to pay for Disney+ and wasn’t bothered about it, but the other half has friends with sign on details, and so it’s been on. I am doing other things, writing, and surfing the net, etc. but I’ve been sucked into watching and now I’ve seen the first series, and we are about half a dozen episodes into the second.

It is fascinating viewing. I understand why there are people who denigrate it, calling Wrexham, Hollywood FC, saying they have thrown money at it, and they’ve bought promotion to the league. (Something Crawley were accused of not so long ago as well.) But it shows just how much money is needed to run a club, even in the National League. And of course, some of the people in the series are utter bell ends, but you get that at any club (including our own if we are honest).

But I like what they are trying to do with including the community, and that they went for a club with history to build on. Rob and Ryan may come over as not being overly serious, but they certainly appear to be going about a lot of things in the right way. Perhaps if WAGMI has bought the club eighteen months later than they did, they could have used it as a how to guide.

As a kid I used to look out for Wrexham results, the name was interesting, and there was the solitary Topps football card from the 1976-77 season – Arfon Griffiths, with the unusual colours for the team and player name. it’s strange what you remember.

Speaking of history, Thursday night saw a fundraising and preview event at the ground for the forthcoming exhibition at Crawley Museum of the history of Crawley Town FC. It is being curated by Steve Leake and Mick Fox, and some of the items that will be in the exhibition were on display at the ground.

The map with all the locations of the former grounds is fascinating (to me at least, I love maps), and the finished version is something I’d like a copy of myself.

The exhibition starts on Thursday 7th December and runs through to the end of January, with the family fun day on Sunday 17th December being a day that shouldn’t be missed.

I wander down to the ground straight from writing and it’s a lovely sunny afternoon as I get there. The Harrogate Town team coach brings back memories and the phrase ‘Heavens to Murgatroyd’ means I have a snippet of a song in my head. The phrase is from Snagglepuss, but the clip is from a late eighties house music track, and I can’t for the life of me drag it out of my memory what the track is, and I can’t find it on Google either. It will come to me, probably some time in February.

As soon as the turnstiles opened, I was in, and had a quick chat to Al who was getting himself a cup of tea before starting on the business of stewarding for the day. I really need to remember to bring a cap and sunglasses for these late autumn and winter games when the sun is out. I’m happy to sit in the sun warming up as much as possible like a lizard, because out of the sun it is freezing. It did look like the sun was shining out of the terrace’s arse.

Grant, who sits behind us, has his son Finn as one of the mascots for the day, and looks like he is having the time of his life running around on the pitch before the game.

Harrogate Town were in an all bright blue kit, so back to the table football classic of red versus blue for the day. Crawley have the better of early exchanges, but Harrogate get the first shot on target, which is saved for a corner, and Luca Ashby-Hammond is called into action a few times in the first twenty minutes of the game.

And then, almost out of nothing the ball is played to Ben Gladwin in the middle of the park about thirty yards from goal. He has a touch to steady the ball and then lets a grass cutter of shot fly and it rolls straight into the bottom corner of the net and we lead 1-0.

A minute late Harrogate have the ball in the net, but the offside flag was up well before it was, and most players have stopped playing before the shot is taken. We go straight back up the other end and a Kellen Gordon cross is headed by Danilo Orsi, and he just fails to add to his season’s goal tally as he hits the post, and it comes out and is cleared.

Just as we are getting some momentum Jay Williams is injured and needs treatment on the pitch, and no sooner does he get off the pitch then a Harrogate player goes down and needs treatment themselves, before being substituted.

Thirty minutes or so in and we lose ball one of the day as a wayward Harrogate shot flies over the Eden Utilities terrace and probably ended up in the five a side court. From the restart Williams gives away a free kick on the edge of the area. The attempt hits the wall and the follow up shot goes wide.

There are seven minutes of time added on, mainly due to the injuries. We get a couple of corners and some decent pressure only for a Liam Kelly shot to poleaxe a Harrogate defender and we lose momentum again.

Harrogate get a corner late on, which Crawley gave away quite easily thinking it was going to be a goal kick when they could have easily got to the ball and prevented it going over the line. The corner comes in and the Harrogate player jumps at least two foot above anyone else and nods it in to make it 1-1 just before the half time whistle goes. There was some joking preseason about us signing Billy the Fish, but it looks as if Harrogate must have signed him up with that kind of leap.

In the second half it is Harrogate who start better, and they have some early chances, but ball two is chipped out over the bar and over the top of the KRL Logistics stand. It’s turning into a bitty game and Harrogate have resorted to throwing themselves to the ground to try and win free kicks and get our players booked. The most blatant being their number 24, who seconds after Williams is booked, he’s grappling with him and throws himself to the floor claiming Williams has done it in an attempt to get him a second booking. It’s good when 24 finally gets a booking for falling over and moaning at the ref about not getting free kicks.

At the other end Nick Tsaroulla beats a player on the way into the box, and there appears to be contact and then goes down, but the ref waves away penalty shouts, but doesn’t seem interested in a booking for diving either. Strange all round.

And finally for the second half there is a bit of quality down the right-hand side and Ade Adeyemo crosses it, the ball comes all the way over and Tsaroulla’s shot is well saved at the near post. This leads to some concerted pressure and another corner is swung in and Klaidi Lolos rises and heads in to give us the lead again. 2-1.

It’s a bit nervy, and Ashby-Hammond is forced into a couple of decent saves. At the other end Orsi is denied again by a decent save from the Harrogate keeper. There are four added minutes at the end of the game which Crawley see out and they take a 2-1 victory.

The crowd was announced as being 2,829 with there being 93 away fans huddled together for warmth in the away terrace. And the sponsor’s man of the match was named as being Liam Kelly.

The win only improved our league position by one place to eleventh, but only two points off the playoff places. And a win will make the post-match curry at the Downsman taste better.

The next game is away at Notts County on Tuesday night, and some better defending than in the FA Cup game could see us come away with something from that one before a return to home action in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy a week on Monday.

Come on you reds.

Our Milkshake Brings All The Points To The Yard

Kelis is the one getting apologies this week.

Hot on the heels of a Tuesday night victory against the Aston Villa under 21s in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy, it is back to league action today, seven weeks after my last league game, the great 3-0 win over Sutton United, our last league clean sheet.

We are playing Accrington Stanley. Who? Exactly. I hated that advert, but mainly due to hating the stupid accent used, plus I never drank milk at that age, it was only ever used for pouring over cereals. I was going to dredge up some Accrington Stanley history, but Mick Fox has done a much better job in his latest CTFC history blog published by the CTSA.

Going into the game Accrington Stanley are five points and seven places above us in the league two table, but we do have a game in hand on them. They currently occupy the last playoff spot and have been on a decent run of form in the league, which is more than can be said for us.

They were relegated from League One last season, but we did play them last season, pretty much a year ago this week as we had them as opponents in the FA Cup first round last year. That didn’t end well, as it was one of our most lacklustre performances of the season that was a damp squib more than any sparkling display on bonfire night.

It feels good to be back into the Saturday match day routine. I had writing group at the library in the morning, got to the ground nice and early, had a poke around in the shop, went to get a programme (still not happy about that not really being the case anymore), said hello to Al, bag check, and then settled myself down in my usual east marquee seat waiting for Helen to arrive, and with the joy of the post-match curry to consume at The Downsman. Although stopping to get some fresh sugar ring doughnuts sounds (and tastes) like something that could easily be come tradition. Yum Yum.

