What Does It Take To Win A Playoff Place

Motown making an appearance at this late stage in the season as I mangle the classic Jr Walker & The All Stars song.

It’s the final league game of the season, and we are at home for a change. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster season as we limp into the final game after two losses and two draws in the last four matches. Results which have seen us slip out of that final playoff place and into eighth in the table after midweek games saw Doncaster extend their winning run to ten games and jump above us in the table.

It is no longer in our own hands. There are many scenarios. In simple terms.

If we lose then we miss the playoffs, and depending on other results we could end up as low as tenth in the table.

If we draw then we need a whole host of other things to happen – Barrow have to lose by two goals, Bradford City have to not win, and Walsall must not win by four goals or more. That set of results would lift us to seventh.

If we win then it would need Barrow to lose or draw, OR Crewe Alexandra to lose, OR Doncaster Rovers to lose. If any of that happens then we are in the playoffs. For each of the three above that happens if we also win, we go up a place in the league, so if all three were to lose (or Barrow draw) then we would finish fifth.

So, it means that there will be a lot of people with at least half an eye on phones etc. to see what is happening elsewhere as our game takes place. In an ideal world the scoreboard would show the live scores during the game. But under league regulations they aren’t allowed to. Not for the fans or the players / managers etc, but because the match officials aren’t allowed to know what is happening elsewhere. Several officials were suspended / demoted a couple of seasons ago after having mobiles with them during the final games of the season.

It’s unlikely that the televised Sky game will help. Crewe need a point to guarantee being in the playoffs and their opponents Colchester need a point to guarantee survival, so that game has West Germany vs Austria from the 1982 World Cup written all over it.

Anyway, today’s opponents are Grimsby Town, who managed to secure safety from relegation last Saturday, and hopefully will come and not be bothered, with having nothing to play for. But we all know it rarely works like that. The away fixture was back in September, when after being 2-0 down, Danilo Orsi scored a ninety-sixth minute winner in a 3-2 result (that was after Klaidi Lolos had done the same the week before at home to Tranmere Rovers). And we did think – however briefly – that Orsi had done the same last week against Sutton United, only for the flag to go up (somewhat dubiously) and dash our hopes.

The game is another sell out (from a home tickets perspective), so let us all hope that it goes better than the other sellout or near sellout games this season at home, as we have lost all four of them. We have one additional person in tow for this game, with one of our neighbours – Clare – joining us as she knows the Grimsby Town No 30, as she sits next to his dad and uncle in her season ticket seats at Tottenham and has seen him grow up from a baby.

It has been what seems like a hell of a long four days since the Tuesday night results came in. There are nerves in play, a touch of anticipation, some hope required, a bit of dread, and no doubt for those who believe in such things, some prayers as well.

Grant, who sits behind us had got permission from the club to do some drone filming of the stadium, and the players warm up pre-game, and he’ll be cutting that and letting the club have it, so looking forward to that.

Grimsby are in their traditional black and white vertical stripes shirts, black shorts, and white socks. It isn’t the most coherent of starts, and eight minutes in Grimsby have their first attack, the ball is played across the six-yard box from the left and at the back of the box their attacked is there with a free hit, which is high over the bar and over the Eden Utilities Stand for the only ball loss of the day.

We are having a lot of possession, but the final ball isn’t quite there again. Adam Campbell picks the ball up about forty yards out and heads towards goal, gets into the box before shooting, but the shot is wide. Ade Adeyemo’s pace and trickery is used to good effect down the right wing, but his cross is overhit and goes across the box and out for a throw on the other side.

It takes sixteen minutes for the first corner of the game, and it goes to Grimsby, but amounts to nothing. There is a bit of a buzz from the phone watchers, there is a goal elsewhere. Mansfield Town have taken the lead against Barrow. We get a corner of our own, but it is easily cleared and Grimsby break and get another corner of their own. It goes all the way over to the back post and from a tight angel two yards out the header comes back across the face of the goal and out for a goal kick. Grimsby are creating more chances and get another shot away which goes wide.

On twenty-three minutes Adeyemo plays a ball across the park to the left wing to Jeremy Kelly and his cross is taken down by Danilo Orsi, who slots the ball into the net, and we lead 1-0, and as things stand, we are in the playoffs.

A couple of minutes later there is a free kick twenty-five yards out, just left of centre. Will Wright stands over it and his shot is heading for the top corner but is well saved, the follow up is put out for a corner, but that goes out for a goal kick. We are having more of the ball and creating more now. A ball is worked across to Adeyemo from the left wing and his long shot along the ground is easily saved by the Grimsby keeper.

Just after the half hour mark there is a ball in the air down the right wing, Campbell and Orsi get headers on, and the ball falls to Klaidi Lolos, he cuts outside to the right, beats a player and gets a shot off across the keeper and it nestles in the bottom left hand corner of the net and we lead 2-0.

There are scores elsewhere, Colchester have taken the lead against Crewe, I’m not sure that was really in either team’s script. And somewhat unsurprisingly, Doncaster are two up against Gillingham. As it stands, we are up to sixth.

We are on the attack again and Adeyemo’s shot is blocked. It goes for a throw and Wright lobs a missile in, but it is cleared. Grimsby attack, and they have a curling shot from just outside the box on the left-hand side which Corey Addai just tips around the post for a corner. There are two added minutes at the end of the half, and the half ends with us leading 2-0.

Elsewhere the half times are Barrow 0 – Mansfield 1, Colchester 1 – Crewe 0, and Gillingham 0 – Doncaster 2, and as it stands, we are sixth and will be playing the on a roll Doncaster.

The second half sees Grimsby start the quicker, and they get a corner, and on another attack a shot on goal before Crawley start to settle into the half. Adeyemo gets down the right wing and his cross is blocked for a corner, which is cleared, put back in and cleared again.

About quarter of an hour into the half and Barrow have equalised in their game, which doesn’t affect our place in the playoffs. Lolos has another attempt to twinkle-toes his way into the box, but the ball runs away from him to the keeper before he can get a shot off. Substitutions are made. Grimsby get another corner which Addai catches.

Gillingham are suddenly level in their game against Doncaster, and Doncaster are down to ten men, so that’s getting interesting.

There is a bit of nervy passing around the back, it is not as comfortable as the scoreline should make it. Grimsby get another corner, but it is cleared, and we break, and it ends with another Lolos shot straight at the keeper. Jeremy Kelly is having fun against the Grimsby right back; he turns him inside out near the halfway line. The look of disgust / resignation on the right back’s face is a picture to behold.

We are keeping possession down the left; we win a corner and just try to keep it there. No board has gone up to indicate how many added minutes there are at the end of the half, but there ends up being four added minutes played before the final whistle goes and it is confirmed as a 2-0 win.

There is a pitch invasion, and red smoke flares are involved, but the final results are through from everywhere else yet. Doncaster comes first, they finish with a 2-2 draw and secure their place in the playoffs, Crewe come next, they get a ninety-second minute equaliser to grab their point to guarantee their playoff spot. And we wait for the Barrow score to be finalised. The final whistle goes there, and they have only drawn, and therefore it is now official. Crawley have qualified for the playoffs. Barrow drop out of the playoff places on the last day of the season having been in them since October.

The season continues. Tomorrow night is the club’s award ceremony at Lingfield racecourse, which we are going to, and then the playoff games start. We are playing the MK Dons, with the home game being on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, and the away game on the Thursday night of that week. Just need to see when the tickets go on sale for them, and sort transport and possibly hotels for the away game.

How good is this season?

Come on you reds.

Close But No Cigar

It’s a Weird Al Yankovic kind of day and so it’s his song which is used as a title for this piece. The main surprise being it took me this long into the season to shoehorn a Weird Al reference in.

