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.

A World Championship Bantamweight Clash

Ten days on from Crawley’s last home game, a battling draw on a Tuesday night against Grimsby Town had left us five points clear of the relegation zone and some sighs of relief. But last weekend didn’t go well. The Crawley defence were outstanding against Mansfield last Saturday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t defending they were outstanding at. I have to assume that collectively they are now the new undisputed world champions at musical statues.

It was a 4-1 thumping, and it could have been worse as Mansfield hit the woodwork twice in the latter stages of the game as the defence consolidated their world championship.

This coincided with Hartlepool coming back from being behind to win with two late goals against Swindon Town. Manager Scott Lindsey and captain Ben Gladwin’s old side doing us no favours at all, and probably had a moment where they thought, what are we doing, let this lot win and we can screw the deserters over good and proper.

All of this means that coming into today’s game against Bradford City we are now only two points ahead of Hartlepool and the relegation zone. Which means if things go badly today as well then come five o’clock we could be taking their place in the relegation zone.

And of course, it is the WAGMI derby. The incompetent American crypto clowns tried to take Bradford over before moving onto the next letter in the alphabet and swooping in on us. A lot of fans must be wishing they had connected with their original target.

Going into today’s game Bradford City sit sixth in the table on sixty-four points and in the play-off places and are unbeaten in their last six games. That is just the sixteen places above us and twenty-seven points ahead of us. The only solace I can draw before the game is that we have a decent record against sides in the playoff places at kick-off this season. Let’s hope that continues.

Our only other Friday game this season was the terrible Friday evening loss to Hartlepool at the back end of last year when they were bottom of the table. But this one will be played in daylight, and it looks to be bright sunshine out there as well.

I stroll down to the ground early enough to get myself a programme and to try and avoid any scrum and queues to get through the wholly inadequate two turnstiles into the east marquee.

It’s always difficult to tell what kind of crowd there will be for a Good Friday game, with it being school holidays there are people away, but at the same time, not a lot of people are working so it could attract casual support, especially with the sun shining.

There are two coaches for the away fans in the car park and decent numbers of away fans as they are spread out across the whole of the away end, and there look to be decent numbers all round the ground, which is always good.

The programme is not just pretty much error free, but after forty or so games they’ve finally sorted out the issues with the fixtures and results page.

Al is on duty in the east marquee, looking hot and bothered in lots of layers in the sun. He was trying to help ease the congestion on the turnstiles into the east marquee before the game, but not many people in the queue were paying much attention to him.

Bradford are wearing their away fit of black and white vertical striped shirts and white socks and shorts. And the officials have come dressed as yellow Stabilo Boss highlighter pens.

There is some nice early pressure from Crawley who settled in very well, and Ashley Nadesan just missed getting on the end of a ball put in from a corner. There are a flurry of early corners to us, and from one Atamide Oteh has a shot on target which is pushed out for a corner. Which we do nothing with.

It takes less than quarter of an hour to lose ball one over the top of the west stand from a Bradford clearance. But Bradford are getting a foothold in the game. There is a fairly long stoppage after a clash of heads with Harry Ransom needing glue and a headband to continue afterwards. Not long afterwards Bradford get a dubious looking free kick on the edge of the area, which fortunately leads to nothing.

Not long after Ransome goes into the book for a nothing challenge in midfield, and from the resulting free kick the Bradford number nine is allowed time and space to waltz through on goal, but Corey Addai makes a great save.

We lose the second ball of the game, but not over one of the stands for a change. A blocked shot on the edge of our area sees the ball go over the goal but not bounce much after it as it is deflating. With less than five minutes of normal time in the half there is a scuffle in midfield after a foul and yellow cards are given to both sides. Then there is a booking for a Bradford player straight from the restart for that. It is all getting a bit feisty. At this stage it looks like you’d get good odds on this finishing with eleven on the pitch for both sides.

Seven minutes of added time are shown but there are more goings on in that, so we end up playing just under ten, a very long half of football. Well, some football anyway.