Last time I was at a league game, Reggie the Red’s wasn’t there, and the time before that his head looked worse for wear with an ear hanging off. But he was there today, and they have fixed the ear issue. By removing them completely.

Pregame the Last Post was blown, with veterans and army cadets on the pitch and two minutes silence, which was a bit confused as it was blown for, then the horn was blown some more, and there was clapping, but all in all it was well observed.

Accrington Stanley were in an imitation Argentina kit with pale blue and white striped shirts, and we were hoping they weren’t going to play like them. There didn’t look to be many Stanleys in the away terrace, and it looked as if those who had made the journey down from deepest darkest Lancashire weren’t friendly with any fans who hadn’t come down in the same car as them, as they were stretched out across the whole terrace.

After all the rigamarole of remembrance day, Stanley enforced the change of end before kick-off and it flummoxed us as within two minutes, they had waltzed down the right wing, passed the ball into the box and a shot went straight through Luca Ashby-Hammond’s legs and it was 1-0 to Stanley. Not the start wanted or needed.

And there was more early pressure from Stanley, a couple of corners, and a bit of danger before we had a bit of settled possession, from which Klaidi Lolos played the ball through to Danilo Orsi who slotted it in, and it is 1-1 within ten minutes. Ay ay ay ay Orsi indeed.

There were some good chances at either end, but it is very bitty. There are a lot of niggly fouls and general moaning from Stanley. Just before the half hour mark a wayward Stanley shot goes way over the KRL Logistics stand. It looked as if it would have cleared the car park as well.

We are living dangerously at the back again, and we nearly fumble it into the goal. And shortly after a free header in the box from Stanley’s scorer goes over, only for the offside flag to belatedly go up.

There are four added minutes at the end of the first half and Stanley have the ball in the net, but the flag goes up for offside to save us again, but it was far too easy though. And the first half finishes 1-1.

The start of the second half is the polar opposite from the start of the first half. We get a free kick on the right side of the penalty area, which is cleared out on the left. A throw is worked back up the field and passed to Will Wright in the middle of the pitch. He turns and runs ten yards before unleashing a shot from about twenty-five yards out which arrows into the bottom corner and we lead 2-1.

And we nearly have another straight from the kick off, as a cross from the right-wing pings off a Stanley defender and hits the keeper in the middle of the goal and it is cleared away. There are some afters after the ball is cleared which ends up with Lolos picking up a booking after the Stanley keeper was on the ground.

There is quite a bit of pressure from Stanley and there are some good saves from Ashby-Hammond, and another off the ball incident that leaves one of our players down in our box, which miraculously the officials didn’t seem to see and there is no further action. And the next shot from Stanley flies over the Eden Utilities stand for missing ball number two of the day.

Crawley head up the other end and the ball is played through and Orsi is past the last defender who is pulling at Orsi for about twenty yards before he finally drags him down in the area and we are given a penalty, and the Stanley defender sees a red card. Orsi steps up to take the penalty himself and buries it for his second of the day and to extend our lead to 3-1.

Again, straight from the kick off we are away again down the left wing, the ball comes across and Kellen Gordon’s shot hits the side netting.

The man advantage is showing, as is the rise in Stanley’s frustration and pushing and shoving is breaking out all over the pitch. And the tackles flying in from Stanley are getting dirtier. Just before the end of normal time ball three is hoofed over the west stand by the Stanley keeper. They bring on a sub with the surname of Gubbins, whose first involvement is to be the latest dirty Stanley player to kick a Crawley player. Definitely a case of by name and nature.

There are nine minutes of added time, and for a change the lead feels comfortable, and the best action is Gordon driving down the right wing and his cross is just inches from Orsi’s head and a chance for him to get his hat trick.

The full-time whistle goes, and it is a 3-1 win for Crawley. It sees us climb back up into the top half of the table as we finish the day eleventh.

Stanley may have come dressed as Argentina, but after the second minute they didn’t play the kind of free-flowing world cup winning football. But they were certainly the match for them when it came to moaning, cheating, and being dirty fouling bastards. They were lucky to still have ten men on the pitch at the end, they could easily have had more sent off if the ref wasn’t so weak.

The next game is away at Barrow. I’m not going to be making the trip up there this year for that one, but let’s keep this new winning run going.

Come on you reds.

Ullo John, Got A New (Bristol Street) Motor?