It’s the final away game of the season. The short trip north to take on Sutton United in what could be a pivotal game for both sides. It comes hot on the heels on Tuesday night’s home draw against Barrow, a result which although still leaving us in the playoff places with only two games left to play, means that finishing there is currently no longer in our own hands. Doncaster Rovers are now two points behind us, and they now have a crucial game in hand, and are on a ridiculously long run of games won.

Crawley have sold a lot of tickets for this final away game, with the count nearing 1,200, which would be the largest away EFL crowd in Crawley’s history. As it stands Sutton are in the relegation places, four points behind Colchester United and Six behind Grimsby Town with two games to play. A win for Crawley today would seal Sutton’s fate and send them back down to the National League. Meanwhile Doncaster are away at Barrow, so the team just above us is playing the team just below us, and in an ideal world both teams would lose. In reality I would settle for Doncaster not winning.

We have already played Sutton twice this season. The home league game was an impressive 3-0 win with goals from Adam Campbell, Laurence Maguire, and Danilo Orsi. We also played them ten days later in a drab 0-0 draw in the group stage of the Bristol Street Motors Trophy at Sutton. A repeat of the former result would be much appreciated today.

The usual Saturday stroll to the Broadfield stadium is taking place, an hour or two earlier than usual, so we can get one of the coaches up to the game run by the wonderful GH Coaches.

The club have put up the end of season award polls for fans to vote on. There are three categories for us to choose winners in, Goal Of The Season, Player Of The Season, and Young Player Of The Season. I have voted already and am happy to share that I voted for Harry Forster’s goal against Bristol Rovers in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy as goal of the season. For sheer euphoria it would be a goal not on this list, as the feeling when Klaidi Lolos got the fourth goal away at Bradford City will be hard to beat. (Obviously if we were to make the playoffs and there was a flukey deflection off someone’s arse from a yard out in the last minute of the playoff final, that would be the goal of the season.)

I’ve gone for Klaidi Lolos as the young player of the season, and he would be in the top three for me in player of the season, but I’ve gone for Corey Addai. Yes, he has had the odd brain freeze, but he has made so many important saves during the season, and he will run the length of the pitch to drag other players out of potential fisticuffs, as he has done a couple of times recently. Plus, he went to battle for his teammate after the Gillingham home game when their dick of a coach Doug Livermore punched Ronan Darcy.

Even the short coach journey doesn’t agree with and I’m glad to be off the coach and walking to the ground as others headed to the pub. I haven’t been to Sutton before, and the stadium is a lot lower slung that I was expecting. I got a programme, but it was more complicated than it should have been. Apparently, they usually have a little temporary kiosk for the programmes inside the turnstiles, but it wasn’t there today, the programmes were inside the turnstile booth, so it was fun and games trying to get in to get a programme when there was even the slightest break in the steady stream of Crawley fans coming in. But I got one, so all is good.

Sutton are in all yellow and Crawley are in all white as we kick off defending the goal the Crawley fans are behind. We get an early chance and a Danilo Orsi shot is tipped around the post for a corner. There is a long throw from Will Wright into the box and a shot from Klaidi Lolos goes over the bar.

Harry Forster attacks down the right, cuts inside and feeds the ball across to Nick Tsaroulla, who cuts in and has a shot which is over the bar again. A through ball finds Orsi in the box and he takes it down well, but his shot is well saved by the Sutton keeper.

Sutton’s first proper attack sees a shot fly over the bar and only not hit me in the face because I’m next to a metal railing, but it did properly wake me up. At the other end there is decent work up the right and a Lolos thunderbolt is well saved. A follow shot is blocked and the cross that comes in after is put behind for a corner, which is cleared for another corner, only for us to put the ball out of play from that.

Back on the attack, another Sutton shot is well saved by Corey Addai. There is a stoppage for an injury to Lolos, and once play restarts the Sutton attempted cross sails over the stand we are in, and it is ball loss number one of the day. Sutton attack again down the middle of the park and there is a more comfortable save from Addai.

After some time, we manage to get out of our own half. Forster down the right wing again, and he wins a corner which is easily cleared. Sutton come down the other end and work the ball into the box, but it is headed wide. They attack again, another cross, another header, another Addai save.

With a few minutes to go before half time, we work the ball down the right again through Forster, he cuts in and crosses it. Orsi controls and passes to Tsaroulla, who lays it back to Liam Kelly who curls a shot into the top corner, and we lead 1-0. Which leads to the now rarely seen red smoke flare being thrown onto the pitch. Which is eventually removed by an extra from Lord of the Rings in a high-vis vest.

There are four minutes added time at the end of the half. Another long throw goes into the box, and it bounces around in there for a few seconds before the final header goes just wide and the half time whistle goes with Crawley leading 1-0. And Doncaster losing 2-0. So, all is good.

Two minutes into the second half and Sutton attack, a cross is headed clear, and a follow up shot takes a deflection, bounces up and wrong foots Addai and it’s 1-1. Not so good.

Another long throw into the box sees Dion Conroy dragged down on the edge of the area but claims are waved away. We work the ball out to Tsaroulla who cuts inside and shoots, but it is high enough to clear the stand we are in for ball loss number two of the day. Yet another long throw comes into the box, there is lots of grabbing and wrestling going on, and more penalty claims which are waved away, and the ball goes out for a goal kick.

We get a corner after another Forster run down the right, it is cleared, and then put back in but goes for another goal kick. Sutton are getting more of the ball now, but we break through Forster into the box, but it is blocked away, we keep the ball, and there are three, what look to be fouls by Sutton near the box, but when the whistle goes it is for a free kick to Sutton.

Substitutions start to be made. We win a free kick thirty yards out dead centre. Wright takes and it is just past the left-hand post. After a Sutton attack, we try to break quickly only for Ade Adeyemo to be cynically hacked down near the halfway line. It’s a yellow card, but another ten or fifteen yards up the pitch it could easily have been a red.

Instead, there is another of our well know brain freeze moments at the back, a bit of a mix-up, Jay Williams seems to gift the ball to a Sutton striker, and they make no mistake in putting it in the net and we are now losing 1-2.

There is another free kick for us thirty yards out, this time on the right. The ball comes in and it looks like Jack Roles is wrestled to the ground, only for the ref to give a free kick to Sutton for a handball. And then the Sutton keeper goes down with a spurious timewasting injury.

We are trying to get some sustained pressure, but time after time the final ball is just off. Too many times it is in the air and their seven feet four inch tall number four just keeps heading it away. Then a cross beats him and Lolos’s header loops to the keeper.

Five added minutes are shown on the board. We get the ball out to Lolos on the left and he jinks inside, beats three players, and has a shot which takes a slight deflection and goes in to level it back up at 2-2.

Another break follows and Adam Campbell sees his shot cleared off the line and Liam Kelly’s follow up is saved. We break again, work the ball through to Campbell who crosses it along the ground and Orsi is there to put it in off the post. Cue absolute scenes. But the flag is up for an offside. It wasn’t possible for it to have been Orsi, so it must have been when it was played through to Campbell. (If it had have counted there was another instead goal of the season contender.)

The full-time whistle goes, and it finishes 2-2. And then there is a full-on punch up in the middle of the pitch with both benches clearing to join in. It’s suggested Lolos was in the middle of it, and a few people end up on the floor before it disperses, and there were no obvious cards shown by the ref.

The crowd was announced as being 4,675, with a massive 1,152 Crawley fans in attendance. It’s just a shame the result didn’t go the right way either. And to top it off, Doncaster came back and ended up beating Barrow 4-2. We are still in the playoff places, but on goal difference only now, and Doncaster have a game in hand against Colchester on Tuesday night. Barrow also have a game in hand to be played Tuesday night, so all we can do now is to beat Grimsby at home next Saturday and hope that results go in our favour elsewhere. Sutton aren’t quite down. Their goal difference means that they need a big win and for Colchester to get thumped in both of their games to stay up, but stranger things have happened.