Apologies this time around to Alexei Sayle and his shaped picture disc novelty single from 1982.
After missing the whole of October it’d good to be back at a game, even if it is only an EFL Trophy game against one of the Under 21 sides. Since I was last at a game the form hasn’t been good. After the impressive performance in the 3–0 win against Sutton United at the end of September, there was an away loss midweek to Doncaster Rovers. Then I missed the home game and narrow 1–0 defeat to Wrexham, and the away draw/penalty loss to Sutton in the EFL Trophy due to a family birthday gathering in Warwickshire. I was due to go to Morecambe away, slotting in a family visit to my mum, but the game was postponed due to their international call ups. Then I got Covid and missed the home game 4–2 loss against Crewe Alexandra. Watched the Walsall 1–1 midweek draw and 2–1 loss away to Forest Green Rovers through the lens of a time delayed BBC page. I was due to be in Leicester last weekend, which would have been ideal for a quick nip over to Nottingham for the Notts County FA Cup thriller (even if it were a 3–2) loss, but didn’t end up going to Leicester as still not fully post Covid fit. Oh, and there was a Sussex Senior Cup debacle away at Worthing to add in there somewhere as well.
And pretty much all of that has happened whilst speculation of Scott Lindsey moving on to his hometown club of Gillingham has been going on. Which must have been unsettling for the squad. But he is still with us as Gillingham (finally) announced Stephen Clemence as manager. And it appears we have also lost ellywelly16 off the forum as a deleted user. For which I am grateful as no one needs that much sneering, condescending, “I’m a friend, but not an insider”, “I know better than any of you”, line of chat.
So, it is a phased return to live action for me tonight and the final EDL Trophy group stage game against Aston Villa U21s. A game where avoiding a straight loss (a penalty loss will give us the point needed) will be enough to see us progress to the knockout stages for the first time since the 2016–17 season (the first one where the stupid under 21s sides were added to the competition and there was a group stage) where we finished second in the group and then lost to eventual winners Coventry City in the second round. We played the same under 21 side in our group last season and ran out 5–2 winners. You do wonder what having the under 21s in the competition gives it apart from playing time for overly rich clubs’ academy players, as they don’t seem to take the competition seriously either. Only one U21 side has made it as far as the Semi Finals.
Even the FA don’t seem to take the competition seriously. Until I looked it up, I had no idea that the sponsors for this year’s competition (and the next two years) is Bristol Street Motors. Adding their name to an illustrious list of former sponsors and names; Football League Group Cup, Associate Members Cup, Freight Rover, Sherpa Van, Leyland DAF, Autoglass, Auto Windshields, LDV Vans, Johnstone’s Paint, Checkatrade,, and Papa Johns. I suppose it’s going back to the tradition of car and van related sponsors the competition had for the first twenty odd years.
Unlike for the games last season, the east marquee isn’t open for the EFL Trophy games this year, and so it is a forced migration into the west stand. On Sunday night there were five of us going to the game (including a Villa fan), but by Tuesday morning it is down to two, only for it to go to just me so it was going to look as if I smell with an exclusion zone around me. But I thought it would help with the pathetic legroom in the west stand. Then in the last hour before the kick off I managed to find people who wanted two tickets, and as I was dropping them off in Redz Bar, I bumped into Grant who sits behind us in the east marquee at normal games and he hadn’t got tickets yet so the other two spares were used as well.
I got the tickets online and downloaded the pdf. Under the barcode it says not to fold where the barcode is. Of course, when you print the pdf off, the bar code is exactly halfway down the page where you would fold a sheet of A4 in half. You couldn’t make this shit up.
Very nearly as close to the halfway line as our usual seats, but a bit higher up, which means you just see the whole pitch over the top of the dug outs, but as the stand is steeper there is nowhere for feet to go in front of me, and being packed in, my knees are gone to hell by half time.
The Aston Villa under 21s are in a strip of white shirts and socks and pale blue shorts, and their fans are all seated in the corner block of the east marquee, with the usual away terracing being out of bounds. There again the rest of the east marquee is supposed to be as well, but there were four randoms sat in block C of there unmolested.
It only took three minutes before a ball was hoofed out over the Eden Utilities stand by Crawley for a corner. But it was the only ball to disappear for the whole game.
Seven minutes in and on our first proper attack, there is some nice play in and around the box and the ball comes to Jack Roles who calmly curls it over the keeper and into the net to make it 1–0 to Crawley.
And seven minutes later it got better. There had been a bit of Villa pressure, but Crawley broke quickly down the left-hand side and the ball was crossed in and Kamarai Swyer was on hand to bundle it into the corner of the net for a 2–0 lead. All good stuff.
The game went back and forth, and there had been decent chances at both ends and Corey Addai had made a couple of decent saves. With less than five minutes to half time Villa play a ball through into the box and Addai sells himself a bit and the ball is taken past him and slotted in to make it 2–1.
There were four added minutes at the end of the first half, and in that time, Crawley had a decent breakaway, but after a great through ball the shot ended up going over the bar and into the empty KRL Logistics stand.
After a decent stretch of the legs to get the circulation back at half time, the second half started with Villa on the front foot. An early corner had pinged about in the box and caused chaos and was only just hacked away for a corner. The next corner appeared to be cleared only for the ball to come back in and a Villa player calmly lobbed it over Addai and into the net to make it 2–2.
It was very nearly a lot worse straight after the kick off. A long punt from the keeper was allowed to bounce and the Villa striker was clear, but we were fortunate that the ball just ran through to Addai before they could get to it.
But we calmed down a bit and on fifty-four minutes there was some great quick passing forward and a nice one-two on the edge of the Villa box saw Roles one on one with the keeper and he calmly slotted the ball home to restore the Crawley lead and make it 3–2.
As the half progressed, I put my gloves on. Not because my fingers were particularly cold, but mainly to stop me biting my fingernails. We were really living on the edge at times with the passing the ball around at the back and were lucky on numerous occasions not to get intercepted with a Villa player bearing down on goal. It was a relief to get a breakaway and a corner, even if the corner was wasted.
After a lot of Villa pressure, we got two really good chances in succession. First Swyer was bearing down on goal having beat the last defender, but tried to take it round the keeper when a shot would have been a much better option. And then straight after the ball fell to Roles about thirty yards out with the keeper well off his line, but the attempted shot from distance to complete his hat trick went wide.
There were three added minutes for me to bite the tips of my gloves’ fingers before the full-time whistle went and a 3–2 victory was confirmed. It means that we finished top of our group and have progressed to the second round of the competition.
The crowd was announced as being 865 with 99 problems, sorry Villa fans tucked away in the corner. I’m quite impressed with that. Villa are the northernmost team in the southern section (and have played in the northern section in some years, harking back to the days when there was Division 3 North and South and teams like Walsall and Coventry ended up playing in both), but they brought 99 fans to a reasonably long away trip on a Tuesday night to watch under 21s in a third rate competition. I don’t think that’s bad going. The sponsor’s man of the match was announced as being Jack Roles for his two goals.
Being sat in the west stand, and there being a much smaller crowd than usual I could hear Scott Lindsey chuntering away at the team for the whole match. Lot’s of encouragement being shouted. Something missed sat in the east marquee with a fuller stadium. Plus I could see the whole of the scoreboard from my seat, not just thirty five percent as usual, but even with my glasses on it was still hard to make out the white on red lights.
And so, it is back into home league action on Saturday with the visit of Accrington. With the winless run at an end, let’s hope we can start a new winning one.
Come on you reds.

Digging Into History

With various issues, holidays, family gatherings, postponements, COVID, etc. it has been over a month since I’ve managed to get to a Crawley game, and there has only been one game for me in the last two months and more. With no match reports to do I’ve been looking for something else to write about instead.

As most people will know, I haven’t been a lifelong Crawley Town fan. I started supporting them at the start of the 2021-22 season, going all in and getting a season ticket. As such I am a baby and only in my third season of support, having been a lifelong Spurs supporter finally calling it quits with them (and all Premier League / Champions League) with the European Super League debacle being the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I moved to Crawley in May 2006 due to my job moving. And if I am honest, I hadn’t heard of Crawley Town FC until I moved here. And even then, it was all vague, mainly bits and pieces seen from picking up local papers, and seemingly some kind of points deduction every season.

I wasn’t here when they were at Town Meadow, and I wasn’t even aware that had been anything but the leisure park. Plus, I wasn’t really here mentally when they were still in non-league, and even early league seasons. My teetotalism started within a few weeks of the start of the 2012-22 season.

But I’m interested in history. Of anything and everything. And since COVID first hit I’ve spent a lot of time delving into Crawley history.

And so, when there were a box load of old programmes up for grabs on the forum, I threw my hat into the ring to get them. And after the initial responder didn’t follow through on picking them up, I ended up getting my hands on them. There are a lot to work through and most of them are pre-Conference / National League, but the one that really caught my eye was this one.

There were two copies of this Devil’s Trust Launch programme. For a game of CTFC Legends vs Nomad Online being played at Oakwood FC on Sunday 15th October 2006. A couple of months into that first season I lived in Crawley. And something that at the time I would have been oblivious to. It would be highly likely I would only just be surfacing after a heavy night out at Brannigans or Bar Med, or possibly be in a pub awaiting a Premier League kick off.

Looking in the programme I saw that the initial meeting where the trust was set up was on the 9th of May, which was the day I signed my rental agreement to move into a flat in Crawley.

Reading through it I see a couple of names I recognise from the supporter’s side of the club nowadays (Steve Leake, Ian Mulcahy) who were involved in setting the trust up, but I don’t recognise most of them, but I’m sure longer-term fans would.

Three of the four full page adverts are for companies what I hadn’t heard of, but having a look online they are all still going, even if they are at different addresses now.

The one place I had heard of – The Rose And Crown – is no longer a pub, and one I never managed to get to whilst it was still open. A shame as the Ska evening would have been something right up my street. I didn’t know about the place until years later when it was already a cash and carry. Places outside of a quadrangle with Three Bridges station, The Ramada, Tushmore Roundabout, and the Taj Mahal as its corners, didn’t get a look in, that was the extent of the first three alcoholic years of my Crawley existence.

The Nomad Online concept interested me. Connecting old Sussex non-league players online to play in charity games. Almost as if it were a localised forerunner of the much talked about (last season) Sidemen piece.

Unfortunately, neither the Devil’s Trust (CTSA now?) nor Nomad Online survive today in the same form, and both of their websites are now repointed to domain name sale sites.

I did actually go to a Crawley Town game in that 2006-07 season, but had forgotten all about it. I moved to Crawley from Manchester when work changed. Others from my old office didn’t move, and one of my former colleagues in Manchester was a Southport season ticket holder, and he was down in Crawley for the game in the Conference. There were a lot of drinks before the game following on from a heavy Friday night out, and so I remember little from the game. The most vivid memory is of Howard slamming my fingers in the door of the car we’d got a lift to the Broadfield Stadium in. There were about thirty of us stood / wandering behind the goal in the away terrace, and there was no east marquee then. The game seemed to go very quickly, and I couldn’t remember the score.

So, I looked the game up as to when it was and what the score was. 20th of January 2007 and Crawley won 2-1. This got me searching through the box of programmes hoping that this game would be one of the programmes in the box I’d picked up. But 2006-07 was the season after the programmes ran to. I did get excited when I saw one for a Crawley against Southport game in 2006, but it was the season before I moved to Crawley.

Having found this one, it got me thinking about which other Crawley Town games I’d been to before becoming a fan. At the same time there was a thread on the forum about best / most memorable game people had been to. Most games mentioned were from the non-league days, and well before my time.

As it turns out I’d been to six other games at the Broadfield Stadium before becoming a season ticket holder for the 2021-22 season. The first two were pre-season friendlies in 2008 and 2009 against Tottenham XI’s when I was in the away terraces again. Both of those games ended up as easy wins for Crawley (6-1, and 4-1 respectively). Then there were three games where I got free tickets as a friend of the referee.

One of my colleagues on a project at work was a league referee, and usually did northern games, but when working in Crawley midweek he’d get local games to do, and I’d happily go and watch anything really, but he got three Crawley games, which were a 1-0 extra time win over Ipswich Town in whatever the League Cup was called in the 2014-15 season. A 2016 Easter Monday game loss against Exeter City, and a September 2016 Tuesday night draw against Colchester.

Finally, there was a random sunny April afternoon game against Notts County just before they were relegated. The game finished 1-1 and pretty much sealed their fate. It was also the first time I’d noticed the chanting, and most of the home crowd’s ire was directed at Robert Milsom, something which hasn’t mellowed now that he’s at Sutton.

That was more live games than I went to at Spurs over the same period. And I always enjoyed being at the Crawley games, so when I threw my toys out of the Tottenham pram, it didn’t take me long to decide to become a Crawley fan. It’s still enjoyable but being more committed to it my fingernails aren’t as keen on the shredding they get nowadays.

Come on you reds.

Not Mellow Yellows

Quite rightly, apologies to Donovan, who would be turning in his grave, if he were dead, as Sutton are anything but mellow.

It all kicked off, both figuratively and literally, the moment we left the country. Dom Telford went from being rumoured to be leaving to having signed for Barrow in about twenty seconds of Facebook scrolling. The final image of him is one of another terrible penalty attempt (though not as bad as his scooped effort against Tranmere last season). And two other players went out on loan.

We did sign Lawrence Maguire, Harry’s brother, whose wiki page had been put together by the work experience tea bag. It had Chesterfield (who we signed him from) as being League 1, and not National League, and that he had scored twenty-two own goals in seventy-six appearances, which would make Jonah sound like an able seaman.

The following day came a trip to Swindon Town, of whom we have a contingent of exes from. It didn’t go well. A second half capitulation saw a 6-0 defeat, a plummet down the league table, and a big negative to our goal difference.

Next up were Stockport County, one of the pre-season favourites for promotion, and there were six more goals scored in that one. At 2-0 down in the first half it looked like it was going to be another difficult day, but Crawley turned it around and were leading 3-2 only to concede an 89th minute equaliser. Which was a big disappointment, but a point away at Stockport before the game would have seen your hand snatched off.

Then it was into the EFL trophy, and a much-changed side to face League One Charlton Athletic’s much changed side, and the goal tally went up in this one. A seven-goal thriller which went back and forth but ended up with a 4-3 win for Crawley.

Back to the league, next up were Newport, who were going well in the league. A fifth minute opener for us had a tenth minute equaliser for them. But three second half goals saw a 4-1 win for Crawley, a climb back up into the top half of the table and leapfrogging Newport in the process, and some of that goal difference clawed back.

Another week flew by, and it was another home game, this time against Tranmere Rovers. Despite lots of possession, there were no shots until late in the first half and we were trailing 1-0 at half time. We got an equaliser only for a group of morons in the south terrace to throw smoke flares and loads of cans and bottles at the Tranmere keeper, the game wasn’t far off being abandoned, but there will be a fine incoming. Momentum was lost and Tranmere retook the lead a few minutes later, only for Crawley to equalise for a second time a couple of minutes after that, and then for Klaidi Lolos to get a 96th minute winner in another five-goal thriller.

An away game at Cleethorpes against Grimsby followed. And it was another five-goal thriller, with us going two down only to be level before half time and for it to be Danilo Orsi with the 96th minute winner to bump us up to fourth in the table and get our goal difference out of the negative.

And so, the last Saturday in September rolls around and it is a home game against Sutton United, who stopped their seven-game losing streak with a draw last weekend, and they sit bottom of the table after nine games. Since Sutton were promoted, we have played them four times and lost the lot. Here’s hoping we can break that sequence.

Speaking of sequences, since our last game before being out of the country for a month there have been 6, 6, 7, 5, 5, and 5 goals scored in our games. Let’s also hope that carries on, and in our favour.

The Thursday before the game saw an announcement that bag and person checks were being toughened up. No rucksacks and only bags up to A4 size and carrier bags allowed. I can understand why it is being done, but having the announcement on the website only is a disgrace. What’s the point of giving the club our e-mail addresses on the season ticket application if they don’t use them. Lots will have been caught out by it.

As it was, I was caught out by changes in the check policy, and it was a change that wasn’t included in the online statement (again poor communication). No canned soft drinks allowed in anymore, and PET bottles are only allowed in if you leave the lid behind. Which I misunderstood as not being able to bring the bottle in at all and was therefore attempting to chug my Pepsi before security intervened and said the bottle is fine as long as they have the lid.

We had a couple of extra people with us as Helen’s sister and brother-in-law are over from Australia and have come to the game.

Sutton were in all white, not their yellow kits (so no yellow to be mellow anyway), and the tossers enforced a change of end before kick-off.

Crawley were having some nice early pressure and it paid as after five minutes the ball was worked across the edge of the box and Adam Campbell sweeps it into the corner to make it 1-0. Which prompted at least one if not two red smoke flares from the fucking halfwits in the terrace.

Our good play continued pretty much until we lost ball one over the Eden Utilities Stand for a corner from a Sutton clearance. From then on, the rest of the half wasn’t great. A few minutes late a Sutton corner was headed goalwards and turned in by one of their players, who thankfully was in an offside position.

There was a big penalty shout a couple of minutes later, but that was mainly from the Sutton fans behind the goal. More Sutton pressure followed, and more corners, Crawley just couldn’t seem to get out of their own half. It was looking like giants against men when Liam Kelly, Campbell, and Nick Tsaroulla were close together and next to some of the Sutton HGH experiments. The ball was bundled into the net for a second time by Sutton from another corner. Only for us to be saved for the second time by the linesman raising their flag. There were no deep guttural shouts of ‘lino’ from three rows in front of us this game.

Only one minute was added at the end of the first half, and I was glad for the half time whistle and the release of the pressure, and we go into the break with a 1-0 lead.

The second half was barely underway when the Sutton keeper managed to injure themselves taking a kick and had to be substituted. And pretty much straight from the restart Crawley win a free kick on the left wing, the ball is flicked goalwards, and the Sutton keeper makes a good save, but it comes out to the right of the area and Ronan Darcy crosses it back in and Laurence Maguire slams it in to give us a 2-0 lead.