The coaches on the way back voted Liam Kelly as their man of the match, which was fair enough. Not sure what game some of those on the coach were watching when they were nominating some of our defenders for the award.

A week to go before the final game of the season. One spent watching through fingers watching the scores on Tuesday night, and then the Grimsby Town game on Saturday. They made themselves safe today, and so hopefully will play like a side with nothing to play for.

Come on you reds.

A Lack Of Health

I have never been the healthiest person. I have been overweight since I was a toddler. I was pretty much always the fattest kid in my year at school. There have been a few times in my life where I have easily been over twenty-five stone, possibly nearer thirty stone. I have smoked, I have been a long-time alcohol abuser. And when not drinking alcohol, it would be nothing but full fat Pepsi all the way, none of that diet rubbish for me.

Pizzas, kebabs, burgers, ice cream, biscuits, chocolates, and anything else even remotely unhealthy has been shovelled down my throat, with nary a vegetable in sight (unless it was on the kebab). I was wearing four XL tops and fifty-four-inch waist trousers and allergic to any form of exercise.

The five years I lived in Manchester it was always a surprise to wake up each morning and be alive. My housemates would not have betted on me making it to my fortieth birthday, let alone for me to get into my fifties.

I was a walking (well, technically waddling) time bomb, and yet every (very rare) time I came into contact with a health check, the doctor or nurse would look at certain results, look at me, look at the results again, look at me again, and ask if they could redo the tests. Which would come back with the same results. I had low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and perfectly normal blood sugar readings.

Since moving in with Helen most of my habits have become healthier. I no longer live on a compete diet of take aways. There are vegetables in my diet. I gave up alcohol completely two and a half years ago. I am now in XL tops and forty-four-inch waist trousers.

I got myself a full BUPA health check through employee benefits at work and went to have the medical on a Friday, ambling along to their centre near Euston. Only to find the so-called healthier version of me is a complete old crock now and there are at least three big issues with the results from the test.

The first is blood pressure. After years of low blood pressure readings, this one was so high that BUPA wouldn’t let me do the bike test part of the medical as they aren’t insured for me to pop my clogs whilst on their bike.

Then came the blood sugar readings. Which are through the roof, was above the top of the OK range. They have doubled in the last couple of years to a point where they would diagnose me with having type two diabetes.

Finally for this hat trick was Haemoglobin and iron levels. The first was well below the normal levels, which as it was said to me it was iron levels was a puzzle as Helen has us taking iron supplements with 120% of the RDA, and I have Grape Nuts for breakfast which have 80%, so that’s double before anything else goes into me during a day, but still not enough apparently. Only for me to get the full tests which suggest I have exceedingly elevated levels of Ferritin which stores iron in the blood cells. It is strange.

The cholesterol and ECG were both good, and the advanced tests came back with everything in normal levels apart from a below normal level of creatinine which may suggest kidney issues.

It would appear that it does all catch up with you in the end in a quite rapid and unexpected style.

It’s a lot to take in, and a lot to take out of my diet. Not quite bread and water – bread is a bit of a no go – but it will be close.

Having given up fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sweets, crisps, ice cream, and pretty much eliminated bread and pasta (and taken with the fact I don’t really eat potatoes or rice anyway), the carbohydrate intake is way down. There isn’t much fat going in either, protein is staying about the same, but fibre is through the roof. In six weeks, I lost two stone, and that is still with a pizza Friday night and curry Saturday.

I had an appointment with the diabetic nurse and had to do new blood tests before going to that. The blood sugar level was reduced by a third, down from the diabetic range score of 66, to 44, only just inside the pre-diabetic range. And I am under eighteen stone. I really couldn’t tell you the last time I was at that kind of weight. There is still weight coming off as well. Not the big losses I saw over the first few weeks, but a pound or two a week, or a hundred grams in a week where I was away for five nights staying in hotels and eating out all the time, which was a bonus as was expecting a bounce back up.

A change in C foods will be the main reason. There is no cake, crisps, cookies, chocolate, cola (of the full fat varieties), candy, or chips, and a vast reduction in cheese. Instead, there is now celery, carrot, celeriac, cabbage, cannellini beans, chickpeas, and cold water. With lots of dashes of chilli sauce to replace the extremely high salt intake. The blood pressure was right down as well. At BUPA it was 159 over 90, at the diabetic nurse it was 117 over 73.

And it continues. Everything gets looked at now for calories and for sugars. It is an eye opener just how many ‘healthy options’ have much higher calorie, fat, and sugar values than items you might expect to be less healthy.

Aside from the shrinkage that has gone on, I have noticed another side effect of the weight loss. I’m cold a lot more often. I spent years of being warm all the time, wearing shorts and t-shirts in winter, and I didn’t own a jumper, or gloves. Now I find myself wearing multiple layers nearly all the time and gloves a lot of the time when out as my hands are cold most of the time when I’m outside.

I think it is like the drinking, it is easy at first to go cold turkey and not touch all those bad for me foods and drinks. With the alcohol I don’t miss it most of the time, but there is an occasional moment where I’d love a tot of rum, or a glass or port, or when sat in a French café in the summer sun, a cold beer. I am seeing crème eggs on sale, which were an absolute favourite. I look longingly at bottles of normal Pepsi, and a sausage bap or cheeseburger or doner kebab wouldn’t go amiss. Especially when working through a bowl of salad. But resist I will, as it is what is needed. For me, and those around me.

I Know Not What I Am

I know what I am, but know not what I may become. A paraphrase from Hamlet. But perhaps that is an exaggeration. I may claim I know what I am, but it would only be through a filter of respectability I like to see myself through. But it is a lie. Maybe that is what I am. A liar. A purveyor of untruths. A man who wishes to sell an image that is more palatable to the public. A photoshopped version of myself with the blemishes and inaccuracies tidied away.

But who believes the image anymore? Too many jaded and cynical people exist. Worn down by the constant barrage of misinformation. Nothing is real whilst everything is hyperreal at the same time. The false and the true are not the absolutes they once were. Every falseness contains at least a grain of truth. Every truth has some degree of falseness about it. There are no boundaries. Everything is blurred.

And if my image is blurred to everyone else then that will feed through to what I see of myself. Of what I know of myself. And so do I really know what I am anymore?

I say I know not of what I may be. Of whom I can become. But in this world of fake plastic trees and digital replication I can become anything I design my image to be. It doesn’t matter if I don’t believe it. once it is designed and out there, for all intents and purposes, that is what I will be. As long as I can live with what I have designed then it is all good.

Yet it seems an impossible task. How will I know what I will be happy with? If I don’t truly know what I am doing today, how can I possibly design a future self?

Can I try something new whenever I get bored, or the new persona is uncomfortable, or do I have to suffer the misfortune that my choices now make for my future self? Does it even matter what I think of myself nowadays? Is it only how others perceive me that counts in this everchanging topsy turvy world of instant gratification and Instagram?

Every choice is so exhausting. Every decision is so scrutinised. Every mistake is blown out of all proportion. Every triumph is belittled by those who don’t understand, or try, or are petty jealous joy suckers. So why should I even try to show my best self? Why bother to show myself at all? Wouldn’t it be best to not show anything at all? To stay confined. Confined within my own four walls. To delete the digital world I have created around me. To cut every single strand of every single connection until I float there. Free of all those ties. Truly alone with myself. Perhaps then I could see just what I am now. I would know what sits within me away from the interference and prejudice of others poisoning the well of my psyche.

And once I had my true self-knowledge then I would be able to see what I really want to be in the future. Although having written this all down now I think I know what that would be.


An island.

An uninhabited shell.