Sutton have a chance almost straight from their kick-off, but Corey Addai makes a good save. But on the whole Crawley are now on top. And twenty minutes into the second half, there is clever work down the right-hand side and Kelly plays a through ball to Darcy who crossed it, and Ay Ay Ay Ay Orsi was there to be scoring goals again and it is now 3-0.

And not long after Orsi was involved again, this time by hoofing ball number two out of the ground over the east marquee. By now Sutton had reverted to type and were spending more time kicking Crawley players than the ball, and after another attempted leg break led to a booking, Dion Conroy takes a free kick from just inside his own side of the centre circle. He’s spotted the Sutton keeper off his line and the shot just drops and skims the back of the crossbar and ripples the net. It looked suspiciously like it should have been a corner as well.

There is a flurry of subs as we take key players off with one eye on our Tuesday night game away to Doncaster. It doesn’t detract from our good play, if anything we seem to be playing better than at any point in the game, lots of passes, plenty of shots, and more corners. There is a breakaway after a rare excursion into our half by Sutton and Rafiq Khaleel lets fly with a shot that is tipped onto the post and away for a corner.

Unfortunately, Khaleel’s next attempt wasn’t quite as accurate as it flies over the KRL Logistics stand to lose ball three of the day.

The crowd is announced as being 3,559 with 456 away fans, the sponsor’s man of the match is announced as Liam Kelly just after he picked up a booking, and the officials put up seven minutes of added time.

It is probably the most comfortable seven minutes of added time I’ve experienced since becoming a season ticket holder, we didn’t look in danger of conceding possession let alone a goal, and the final whistle goes to signal a 3-0 victory.

A win that takes us up to the dizzy heights of second in the table, off the top by virtue of goal difference only.

I’m happy that the return to watching live action hasn’t stopped the winning streak, even if the goal count in the game was lower than when I was away. The next game is Tuesday night away against another of the division’s strugglers, Doncaster Rovers. I’m going to miss another home game next Saturday as there is a family get together and so we will miss the visit of Hollywood FC. Morecambe away might get postponed due to international call ups as their last game in an international break was. So, it’s likely my next game will be in three weeks’ time against Crewe.

Come on you reds.

Gilly Don’t Be A Hero

I don’t know whether to apologise to Paper Lace for mangling their song title, or to anyone I’ve given flashbacks to of that dreadful song.

Before I start on this game, an apology to our favourite steward Al, who we chatted to after the last game, but I forgot to mention.

So, after the great win on Tuesday night against top of the table MK Dons which saw us jump up to third in the league, we fast forward to today and our game against the latest top of the table team. Which this time is Gillingham. Yes, that Gillingham, the ones who for the first half of last season were the worst team in the division, even worse than we were.

Only for them to pick up; 1 – some of our players, 2 – a new American owner who seemed to know what they were doing, and 3 – a load of points which saw them move off the bottom of the table and drift up to a place of safety quite a few games before we became safe ourselves.

Our home game against them last season was originally due to be played in September but was postponed when the Queen popped her clogs. The rearranged game took place on a Tuesday night in November. That game finished 0-0, and if it wasn’t the single worst game of football I’ve ever watched, then it was certainly in the top two. The two teams that night could still have been playing today and they wouldn’t have scored.

The away game in February saw us lose 1-0, but it also saw us take a massive away support to Gillingham, a crowd I believe that was our biggest ever away support for a league game.

And Gillingham have been 1-0-win specialists of late. Their last four league games have all finished as 1-0 wins to them, and they are the only team with a 100% record in League Two, and the only team yet to concede a goal in the division. They did concede a goal in the Carabao Cup, but they did win that game against Championship side Southampton. There last two 1-0 victories have been clinched courtesy of Ashley Nadesan goals, assisted by Tom Nichols. Those two names seem vaguely familiar to me. Does anyone else recognise them?

It looks to be a nice sunny day out there as we head down to the ground, nice and early so I can get a programme. (No, sorry, I just can’t let this go yet.) Stopping to get decent soft drinks on the way as the club has now switched to the evil empire of Coke, they sell nothing that is drinkable. Take the usual pitch shot for this piece and settle down ready for the game and see which randoms we have sat next to us for this game.

The away end was packed by the early time I got there, and the Gillingham fans were making lots of noise, I could hear them from halfway down Wakehurst Drive when walking in. The Redz Bar and Fan Zone areas were packed. I had noticed the ice cream van previously, but not the fresh donuts van. Both were difficult to resist today, and I’m sure temptation will get the better of me before long. Spoke to Al on the way in this week as well as after the game. (There you go mate, two mentions.) there were a surprisingly large amount of people wandering around in Arsenal and Chelsea kits.

Speaking of kit, Gillingham where in white shirts, with black arms, and black vertical stripes that faded towards the bottom, black shorts, and black socks. Almost as if they had bought a job lot of Newcastle shirts that had started to fade in the wash.

Nice early shot from Danilo Orsi on target, and an early booking for a Gillingham defender a couple of minutes later for going through the back of Orsi. From the resulting free kick, we win a corner, and then another, before Orsi puts an effort wide at the far post.

Up the other end and ball one disappears out in the corner between the east marquee and the food stand from a Will Wright clearance.

We build up some good pressure down the left-hand side and there are a couple of shots that are blocked, and then a ball played through hits a Gillingham defender’s arm, and we get a penalty. Someone behind me shouts ‘don’t stutter step,’ but Don Telford does, and his tame effort is easily saved, as is Orsi’s follow up shot.

Straight after more decent work sees the ball back in the box and a shot is saved for another corner. Later on, a Wright cross is headed over for a corner, and it ends up over the KRL Logistics stand for ball two gone. And a minute later ball three disappears over the east marquee from a Gillingham hoofed clearance.

Five minutes before the end of the half and a long thrown from Gillingham is headed back out, but a couple of neat passes see the ball crossed in, and it hits Harry Ransom and trickles in to give Gillingham a 1-0 lead against the run of play.

This seems to rattle Crawley a bit and there are quite a few misplaced passes before the half time whistle, which comes after two minutes of added time, and the teams go in with the score as 0-1. It sounds like last season’s half time playlist is back, but it is saved by some Stone Roses before the teams come out for the second half.

It’s a slower start than in the first half, but the first chance is set up as Telford plays a ball through to Orsi whose shot is saved. Another chance a couple of minutes later is dragged just wide of the far post.

Further into the half and ball four goes over the Eden Utilities stand from a headed clearance and we get a corner from which Ransom’s header is cleared. At the other end, a Gillingham shot is saved by Corey Addai for a corner. From which there is all kinds of chaos, and poor defensive headers before a shot is tipped onto the bar by Addai before an offside flag goes up and relieves the pressure.

Back up the other end good play from Nick Tsaroulla sees the ball come out to Wright, but his shot is high, wide, and ugly and ball five disappears over the Eden Utilities stand. There looked a good shout for a possible penalty. free kick on the edge of the area as Tsaroulla is dragged down but the ref waves it away.

There is lots of good possession, with no real end product. A ball played through by Aaron Henry nearly wrong foots everyone but sneaks just past the post. Gillingham make a whole set of substitutions, including taking both former Crawley strikers off.

Tsaroulla is dragged down again, but further away from the box and the ref feels it is safe to give a free kick for this one. But it is wasted. The ball comes back in, and a Ransom shot deflects off a Gillingham defender and flies over the Eden Utilities stand for ball six of the day. Klaidi Lolos then has a shot from outside the area that is well saved for another corner, which is wasted again.

Four added minutes are indicated, and the crowd is announced as 4,310 with 1,356 away fans, and Ronan Darcy is given the sponsor’s man of the match. By now the quality has gone off a bit and it peters out to finish as a 0-1 loss, Gillingham stretch their 1-0 league win sequence to five games and stay top of the league, and we slip to our first defeat of the season, and down to eighth in the league. An own goal and a penalty miss decide what could easily have been a result the other way, especially looking at the match stats.

The last couple of minutes Darcy and the Gillingham number 17 were having a heated argument all over the pitch, and after the final whistle there was a bit of a melee in the middle of the pitch. Something obviously said something to Addai as he was steaming mad, and if his haymaker had connected there might have been a decapitated Gillingham player dead on the pitch. There were two bookings, but only to Crawley players (Darcy and Addai), and no punishment for any Gillingham players who were throwing punches of their own.

There will be a bit of a gap until my next blog piece. We are away a lot over the next six weeks (I know, piss poor planning and all that), and so I’m going to miss four of our next five home games, only getting to the Sutton game, and missing the mickey mouse cup game against Charlton, and the league games against Newport, Tranmere, and Hollywood FC. So, see you in five weeks’ time.

Come on you reds.

I Could Have Been The Bantamweight Champion Of The World

Apologies to Reverend And The Makers of course, and in reality, I could never have been a bantamweight, as the only time I was ever that weight I was far too young to be boxing professionally.

Here it is, the new season is here. It is the first time our first league game of the season has been at home for exactly six years since the 5th of August 2017. Since then, our first game has been away, at Cheltenham, Carlisle, Port Vale, Hartlepool, and Carlise again, and we lost all of those apart from the Cheltenham game.

We are playing Bradford City (hence the bantamweight reference). Our two games against Bradford last season were both draws. 1-1 away in October in the midst of a five-game unbeaten run, our equal longest run of such of the season. Then on Good Friday it was 0-0 at home, just after our other five game unbeaten streak, but sandwiched between 4-1 and 4-0 away whuppings at Mansfield and Barrow. Apart from scraping a draw against the promotion chasing Bradford team, the biggest surprise of the day was it took until the eighty-seventh minute for one of them to get sent off, as they’d been sent out with the instruction to kick anything that moved apart from the ball.

Going into the game we are a very healthy sixth in the table, on the same points as Bradford and only two places behind them. I for one would be happy to take the table at this point and move straight to the playoff games against Colchester. And always worth a screen shot of table with us so high up in it.

The new home kits went on sale at 10am this morning, and for the first 500 kits it came with the option of an arm badge of our new sleeve sponsors Brick Borrow. They are something to do with Lego, and not as I had assumed something related to the government’s house building policy.

The first question for me today was how early to get to the ground? I don’t have programmes to worry about now. As missing out on them at a few games last season due to last minute arrival meant I was usually at the ground before two and waiting for the turnstiles to open. So that early is only required if I’m going to do the new season, new shirt rush, and to have a wander around and see what changes have been made to the Fanzone and elsewhere. And check out the food and drink outlets. As long as they haven’t replaced Pepsi with the evil empire of Coke, I’ll be fine. (I’m not fine, they have done exactly that, so I need to remember to get drinks before getting to the ground from now on.)

As it was the weather making the decision, no one needs to be out extra early in that kind of torrential downpour.

My new season preview may only have been done two days ago, but we have two new signings since then. One on loan from Charlton, and a year contract for ‘an experienced’ striker, who appears to have had more clubs than Tiger Woods, and joins us from non-league. Good luck to both of them, although the small print of the striker signing said subject to EFL approval, which doesn’t sound good.

I need to get organised and print off and laminate a player to shirt number list so I’ve got some idea of who is who for the first dozen games or so, as I can’t just whip the programme out and check. (I will try to make that the last moan about no programme but can’t promise more won’t slip out.)

It did stop raining long enough to be able to walk into town and pick up When Saturday Comes (they were the same as Four Four Two and have us finishing rock bottom, only going down with Harrogate instead of Sutton), back to book a table at the Downsman for the traditional post-match curry, and to get new shirts for the new season, which had the Brick Borrows patches on them regardless. Only for the rain to start again in earnest when queuing to get through the turnstiles. At least the tickets and season tickets for the east marquee have on them for people to use turnstiles 7-12 and not just 11-12 this season.

Saw Al and said hello. Not sure which of the stands he was stewarding today, but we didn’t see him again all game or even leaving afterwards.

Bradford were in all white kits and appear to have been on HGH in the off season, they all looked effing massive. It only took thirty seconds for the first injury treatment of the season as there is a clash of heads between Kellen Gordon and one of the Bradford players. Gordon is bleeding and off for longer, but somehow the ref gives it as a free kick to Bradford, and not a drop ball.

Ten minutes in and there have been signs of life. There have been two bookings already, and the second gives us a free kick in a decent position. Time to see who’s taking over the dead ball duties. Recent signing Will Wright steps up and bang. It’s in. From a direct free kick, the get hell in there. 1-0. He seems to have the (w)right stuff.

The free kick is the only decision to have been given to us. Bradford have had a couple of chances, and we had a couple of breakaways, but with no end product.

Bradford, despite being built like brick shithouses are falling over in even the slightest breeze. There have been three blatant dives to try and win penalties. I’m assuming the muscle mass must affect people’s balance.

We go on a breakaway and the ball comes across to Gordon, who cuts inside, only for his shot to be blocked for a corner. It’s well worked, and it comes out for Liam Kelly to have a shot that is well saved, but it was called back for an offside. Even the Bradford bench are getting in on the yellow card action in the first half booking spree that is going on, with two of their number getting them.

Will Wright also appears to be a long throw specialist, and we win a corner from one of them. It is cleared, but played back in and the shot is just wide. The ref bottles a blatant yellow card for a Bradford defender for dragging down Ronan Darcy on the halfway line. Bradford get the ball back quickly and attack and get a corner and Corey Addai is forced into a couple of decent saves.

The reprieve for the Bradford defender didn’t last long, he hauls Danilo Orsi down near the edge of the area and picks up the second yellow he should have had five minutes earlier. The resulting free kick’s chance is headed over.

Gordon is playing more as an old school inside right and has another couple of shots that end up going wide. As expected under the new directive there is a lot of added time with eight minutes shown for the first half. And Bradford, despite being down to ten men have ramped up their kick the shit out of Crawley players. And just before the half time whistle a Darcy shot hits the crossbar and the follow up shot is saved, and with that the half time whistle is blown and we lead 1-0.

Is that a different song being played? I think it is, even if it is sampling the hook from Bittersweet Symphony. In fact, it appears to be a whole new half time play list, let’s just hope its not repeated at every game.

There are two half time subs made, and it is sensible as we replace two of the players who picked up bookings in the first half, don’t want to risk giving that man advantage away. We get an early free kick on the left-hand side of the box, but it is easily cleared.

We have a lot of slow build possession, as you might expect with a man advantage against a team of thugs, but occasionally we do speed it up and play a ball through, but the shot in the end is invariably wide.

Substitute, Klaidi Lolos looks to be willing to shoot from anywhere, something we were sorely missing last season. And the other sub, the last minute loanee from Charlton, Aaron Henry has a pop as well, and quickly follows it up with another from play after a free kick.

It is a bit nervier than it should be with a man advantage and the play is a bit back and forth. Bradford make a flurry of subs, and one of whom is Derbyshire. Which seems a bit desperate to have to be bringing on a whole county to try and get a result.