It’s Been A Long Time

It has been a long time since I’d just scribbled some notes down of random observations. It used to be a regular thing when on my way to my Saturday morning writing group. It isn’t a Saturday, but a Wednesday, but I was on my way to a writing group.

On the way I was walking over the metal footbridge near Crawley railway station. I’m nearing the town side of the bridge, and I can see there is an older man starting to come up the stairs. On the metal frame of the bridge is a squirrel, which seeing the man coming up the steps has turned and scampered up the frame in my direction. Only to see me walking towards it and turn around and head back down. But the other man is still coming up so there is a split second of panic from the squirrel as there are humans approaching it from both directions. It decides to take the ‘fuck it’ option and jumps off the side of the bridge down onto the pile of rubbish and debris in the car park below. It would rather jump to a possible injury or death rather than pass a human. I saw it land without an issue and then rush across the open ground and up the nearest tree.

Despite having headphones in, I hadn’t got the music playing and so as I sat on the stools looking out the window of Maccy D’s I heard someone make a comment. “I’ve never seen so many bus stops all together, it’s mad innit?” The window looks out onto the bus station. I think it must be a child saying this, but I turn my head slightly and no, it’s a woman in her twenties talking to a similarly aged friend. How did they manage to get to that age and have never seen a working bus station before? Is it their first ever visit to a reasonably sized town? It beggars’ belief how sheltered some people must be in life.

Going into HMV is a regular occurrence for me, and it is up on the first floor. Getting up there on the escalator is fine, but the last two visits have seen issues with the down escalator, which isn’t currently working. It is a strange sensation having to walk down a non-moving escalator. It just feels awkward. The steps are deeper than the ones on a staircase usually are. There is also that little nagging voice in the back of my head saying that the escalator may start up again whilst I’m walking down it. and the exaggerated steps aren’t good for my knees. It seems a longer trek down than if the escalators had been working. (When I go past two days later neither escalator is working and it is causing some people problems, I saw two twenty something year old blokes trip and stumble up the first few steps as they tried to walk up the non-moving escalator.)

On Thursday it was another writing group, this one being the Horsham one. I do tend to hate the drive from the Hove office to Horsham for this. Mainly because the most direct route involves getting off the A27 at the long looping exit to the Shoreham roundabout and then up the A283 to cut the corner to the A24 at Washington. It’s a wide enough road, but it is twisty and busy. Most of it is national speed limit, but I don’t feel comfortable trying to do sixty around some of the twists and usually tootle along doing just over fifty. A bit slower also helps with the pothole avoidance. But others never seem satisfied with doing fifty, and a queue can build up behind me and there always seems to be a work van (of any colour, not just white) inches from my rear bumper. But I won’t be pressured into going faster, but something so close behind me does stress me out even more than driving usually does. And the last few journeys have been done at night, which have meant that there is the additional hazard of approaching cars with new LED headlights searing the inside of my corneas out. I hadn’t made the trip for a couple of months. I missed the March meeting, and in February I was on automatic pilot, and I was passing Hickstead on the A23 on my usual route to home when I remembered I was supposed to be at writing and then cut across at the A272 through Cowfold (how does one fold a cow again?) But last night’s trip was better than usual. It was daylight (so no bright headlights, but I still hate the route in the light), and there was someone at least half a dozen vehicles in front of me who was keeping to fifty and under all the way along, so it was a comfortable journey, and as I wasn’t at the front of the queue, none of the three different vans that were behind me on that stretch felt the need to drive along in my boot.

Despite Cockups and Muscles, We’re Still Alive Alive-o

A lot of people have done versions of Molly Malone, but none have been mangled as much as I’ve just done in this title. If I had to pick a version then I would go for The Dubliners, after all, I heard a lot of that as a child. And it’s used as there aren’t a lot of barrow mentions in other songs, with or without wheels.

Without much time to rest and recuperate it is another home game tonight. After the error strewn disappointment of Saturday’s loss against relegation threatened Colchester United, we are back in action against Barrow, in a rearranged game as the original due to be played on March 2nd was postponed due to our pitch being waterlogged. And although there was some biblical rain yesterday, there has been high winds and sunny spells to ensure the pitch is playable for tonight.

We go into the game in the final playoff spot, and are two points behind our opponents tonight, so a win would see us leapfrog them into sixth, even if they do have a game in hand after another of their recent games was postponed due to their pitch being waterlogged. And it has been hotting up behind us. There are five teams within three points of us, with Doncaster Rovers now only a single point behind us and on a run of wins that looks like it would take some stopping. But it is still in our own hands, win the last three games and we will be in the playoffs regardless of what anyone else does.

It is a hell of a trip down from Barrow on a Tuesday night, but they have brought a coach, some cars and eleven long haired friends of Jesus in a chartreuse microbus in a convoy. And they’ve brought Dom Telford with them for his first Broadfield Stadium action since missing a penalty against Gillingham at the start of the season before he was sold to Barrow.

We arrive as the sun is setting over the corner of the KRL Logistics stand, and it is a totally different sky depending on whether you look north (lovely),

Or south (welcome to Mordor).

Despite the nice sunset it did rain on us all the way to the ground. Barrow are in white shirts with blue arms, blue shorts, and socks.

It is a cagey start, and it takes a while for the first shot to come, and it’s Jay Williams from about thirty yards out and it goes just over the bar. The ref has got his book out early on and there is a booking for each side for their first heavy challenge. Only for him to calm down and let a few more robust ones go (including a couple on Harry Forster again). There is a free kick on the wing, but Will Wright’s free kick is straight into the keeper’s arms.

Barrow attack and a shot is blocked, there is a Dom Telford miscue (where have we seen that before?) and a Corey Addai save before a cross goes wide. At the other end Ade Adeyemo gets a shot on the edge of the area but it is blocked within a couple of yards.

There is a lot of nothing going on for quite some time. Then we work it forward and Adeyemo has it in the box, his shot is blocked, hits a defender in the face and the keeper has to save it. Most of our good play is from getting it to the two wing backs high up the pitch, but we don’t do this anywhere near often enough. Lots of slow possession, and each backwards or sideways pass is getting met with groans.

Ten minutes before the break, Adeyemo tries to prevent to ball going to their winger but at full stretch just slows it down for him, the cross goes into the box, over the defence and their number 20 is at the back post and his header can’t be kept out by Addai and we are down 0-1.

It’s a while before our next attack, but a Wright ball finds Klaidi Lolos in the box and his shot is force over the bar for a corner. Which we waste. There are three added minutes at the end of the half. Enough time to get a cross in from the left wing which Adeyemo heads just wide at the back post. And the half time whistle goes with it 0-1.

The second half starts with a wasted free kick early on. Then an attack down the right and the cross is turned behind for a corner, which is headed clear, it comes back, and a shot is blocked, reclaimed, and then passed all the way back to Addai.

Another attack sees who knows what going on. We have a shot; it is blocked and there are claims for a penalty. It is cleared, put back in, there is another shot, and it bounces around and the keeper claims it. Then the ref points at the spot and we have a penalty. Was it for the handball? Who cares, even if it took an age to give. Danilo Orsi has the ball, and the Barrow players are taking as long as possible to allow the penalty to be taken. Their goalie is booked after coming back out off his line after everyone has lined up outside the box. Orsi ignores it all and sends the keeper the wrong way and it is 1-1.

Barrow have a bit of pressure, a corner is turned behind for another, from which Addai makes a great save, and there is a third corner which we eventually clear. We attack and there is clever work from Adeyemo down the right, it goes to Liam Kelly and his ball into the box finds Lolos and his shot is cleared by a defender after beating the keeper. We work it back across the field to the left and win a corner, and an Adam Campbell shot is beaten away and the follow up goes wide right.

At the other end a corner is half cleared, and played back in, a header comes out off the post and their shot is well saved by Addai, and the third effort is also stopped by Addai before the ball is cleared away. Barrow play a long ball over the top and it is taken down in the area by their striker, but one on one with Addai it is saved and cleared.

Lolos wins a free kick on the right-hand edge of the area about twenty-five yards out. The cross is headed out for a corner, which is wasted once again. Barrow attack, their cross is headed back to someone in the box, but their shot is over the bar. Then Barrow have the ball in the net, but the ref had blown for a free kick for handball before it was.

There are six added minutes. In which we huff and puff a bit. A Campbell cross is headed wide by Orsi, and there is a Dion Conroy shot from distances which is just wide, but the final whistle goes, and it is a 1-1 draw.

The crowd was announced as being 3,155 with 108 away fans, and the sponsors’ man of the match was Will Wright. Not sure why.

The draw doesn’t do us any favours. We stay seventh, a point ahead of Walsall who won tonight, and two ahead of Doncaster Rovers who have a game in hand against Colchester United next Tuesday night. It is no longer in our own hands, we are going to need help from somewhere, but we still have the right position, and all we can do now is go out and win those last two games.

Next up is out final away game of the season with a fairly local game against Sutton United, where the away tickets had sold out, but they have released another 450 this afternoon.

Come on you reds.

Stop Me If You’ve Seen This One Before

Some misappropriated cheerful Smith’s lyrics this time around, others may pop up as I continue on in this vein as Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.

After three consecutive away games it is back to home action in the second of the two for two-pound games. The away fixtures saw six points from nine, with a 4-0 win at Newport County, a 4-1 win at Mansfield Town (with a very nice photo on the back of the Crawley Observer of the team celebrating the second goal with Helen and I just above their heads), and then a 4-1 defeat Tuesday night at Wrexham, where the atmosphere was amazing and there were people roping others into coming to the Sutton United away game next week as they travelled back from Chester on the Wednesday afternoon.

After staying in Chester after the Wrexham game, today’s opponents are Colchester United, who currently sit in the relegation places, albeit with games in hand on Sutton and Grimsby Town above them. We beat them 2-1 in the away fixture back in December. And there was the saga regarding Matthew Etherington and his contract clause from when he managed us the previous season, which delayed his appointment. Some of their fans may be wishing they never bothered as his tenure there was only just longer than his with us, and the results were even worse there before he was sacked.

We go into the game in seventh and the final play-off spot. And with there being a chasing pack it is a game we need to win, so Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want This Time. With there being a chasing pack, let’s hope there isn’t the same kind of stage fright as there was with the last sell out of the two for two-pound games against Doncaster Rovers, nor the other two sellout games of the season against AFC Wimbledon and Wrexham. That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore.

The game is a sell out and Colchester have sold a thousand tickets, so there is no pocket of home fans in the corner of the north terrace today. I arrive early to beat the rush, not to get a programme (I might let this go in a couple of years or so). But it does point me back to the one picked up at Wrexham, as the piece on Crawley in their programme was excellent. I hadn’t ever stopped to consider how the club badge was made up, so their part-by-part explanation of it was an eye opener for me. I stick my head into the club shop and sigh, but at least they finally have some of the green third kit shirts in stock after months of none being available, and there is a new plain white T with just Crawley Town in black writing across the chest. These Things Take Time.

There are two coaches and a double decker bus of away fans parked up when I arrived, and I bumped into Paul on the way into the ground and had a chat, and then saw Al the steward and had a quick chat with him before making it to the seat in the east marquee.

Colchester are in yellow shirts, blue shorts, and white socks, so remarkably similar to the outfit we faced last weekend at Mansfield.

We have some good early pressure, and the crowd appear to be up for this one, and there is a Jack Roles shot over the bar. Harry Forster is taken down on the edge of the box. The free kick is crossed in, and Lawrence Maguire gets a head to it, but there is little power in it, and it deflects into the keeper’s arms.

At the other end Colchester create a chance, Corey Addai saves for a corner, which is nodded out for another, and the volley from that one sails out over the Eden Utilities Stand for ball loss number one of the day.

Forster is hacked down again, this time near the halfway line, but there is no sign of a yellow card this time either. A couple of minutes later we work a throw from near the box to Roles, and his shot clips the top of the crossbar and goes out over the KRL Logistics stand for ball loss number two.

Colchester attack and the defence seems to be Asleep as the ball is played across the box two yards out and requires a simple tap in to make it 0-1.

We attack and get a free kick for a pull back on Klaidi Lolos about twenty-five yards out. A Roles shot hits the wall and goes out for a corner. The ball is played in, a shot is cleared, we attack again, and it is cleared again. From the next attack Lolos brings a ball down in the box but can’t quite find Danilo Orsi to get a shot away.

At the third time of asking, a hacking down of Forster brings a yellow card, if there had been one for the first hack the latter ones might not be taking place. We work it down the left, the ball comes back to Roles and his shot is deflected for a corner. It is worked to Roles again and his latest shot is blocked, and the second ball in is deflected for another corner, which is worked into the box, but Maguire’s header is wide.

The Colchester defence throw us a Rubber Ring with a poor pass out from the back straight to Forster, he cuts inside, and his shot is half blocked and falls to Lolos who slots the ball in and makes it 1-1 a couple of minutes before half time.

I have to Ask what happened straight away at the other end. An absolute omnishambles. A defender tried to leave the ball to run back to Addai, but there was some Panic and it ended up being passed to a Colchester attacker who rolled it across the box to an unmarked colleague in the middle of the six-yard box who made it 2-1. Stupid, stupid, stupid. They Paint A Vulgar Picture.

There are three minutes of added time. We get a free kick about thirty yards out and after a meeting of minds over the ball Will Wright puts far too much pace on his attempted through ball to Orsi and it rolls out for a goal kick. We get a corner and have enough time to take it this week, but as it is headed out to the edge of the area the half time whistle goes with us down 1-2.

I’m walking back from a half time pitstop as the second half begins, and it looks as if we are going Nowhere Fast, as from the kick off, Colchester play keep ball in our half and have it in the net for 3-1 as I’m passing behind the other goal. Perhaps There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, but it feels as if the one on this game is about to.

It is all Colchester early on in the second half. Crawley can’t seem to get out of their own half, and there is another Colchester shot which is only narrowly over the bar. We finally make it out of our own half but Maguire’s through ball has just too much on it and the Colchester keeper just gets to it before Orsi. And from that Colchester go up the other end and get a corner.

The final ball for us just isn’t happening. It is all over the pitch, we are just off it, like they’ve Started Something they Couldn’t Finish. Forster is still going though, and he wins a corner as his cross is blocked out and over the Eden Utilities Stand for ball loss three of the day. Colchester break from the corner and are fortunately offside.

There is some decent work down the right by Ade Adeyemo who has just come on as a sub, and Forster’s shot is just high and wide. Another Forster shot soon after is headed clear. The Colchester keeper goes down with a spurious timewasting injury which allows Colchester to have a team talk as Crawley have just woken up from their slumber.

Forster is dragged down again near the edge of the box, and it draws another yellow card. The free kick bounces in and the Colchester keeper makes a meal of it, and it goes for a corner, which he then catches easily. We make another substitution and Jeremy Kelly wins a corner straight away, it is cleared and a clash of bodies on the edge of the area sees more blatant timewasting. Another J Kelly shot ricochets to the keeper, although there are shouts for a handball amongst the ricochets, which are ignored.

Colchester break again and win a corner, which Addai punches away for another. The ball comes in and is in the net, but as the Colchester players celebrate, we take the free kick the linesman has flagged for before the ball went in, which may have been a bit lucky. We break, get a corner, and there is a melee in the box before it is cleared.

We keep playing balls in and they are being hoofed away, or there is contact, and the Colchester players are falling to the ground like extras from Platoon. A Liam Kelly corner hits the first man, and there is a mention of Jack Powell from behind me.