There are muted penalty appeals as Orsi goes down in the area after claiming he had his heels clipped. Not long after the first and only ball to disappear out of the ground happens as a Dom Telford shot flies out over the Eden Utilities south terrace after a period of decent play that had forced a rare save from the Bradford keeper. We are having more counter attacks, and the ball is played through to Orsi, but his early shot only hits the side netting.

The crowd is announced as 3,883, with 1,037 away fans, not bad, but the ground does look and feel like it had more in it than that. And before the added time of six minutes goes up, the sponsor’s man of the match is announced as Will Wright.

In added time there is another blatant full-length dive from a Bradford player trying to win a penalty, but their pressure continues until Addai saves and collects from an attempted acrobatic shot on target.

We keep having breakaways where its two on two, or two on one, or three on two, and every time we stuff it up with a poor final ball through. If we can get that right, then then this would not have been so tense towards the end and there would have been a decent goal tally. But as it is the game finishes, and we win 1-0.

The post-match music hasn’t changed though, Black Eyed Peas followed by The Cure. It was a satisfactory performance all round, lots better than much of what we saw last season. Let’s hope we can keep this level of performance up, as it looks promising for us if we can.

The post-match curry was good as well, but ordering it was painful, and we wonder if the Downsman has been taken over by some group of crypto clowns as well.

I don’t understand the league table though. We have the same points, goal difference, and goals scored as Gillingham and Harrogate, but for some reason the alphabetical order has been thrown out of the window and we are showing as down in ninth. The anti-Crawley agenda by the media has started.

Come on you reds.

Let’s Go Round Again

Not as sung by the Average White Band, but a pre-emptor to an Average Football Team.

Another season is almost upon us, and it will be our third season as season ticket holders. Although when I wrote most of this piece on Wednesday night, I hadn’t picked up my season ticket as it was last minute dot com again for having them ready to pick up. They only became available less than a week before the first home game of the season. I did see this week on my timehop that I picked last season’s season ticket up at this time as well, after the first game of the season, but that was away at Carlisle, so it was in time for the first home game. They weren’t ready until the last week in July and I was on holiday.

It really doesn’t seem like nearly three months since the last game of last season, the smoke flare filled away trip to Swindon.

That trip showed up some of the differences in the running of clubs, between well run, organised ones, and the omnishambles we have running ours. They were already selling their season tickets for this season; their prices were in place and sales were open. It would still be another month before our new season prices were set (the same as last season, so surely a decision that could have been made earlier), and another week before they went on sale to existing season ticket holders. Then another two weeks before general sale, all of which compresses the time to produce and have them ready. It would be nice if they were ready sometime before the week of the first game, and ideally before the school holidays start and there is the mad rush away for two weeks.

I saw this in Swindon’s programme. It was four quid, so a pound more than ours, but miles better in content and production. I did moan quite a bit about the quality of the content of the programme last season, but at least we had one last season. One of the summer announcements from the club was they have scrapped the programme. Not moved it to a digital one as some other clubs have, but got rid of it completely. I’m not happy about it in the slightest, and did a long post on the forum and Facebook page about how it was wrong. The reasons were it’s too expensive to produce (raise the price then), and sales had dropped off (which I saw evidence to the contrary of during the season).

We survived being relegated last season by the skin on the skin of our teeth, and since then the revolving doors of players leaving and then joining the club has picked up pace. In fact, it has gone around quick enough that the club could have stored enough power from the dynamo to generate electricity to see us through to Christmas.

A lot of the longer established players, and some of the fan favourites have left. All the loanees went back to their parent clubs, only to then get loaned out again somewhere else for this season. Jack Powell and James Tilley went within a couple of days of each other, but thankfully there has been plenty of time for Scott Lindsey to work on who will be the dead ball specialists this season. Unlike the game last season when they both got substituted within a couple of minutes of each other and when we got a free kick all the players on the pitch stood around looking at each other wondering who was going to take it.

A day before the season started last year a plausible starting line up may have been Glenn Morris, George Francomb, Ludwig Francillette, Tony Craig, Jake Hessenthaler, Atamide Oteh, James Tilley, Jack Powell, Ashley Nadesan, Tom Nichols, and Kwesi Appiah. And with a bench of Balcome, Nazeeb, Fellows, Balagizi, Mason, Jenks, and Marshall. None of them survive going into Saturday’s first game of this season. And that’s not including a whole raft (well more like a cross channel ferry) of fringe players to be out the door.

At first it seemed as if there were no replacements coming in. Incoming were thin on the ground. This has picked up over the last few weeks with a new name appearing every couple of days. It is going to be a vastly different team and squad to the one we were used to that sees the new season in. And although the club always announced the new signing as being ex-<insert league club’s name here>, invariably the club we picked them up from were non-league.

To be fair, after last season’s utter shit storm, having a vastly refreshed squad may not be the bad thing that many people have made it out to be.

And if I’m honest the person I feel sorriest for is whoever comes up with the player chants and songs. With only Tsaroulla left of the established songs (there was a fledgling Telford one starting), there is a whole new playlist needed. I can see potential for a couple of new songs, but they are most definitely showing up my age. As I would be disappointed if there isn’t a bit of Modern Romance action going with ‘Ay ay ay ay Orsi’, and I’m not sure whether it should be the Dave Clark Five’s “Glad All Over”, or Captain Sensible’s “Glad It’s All Over” that needs to be repackaged as ‘Gladwin’s All Over’. But I know it certainly wouldn’t do to be using the chorus of Jilted John’s “Jilted John” for Kellen Gordon as is, but there are so many other adjectives that might be more appropriate than moron for it.

I had high hopes going into last season, and I’m much more muted this season. Pre-season has been interesting. All our games against non-league opposition have finished with us winning 2–1. Our two games against higher level opposition including the four thirty-minute period one against Portsmouth, were heavy defeats. But there are signs of a plan and a playing style, which is more than Betsy ball brought us last year. I’m not going to say playoffs, but I think somewhere in mid table is achievable. And perhaps a few less manager changes in the season might help.

Four Four Two magazine has us to finish dead last, relegation favourites, and going down with Sutton. It’s so bad none of the other team’s contributors to the review section bothered to take pot shots at us like five of them did last season. Our own fan file contributor just said bottom half for us. Which I suppose is realistic.

When Saturday Comes left their pre-season issue until the last minute, it came out today, so I’ve not seen it yet, but as they had us to finish twentieth last season, I doubt they’ll have us any higher than that for this season.

I’m going to go for where Four Four Two had us finishing last season — fourteenth.

As for the cups? Well, I can’t see us doing as well in the Carabao cup as we did last season. Exeter away that early in the season isn’t deal, and I can see a first round exit.

For the FA cup, pretty much anything would be better than last year’s effort, especially with the Sideman ‘trial’ debacle overshadowing the build up to the game, and the non-performance in it. I’m going to go for the third round for us, as hopefully we’ll have a settled side by the time the first round comes around in November.

As for the EFL trophy, I know there is a lot of ‘who cares’, but we did well enough last season and were unlucky not to progress from the group stage. Let’s go a game further this season, eh?

There is always the cloud of the crypto clowns hanging over us. The new kit isn’t due until at least tomorrow, if it is in time then it will be the same as the first batch last season, sold out the back of a transit van. We don’t have a shirt sponsor for the season, it’s going to rotate between various half-hearted organisations through the season. We don’t even have a stadium sponsor again. But there was a big fanfare about County Mall sponsoring the “Goal and Replay”. Which means I’ll see about thirty five percent of that from my seat.