Off the ball Maguire is on the ground after a clash with the Colchester number nine. For once an official sees something and the linesman is in the ref’s ear and a red card is produced and Colchester and down to ten men. It was all kicking off in the tunnel as they left the pitch.

There are seven added minutes, the first two of which Colchester spend wasting even more time. More hoofs away, more falling over. We get a ball into the box and a Lolos header is tipped over the bar for a corner. A J Kelly shot is saved for another corner, and there is a booking for the Colchester keeper for timewasting. There are shouts for a penalty as Orsi goes to ground in the box, but they are ignored, but a cross comes in and Forster heads it in to make it 2-3.

There is just time to win the ball back, attack again and get a corner. Addai is up in the box for this, and it is just over his head and Maguire’s header just drops onto the top of the net instead of into it and the final whistle goes with it being a 2-3 loss. It could have been better, but We Just Haven’t Earned It Baby.

The crowd was announced as being 5,223, with 965 away fans, and the sponsors’ man of the match was Harry Forster, which means at least the sponsors were watching the game for a change.

Despite the loss we stay seventh, and it is still in our own hands, so What Difference Does It Make? For Colchester, definitely some, as the win takes them out of the relegation zone and puts next weekend’s opponents Sutton into it.

There is no let-up in the games now. Next up is Barrow on Tuesday night, a rearranged game from the beginning of March when our pitch was waterlogged, before the final away game of the season next Saturday at Sutton.

Come On You Reds

(Fifteen Smiths titles crammed in there somewhere.)

Burn Hollywood FC Burn (Taken Down By Wrexham Town)

Taking the lyrics of Leftfield and Lydon’s ‘Open Up’ in vain this time around (although it could have been Public Enemy featuring Ice Cube, with their last line from “Burn Hollywood Burn” being “Fuck Hollywood Man.”) And yes, I know, they aren’t called Wrexham Town.

Hot on the heels of the magnificent away win against Mansfield Town on Saturday, it is another away game. This time on a Tuesday night at Wrexham. Or Hollywood FC, or any one of a raft of not so polite nicknames for them, especially since the large influx of investment from North American screen stars.

It is the second consecutive game in which Crawley are the away side to the side who sit second in the league at the time we kick off. There are eight League Two games being played this evening, with all the sides above us in the league playing, and a big one between two of the chasing teams below us who are in form as well, so at least half an eye on the Doncaster Rovers vs Walsall game.

I haven’t been back to Crawley in between games either, having stayed on in Nottingham to see family after the Mansfield game. I might have been looking for signs of how tonight’s game would go, but I wasn’t expecting to literally see a Wrexham Signs sign above the chemist on the corner of the next street to where my brother lives in Nottingham. I’d happily take the first two digits in the number at the bottom of the sign for the result tonight.

We start the game in seventh, the final play-off place, three points ahead of the chasing pack and only two points behind the two sides directly above us in the table. There is everything to play for.

I missed the home game against Wrexham back in October due to a family gathering. The game finished with a 1-0 defeat for us, in our terrible October run of no wins, and lots of losses. This fixture was originally due to be played at the end of January, but it was postponed due to Wrexham still being in the FA Cup, and so it’s finally being played two and a half months later.

Having taken time to go between games I’m staying in Chester on the right side of the border and got the train down to Wrexham to have a look around the town, doing a bit of sightseeing before the game again as I’ve never been to Wrexham before, and it looked as if there were some interesting things to look at from the clips seen on Welcome to Wrexham. Although, when you put a mural of your star striker on the side of a pub, you should really have a good think about the name of the pub before you do so.

And yes, we saw Rob and Ryan. Cutouts in the window of Waterstones.

The attempts at rain had disappeared by the time we walked up to the stadium, and it was a lovely sunny evening, even if the wind is bitter.

I get a programme, had a good read, it is a good one, and shows again one of the things I miss most about games. We had a nosy in the club shop, which as at Peterborough shows just what can be done with club merchandise, and just how many missed opportunities there are for the club and income streams.

Crawley are playing in the pale green third shirt, with black shorts and socks. We have lots of early possession, albeit most of that being passed across from one side of the pitch to the other in our own half, but nothing positive created, until a ball is played through to Nick Tsaroulla in the box and his shot is easily saved.

There is plenty of early niggle between Will Wright and Paul Mullin. A late, late challenge on Kellen Gordon gets a warning, and a couple of minutes late a very heavy challenge on Klaidi Lolos escapes with a warning as well. It takes quarter of an hour before Wrexham get a shot away.

A couple of minutes after that we get our first corner of the match, and a second straight after. A Wrexham attack follows, and it looks as if a long shot is going harmlessly wide, but it holds up and one of their players sneaks around the back and heads it in and we are losing 1-0 out of nowhere.

At the other end we get an opportunity for a long throw, it looks as if Jay Williams is being held in the box and it’s headed out and there is a mix-up between Wright and Lawrence Maguire and Wrexham break, they play it down the right, a cross comes in and there is a simple tap in and just like that we are 2-0 down from being on top two minutes before.

We are plugging away though, and another Tsaroulla shot is easily saved by the keeper. Maguire gets a booking for dragging back Ollie Palmer, and to me it looked like he was the last man, so it might have been a bit of luck there wasn’t a red involved. Back at the other end Lolos has a shot which goes over, and then we have a decent break down the right and Ronan Darcy sees his cross blocked behind for a corner. From which we work a shot which goes wide.

All the good play from Crawley is coming down the right-hand side. It is being played quicker down there, and it isn’t stopping at the halfway line and coming back unlike play down the left, which is pedestrian at best.

There are two added minutes at the end of the half and in it Wrexham get a cross into the box and the resulting header beats the defence and Corey Addai, but it comes back off the post and is cleared, and the half time whistle goes with the score 0-2.

The half time music playlist is different. They were playing Gary Glitter, which isn’t a great look for any side, or is it anything to distract from the sheep?

We have some good early pressure in the second half but struggle to get the final ball right. Mullin comes in with another late tackle over on the far side, and there is still no booking for a Wrexham player. And the lino isn’t any better, he’s at least two yards behind play when a ball is played through and giving him the benefit of the doubt, from his angle the Wrexham player was onside, but was easily off if he’d been up with play, and Wrexham win a corner from the non-call.

We have a bit of sustained pressure, and Maguire has a shot from distance which their keeper just about manages to stop, and it goes for a corner. We are still struggling with that final ball. We get another corner, it’s tipped to the far side, and the cross back in is easily caught by the keeper.

Scott Lindsey has sent on all five subs before seventy minutes are up. Wrexham win another corner as a result of the lino not being up with play, this one even more blatantly offside than the previous one. It is cleared, but not far, and a shot comes in which Addai saves but it comes out and the rebound is picked up and slotted in and it’s 3-0.

Ade Adeyemo is doing some decent work down the right-hand side since coming on, we’ve created a couple of chances and win a corner, which bounces around in the box, but we just can’t get a shot away.

Harry Forster has the ball in the net from another attack, but the flag has already gone up for offside. The other lino seemingly able to keep up with play. We get a long throw, and it comes back to us, we play it back, only for me to have obviously jinxed Adeyemo with some praise earlier, as his under hit back pass leaves Addai with an impossible choice, either risk taking Mullin out and getting sent off, or retreat and try and stop the one on one. He goes for the latter but can’t and the shot goes in off the post and it’s now 4-0. We need to be more with it in the aftermath of attempted long throws.

We keep trying. Darcy has a shot on target, and another shot not long after, which is high, wide, and not so handsome. The board goes up to say there are five added minutes.

Adam Campbell gets a shot off and it is forced around the post for a corner. Which we score from. No fannying about it is crossed into the box and Lolos heads it in to make it 4-1. There are some muted chants and ‘5-4, we’re gonna win 5-4’.

And in the last minute of added time there is finally a booking for Wrexham as not even the ref can ignore the rugby tackle on Forster when he is through to the byline. The free kick is cleared for a corner, and as that is cleared the final whistle goes and the game is over with a 4-1 defeat.

The crowd is announced as 11,544 with an incredibly good for a Tuesday night away support of 316.

The result sees us stay in seventh place, still three points above the teams in eighth and ninth. Above us, Crewe won, but Barrow’s game was called off due to a waterlogged pitch.

Post game it was back to Chester on the train, and a boisterous carriage half full of Crawley fans who were then heading off into the Chester night to drown their sorrows.

It is time to head back to Crawley, ready for the double header of home games, with Colchester United visiting on Saturday, and the rearranged Barrow fixture next Tuesday.

Come on you reds.

We Have Made It In A Mans(field) World

A much more up to date lyric reference this time around, coming straight out of the new Camera Obscura album released this month. Makes a change from my usual sixties / seventies / eighties references I suppose.

Since I last wrote, after the disappointing (from a lot of angles) defeat at home to Doncaster Rovers on Good (well, bad really) Friday, there was the magnificent 4-0 away drubbing of Newport County on Easter Monday, which I’m reliably informed (i.e. the Facebook group and the forums) is our best ever away win in the football league.

It was the first of three consecutive away games in the space of just over a week. Today’s game is the second of those, a tasty away trip to second in the league, Mansfield Town. Always assuming it goes ahead, as the weather hasn’t been great all week, and they had their Easter Monday game called off due to a waterlogged pitch. They have seven (the count has been going up all week) defenders out for this game, so the conspiracy theorists on the forums are out saying they will be watering the pitch to get this one called off as well.

We’ve come up to Nottingham early in the weekend, as it allows a visit to relatives before sloping off for the day to Mansfield, seeing as we didn’t get the chance to visit for either of the two Notts County games due to Covid and work commitments.

Our game against Mansfield at home earlier in the season was a disappointing 3-1 loss, much aided by a stinker from the ref, and I had named my piece for that one as “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s Field Win (But It Wouldn’t Be Nothing Without The Ref To Lend A Hand)”.

And of course, there is the Mansfield manager, the infamous Nigel Clough who celebrated Burton Albion being moved from the Southern Premier league to the Northern Premier league many moons ago by saying ‘At least I won’t have to go to places like Crawley anymore.’ The game earlier this season was the eleventh time he’s had to take a team he’s managing to Crawley since then. This time he isn’t having to travel to Crawley, but Crawley are coming to him.

We start the day in the final play-off place of seventh, two points and a game in hand on the teams directly below us. With six games left to play, it is in our own hands, but we have a stinker of a run in. After today’s game against second, we are away at third placed Wrexham, have a rearranged game against fifth place Barrow to play, and then three games against the three teams scrapping for their lives in twenty first, twenty second, and twenty third in the league. No games against teams with nothing to play for, which would be the ideal at this point in time.

After a wander around the town, doing some sightseeing and shopping, we got to the ground and did a full lap around it before getting to the away turnstiles. There is a sign on the south stand proclaiming that the this is ‘The Oldest Professional Football Ground In The World.’ And in some ways that is obvious, there are no women’s toilets in the away end, just three disgusting portaloos with nowhere to wash hands, and the single disabled toilet is as bad. You can see why the place is called Mansfield, and not Womansfield.

They were trying to sprinkle the pitch, but the wind is taking the water straight over us in the north stand. The wind is very gusty which should make things entertaining. Crawley are in all white today, and the hosts are in their traditional yellow shirts and socks and blue shorts. And it looked like we enforced a change of ends before the kick off.

There is an early Mansfield corner, but easily cleared and we work two chances in quick succession as both Danilo Orsi and Klaidi Lolos drag shots wide right. And then we work it well down the right the ball comes into Lolos who turns with it only for it to be partially cleared, it comes to Kellen Gordon whose shot is deflected past the keeper and into the bottom corner of the net and we lead 1-0.

The lead is nearly gone straight away as a poor pass out of defence goes straight to a Mansfield striker fifteen yards out, but their shot is high and wide into the stand behind the goal. At the other end, a Jeremy Kelly shot is straight at the keeper after being put in by Nick Tsaroulla. We have a couple of free kicks from the right-hand side, but the wind takes the ball out behind on both.

Mansfield have a chance blocked, they got in after a blatant push on Gordon. We attack again and Tsaroulla’s shot is tipped around the post for a corner. From which an eventual shot is blocked and then cleared. There is more decent work down the right and a Gordon cross is forced out for a corner.

Just past the halfway point of the half excellent work from Lolos sees Ronan Darcy away in midfield, he cuts across the box and then passes it to Tsaroulla, who cuts back inside and curls a shot into the top corner, and we are ahead 2-0.

From the restart there is a Mansfield shot which goes into the side netting. The Mansfield fans are cheering only for those cheers to die away and be drowned out by the ironic jeers from the Crawley fans.

We work the ball into the box a couple of times but find that final ball is just out, a bit too strong, or a bit too soft. Mansfield break and we just about scramble it for a corner. They have a couple of blocked shots from it, but we break away only for Orsi to be hacked down at the halfway line, a cynical foul that didn’t bring the deserved yellow card. The resulting free kick from Will Wright is headed for a corner, which is tipped away by the keeper for another corner from the other side, and Darcy ends up with a shot on target.

There are three minutes added at the end of the half. Mansfield get a free kick on the edge of the penalty area on the left wing, and it is headed out for a corner. At the other end, a Wright long throw is headed out for a corner, but the ref blows for half time before it can be taken, and going into the break we lead 2-0.

The second half begins with an early shot from Mansfield straight at Corey Addai. There is early Mansfield pressure, and another Addai save. We break and have a shot that goes wide at the other end.

After a break in play for a Mansfield injury we play out from the back, and it is worked forward. The ball is with Tsaroulla on the left wing and his cross is controlled by Orsi, and he turns and puts it in the net, and we lead 3-0.

And straight from the kick off we win the ball back in midfield and Lolos picks it up and he runs past numerous defenders, and he smacks it in from just inside the box and we are in dreamland and ahead 4-0 for the second away game on the trot.

Gordon picks up a booking for a bit of a nothing challenge, which seems harsh, but he was on a last warning from the ref from the number of times he had gone to ground too easily under challenges in the first half.

A bit of a lull follows, there are plenty of substitutions from both sides. We work it forward to Adam Campbell whose eventual shot is just wide left. The crowd is announced as being 7,346, but doesn’t mention how many away fans there were, but there must have been at least a couple of hundred.

Mansfield have another shot and Addai pushes it around the post for another corner. With just over ten minutes to go after more substitutions Mansfield work the ball into the penalty area and one of their subs controls and their shot beats Addai and the score is pegged back to 4-1.

Another attack is worked through to Campbell, but the shot is wide again. There are five minutes of added time. During which there is some nervy play, and we give the ball away in our own box. This leads to a couple of Mansfield corners, there is some pinball in the box, three blocked shots and eventually a shot wide. The full-time whistle goes, and it is a very impressive 4-1 away win.

A picture of the trademark Scott Lindsey celebration is ruined by a steward walking into shot just at the fist pump moment. I can’t be the only person who was trying to sing ‘Nigel, Nigel, what’s the score?’ Especially as he was named as a candidate for manager of the season for a team expected to be promoted, whereas ours who beat him and has us in the playoffs when everyone had us to finish bottom is snubbed.

The win sees us consolidate seventh place, now three points ahead of the clubs in eighth and ninth, and only two places behind the teams in fifth and sixth, and our game in hand on sixth is against the team in fifth, so a win of that would see us jump both of those!!! Mansfield drop to fourth and out of the automatic promotion places. Alvin Stardust, Ed Davey. Becky Adlington, Steve Ogrizovic, Richard Bacon, George Fox, Nigel Clough; your boys took one hell of a beating. And if the season had finished today, we would be playing them again in the playoffs.