There will be protests, there will be flares (not sure whether the smoke ones, or the seventies fashion disaster are worse), there will be abuse of the lino, and there may even be two hundred fans at an away ground in the middle of winter waving one shoe at the pitch. It may be bad, it may be good, but it is unlikely to be boring.

Roll on Saturday, and for a change we have a home game instead of an away trip to the ends of the earth. Bradford City start us off, so plenty of opportunity to wind Mark Hughes up again, and for at least one set of fans to wish the crypto clowns had succeeded in buying Bradford.

Come on you reds.

Shall We Forget All That Happened?

If I were to say that this season didn’t live up to expectations or didn’t quite go according to plan, then you would know that those words were somewhat of an understatement. If I said it was an absolute shit storm, then that would be very unfair to shit storms.

Pre-season there was optimism. Signings were made, there was a new manager, and a lot of goals were being scored by us in pre-season friendlies. (Although to be fair, there were quite a few being let in at the other end as well.) The playoffs looked possible, albeit that wasn’t a view shared by the football magazines. Four Four Two had us coming fourteenth, whilst When Saturday Comes had us finishing twentieth. Perhaps they were being kind, and it may be easier to see from further away.

The wheels were coming loose before a ball was kicked in anger. Stalwart keeper Glenn Morris was shipped out on loan to Gillingham, and then the WAGMI wombats released a ‘hype’ video which slagged Carlisle off. It didn’t go down well, and not just with Carlisle, but our own fans as well. We started with an away loss and followed it up with a home loss and became the strongest team in the league – holding the rest of them up at the bottom of the table.

There was respite with a decent win against League One Bristol Rovers in the Carabao Cup (soon to be followed with another against Premier League Fulham’s reserves), but my first away trip, up to Harrogate saw a dreadful 0-0. League performances were not matching those in the cups. Kevin Betsy’s style of play may have worked at youth level, but it wasn’t suited to League Two battling. And after much clamour for it to happen, he was sacked. Lewis Young took over as interim manager and our results improved, but WAGMI saw something in the stats that made them go and take a gamble (yes, I went there) on Matthew Etherington. Not helped by being able to play Tom Nichols, who had been presold to relegation rivals Gillingham and WAGMI didn’t want him getting injured, that management tenure lasted three games before they parted company. Which meant Darren Byfield was caretaker manager as we played Stevenage the day before New Year’s Eve. He was joined on the bench by Preston Johnson, which considering the other co-chair Eben-ezer no good, had put a whole load of Ill-advised tweets up during the day didn’t go down well. Especially as it was obvious who the three senior players he was on about (but didn’t name) as they didn’t make the trip.

The mood at the game was ugly, but it was an amusing spectacle. Stand up if you love Crawley, sit down if you love Crawley, stand up if you hate WAGMI, sit down if you hate WAGMI, shoes off if you hate WAGMI, at which point I looked to my right to see three hundred Crawley fans waving at least one of their shoes/trainers in the air. The Stevenage stewards looked worried at the chants of ‘I know you won’t believe us, we’re coming on the pitch’ and ‘Preston Johnson, we’re coming for you.’ The pitch invasion didn’t materialise, but instead the fans were surrounding the team coach and the chant was ‘Preston Johnson, we’re waiting for you.’ They had a long wait as he was spirited out of another exit, and he didn’t appear on the bench at the next game away at Newport County.

January saw Scott Lindsey appointed as manager (and he’s survived to the end of the season). And he helped us to survive the threat of relegation. A lot of January games were postponed for various (and sometimes quite dubious) reasons, but it gave him more time to get used to a changing squad. A lot of the senior players were shipped out, including the three ‘not’ mentioned in the tweets. Teams recalled their loan players, and some of the fringe players were moved on. Part of the reason given for Tom Nichols’ sale and the moving on of older players was that they were looking at having a younger squad. Only for that to be trashed as after the transfer window closed two out of contract players were signed, both of whom were in the later half of their thirties.

It was around the same time that the long running investigation into previous manager John Yems came to an end with him being found guilty of various racism related charges. The FA then appealed the sentence as being too lenient, and they got a heavier one on appeal.

WAGMI out demonstrations and chants were the norm for the latter parts of the season. The longer the season has gone on, then the more withdrawn WAGMI have seemed to get. Ducking out of meetings with the CTSA, and comms have been poor or non-existent. A prime example being hugely unpopular acting CEO Chris Galley’s departure from the club happened on the 6th of April but took two weeks for it to be announced.

At the end of the day for the fans, the most important thing is to get results on the pitch. Yet with all the manager changes, what has been interpreted as WAGMI interference with team selection, bizarre transfer policy, and the constant upheaval, the performances haven’t been great. But the fans have got behind those on the pitch (with the possible exception of Caleb Chukwuemeka) and have supported them in larger numbers, both home and away than in previous seasons.

Off the pitch has been more chaotic. WAGMI have tried to improve various things. There are more food outlets and a Fan Zone, and the training now takes place on grass (which doesn’t seem to have helped with injuries) and a scoreboard finally (even if I can only see about 35% of it from my seat). However, the OTT USA style pregame videos haven’t worked. There was the Sidemen debacle, scouting players at a charity game to potentially play in our first round FA Cup game – it didn’t happen, but laughingstock was being bounded around a lot more now.

And the attempted improvements have an uneven feel about them, and don’t really address matters that should be obvious. The canvas at the back of the east marquee needs replacing (or perhaps the whole stand does). And the two turnstiles in the southeast corner just can’t cope with the larger crowds we are getting. It was obvious after the Fulham game with queues back to Redz Bar and hundreds getting in after kicking off that more was needed there. But it hasn’t been looked at. Against Harrogate in the second of the two for £2 games people were still queuing to get in half an hour into the game. The terrace and west stands have four turnstiles each and don’t have the same issues. And as for getting out it is lunacy, it’s ten minutes after the other two stands have emptied before we get out.

One of my particular bug bears is with the programme. It is a bit of a shambles and has been all season. Issue numbering (same issue number for different issues, and then a gap of three numbers in the middle), the results page and its labelling is random, lots of games that don’t have the scorer marked. Issue one had a league table in it, but only the top twenty teams. It was dropped for issue two, which probably was good if it were going to stay the same size, as we wouldn’t have appeared on it most of the time. Sizing issues affected the great retro reds section. Titles were carried forward from one issue to the next with different text beneath it. Having the squad listing on the back should be easy to manage, but Anthony Grant played in the last nine games but still didn’t make it onto the programme. Surely the ability to size a page and proofread should be a basic skill for someone putting a programme together.

Anyway, enough moaning from me, on to what would be my team of the year. I have gone with a 5-2-3 formation. I have looked at anyone who has played for the side at any point during the league season. The keeper was the most difficult choice for me, but I have been swayed towards the end of the season with his penalty saves and have gone with Corey Addai. Three central defenders – Dion Conroy, Harry Ransom, and Joel Lynch, two wing backs – George Francomb and Nick Tsaroulla. Two central midfielders, Ben Gladwin, and James Balagizi, and then Aramide Oteh and James Tilley playing just off Tom Nichols. Yes, there is no Jack Powell, the club’s player of the year. He has scored some good goals and has really gone on a charm offensive and interacted with the fanbase well, but he’s been far too patchy and lightweight at times.

What we could have done with all season is more pace, we haven’t been able to beat teams going forward, and have been skinned at the back far too many times. And the other thing is, JUST FUCKING SHOOT, stop trying to pass the ball into the net, take a shot.

And breath and onto next season.

Come on you reds.

When The Red Red Robin Goes Bob Bob Bobbing Along – Shoot!

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.