Next up is that aforementioned away trip to Wrexham on Tuesday night, for which we will be there, as we’ll be going over to stop in Chester from being in Nottingham (we don’t actually want to stay over the border, and it is allegedly still legal to shoot a Welshman in Chester with a bow and arrow).

Come on you reds.

What Have We Done-Caster To Deserve This

Yes, still trying to shoehorn names into lyrics where they don’t belong, and apologies to the Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield this time around.

Since out last home game, the battling 1-1 draw against a very good Stockport County side, we have had the tricky away game up at Tranmere, where we came away with a 3-1 victory. A result, which combined with others on the day, saw us jump up two places in the league and into…. Drumroll please…… the playoff places. Yes, we are in seventh place and have two games in hand on the two teams directly below us in the league.

And it isn’t a Saturday afternoon game, because it’s Easter weekend, and therefore it’s a double header of games, with this one being the Good Friday fixture, at home to Doncaster Rovers.

We lost to them at their place earlier in the season, a 2-0 defeat that was the start of our dreadful October run of one point from five games. A result which prompted one of their eight-year-old troll fans to bring some glorious primary school ‘banter’ to the forum. The kind that makes poor old crawley57away look like a total amateur.

Anyway, going into today’s game Doncaster sit eleven places behind us in eighteenth, but only ten points behind us. And they have the same form as us over the last six games of four wins, a draw, and a loss, so it may well be a tougher game than the league positions would suggest.

It is the first of the two for £2 games this season (the second being the Colchester game in just over two weeks’ time). And it is a sell-out. All the usual home areas sold out earlier in the week, and so the club have made part of the north terrace available to home fans to try and cram another 550 of us in.

And as such the ground is remarkably busy. An early approach was required, as there was the need to get tickets for two upcoming away games, and getting in early was going to be the best policy, as the queues were going to be mental, especially for the inadequate number of turnstiles for entry to the east marquee.

At the ground there were four away fan coaches lined up, more than I had seen at a game since I’ve been going to matches. Redz bar and the Fanzone were rammed, and the club had opened the turnstiles before 2pm for this one to try and help with the queues.

The pitch looks in terrific condition despite all the rain, but the apron to it is somewhat waterlogged. It is surprise when they turn the sprinklers on to water the pitch before the game and at half time. It is very breezy out there, which could make things interesting.

Doncaster are in blue and white hooped shirts and socks and blue shorts. The game may well have been a sell-out, but there are some no shows with empty seats dotted around, including ones both sides of us, perhaps me scribbling away during the game is off-putting.

We have some good early pressure, get a corner, win a free kick, have a shot, and for a few minutes all looks good as we prevent Doncaster from getting out of their own half. But the game turns scrappy quickly. There are a lot of misplaced passes from both sides, and the wind is not to blame as most of them are along the ground.

Then there is some decent play down the right wing and a Ronan Darcy shot goes just wide. Doncaster break and get a low shot away which Corey Addai tips just round the post for a corner. From it Doncaster get a free kick not far outside the box in a central position, which comes to nothing.

After lots of nervy play, we get a break, Klaidi Lolos is through one on one with the keeper, but his shot is saved, Danilo Orsi’s follow up is blocked (some suggestion of it being so by a hand), and the ball gets cleared. On the other side of the pitch a Will Wright free kick from the wing eludes everyone in the box and the keeper scrambling but it goes past the far post.

Crawley appear to be getting back on top now and work another chance with a shot from Darcy from just outside the area which is deflected for a corner. A long clearance from Addai gets taken by the wind and only just skips wide. I wonder if that counts as a shot on goal?

Doncaster have a bit of pressure and get a couple of corners in quick succession, only for ball one to disappear out over the Eden Utilities Stand from a wayward shot.

One minute of added time is indicated, and we have a free kick in a promising position, which we waste, and the whistle goes for half time with the score 0-0.

Helen has mentioned to me that their player Ironside has been getting a bit of a tough time. To which my initial response was that he’s not doing badly seeing at the last time I saw him on telly he was in a wheelchair.

The second half starts and there is an early corner for us again, it goes to the far post and is headed back and it looks like it has gone in from where we are as people are on their feet and cheering, but it’s another corner, which again is deep and Orsi’s attempt to head it back across floats onto the top of the net.

And with their first attack of the second half Doncaster gallop down the other end and score. Which seemed all too easy. From seemingly out of nowhere we are behind 0-1. It is nearly two a couple of minutes later, but Addai tips another effort round the post for a corner.

There is a late tackle on Orsi near the halfway line in our own half. The ref plays advantage, and the play carries on for thirty seconds. Lawrence Maguire is screaming at the lino. When play does stop the ref sends the Doncaster defender off. It is all a bit bizarre. If it was a sending off offence, then surely stop the game immediately. There is some argy bargy between the players and Addai sprints the length of the pitch to drag Lolos away from a confrontation. There is a pause in the play, and it eventually restarts with a free kick back where the foul took place, after some treatment to the Doncaster keeper (the first of many spurious ‘injuries’ to Doncaster players, most of which the ref just ignores, or tells them to get up).

We aren’t really making the extra man count. Jack Roles has a shot on target. A clearance from Doncaster sails out over the east marquee for ball lost two of the day. Jay Williams gets a shot away from the edge of the area which is deflected for a corner, and Roles has another shot which goes just wide.

But Addai is having a bit of a brain freeze at the other end. He throws a clearance straight to a Doncaster striker, but fortunately they couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo and the shot is high and wide.

Another Roles shot goes for a corner, which we don’t cross, but fanny about trying to work the ball across midfield, only to lose it and have Doncaster bearing down on Addai with two strikers and not a Crawley defender in sight. But once again the cow’s arse is safe, and the shot is wide.

A Nick Tsaroulla shot takes a deflection, and the keeper spills the save but dives on it at the second attempt. A ball is worked through to Orsi, but his shot is wide. The Doncaster keeper is booked for timewasting. Another Tsaroulla shot is blocked, there are claims of by a hand again. A follow up shot is saved, and a third shot goes wide.

But the ball is cleared, and who the fuck knows what Addai was doing, but the ball comes to their number 36 – who to be fair has been playing the lone target man role really well – and he has an easy tap in to make it 0-2. Cue the fire drill and mass exodus towards the exit.

The final whistle comes not long after and it is a very disappointing 0-2 loss. The team just weren’t on it in front of a bumper crowd of 5,436 (with 625 away fans). Before the game Rick, who sits behind us, and another long time Spurs fan said he was hoping Crawley weren’t going to go a bit Spursy. But it feels exactly like that. When we lost to Doncaster earlier in the season, we were second and then went on a bad run. Today we started in the playoff places and lost. Let’s hope a bad run doesn’t follow.

Especially as next up are three consecutive away games. Easter Monday sees a trip to South Wales to play Newport County, followed by visits to two of the top three, first, Mansfield Town next Saturday, and then the rearranged away game at Wrexham the following Tuesday. A road trip has been arranged for the latter two of those games, with some relative visiting added in there as well. Tough games, but points are possible.

The sponsor’s man of the match was announced as Ronan Darcy. Which led to a bit of head scratching. But as the match sponsor’s were a firm called Rhino.Bet it does beg the question on whether there was a beneficial betting market on who was going to be named as the sponsor’s man of the match.

Anyway, the result sees us drop two places, back to ninth, but we still have two games in hand on Gillingham and AFC Wimbledon, who scraped past us in the table with draws. So, there is still hope, but there will need to be better performances than this. It was one of those frustrating afternoons, so much so I left writing this up until this morning.

Come on you reds.