And in the added time there is an off the ball incident and Kellen Gordon is down prostate on the pitch. We didn’t see hat happened, and none of the officials saw what happened. There is a lot of this with Gordon. Without having seen exactly what happened it is difficult to say, but there does seem to be a somewhat theatrical side to his game and judging by the lack of action from the officials a few times since he signed, he may well have a bit of a reputation with them.

There was a chance as well in that added time and fraughtness, Oteh puts a decent cross in, but Nadesan can’t get the right touch on the end of it.

Half time. You know by now what goes on. Playlist and late back.

Four minutes in to the second half, and no it isn’t a goal conceded, we seem to have got past that part of the season, instead it is the second ball to clear the west stand, from another Bradford clearance.

Bradford have started the second half better and there are a couple of chances for their number nine. He puts then both well wide, but it is worrying as he is getting a lot of space in the penalty area. I suppose it is a good job he couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo.

In a reversal of fortunes, we get a free kick near the edge of the penalty area and Jack Powell takes a strange curling run up to it and hits it low into the shins of the wall at low pace. Not his best effort. And we get a breakaway a couple of minutes later, a great ball is played across by Mazeeb, but it just kind of bounces off Oteh and out for a goal kick.

We are making subs, and off goes Dom Telford, which means that we have the scourge of the River Mole, Captain Jack Powell again. And straight after that we try to gift the ball through to the Bradford strikers in the box twice, but Addai collects the ball and we all breathe again.

Straight back up the other end and Nadesan just beats the defender and keeper to a bad back pass by just manages to flick it onto the keeper’s shin and it falls to a Bradford player. We get a couple of corners back to back not long after, which come to nothing again. Then a free kick wide on the right hand side goes over to the left of the area and a Nadesan shot is tipped over for another corner which Ransome heads high and wide.

The crowd is announced as 3,664 with 809 away fans, a bit disappointing as there looked to be more Crawley fans there than that.

Another round of subs and Captain Jack’s reign of terror is short lived as he is hooked off. Just before the end of normal time Tom Fellows puts a ball down to line for himself to chase only to be stopped by a blatant body check and a second yellow card for Bradford’s number five. We didn’t end the game with the full compliment of players, but the second half was a lot calmer than the first.

Four minutes of added time are announced, and Crawley are trying to make the man advantage count, there is a lot of pressure, but no one seems to want to take a shot. We hadn’t seen Caleb Chukwuemeka since the turn of the year, and we thought for good measure, but he had replaced Dom Telford earlier in the half. Turns out he is still as useless. He’s not as fast as we need, and as a striker he really shouldn’t be afraid of taking a shot. To be fair to him, most of the rest of them are shot shy as well, it seems shooting is a last resort, and then the chances they have end up going high wide and not very handsome.

The sponsor’s man of the match is announced as Corey Addai, which for once suggests the match day sponsors may well have been watching the game. There is a late corner, and it does lead to a shot. Guess where it went?

Full time whistle goes on the goal kick, and it finished 0-0

That puts us on 38 points and we stay in twenty second place, just a point behind Colchester and two behind Harrogate. But Hartlepool put in their best result of the season with a 4-1 away win at Grimsby Town, and are now on the same points as us, and only one behind us on goal difference. Plus, Rochdale won their second game on the trot. There are very worried looks over our shoulders now with only six games to go.

Outside there were arrests, or at least one. Not sure whether which set of fans it was, but there was an arrested fan, a load of police, and then a load more fans baying at the police. Neither of the away coaches had left by then, which is unusual by the time we eventually get out of the east marquee and all the way around to the underpass.

We go again on Easter Monday, the longest away trip of the season at Barrow, and we will be there, using the Easter break to go up and see my mum in Morecambe and take the away game in. I’m writing this up late in a Holiday Inn off the M6 as the journey has started.

Come on you reds.

It’s Officially A Streak

We had missed our first home league game of the season on Tuesday night, the rearranged fixture against Harrogate Town that should have been our first game of the season but had been postponed due to an outbreak of Covid in their camp. (So, it was somewhat ironic that Helen was missing the game due to having post Covid viral fatigue – whereas I was just running late.) Instead, I watched the live text updates on the BBC website. It would seem I missed a good game. An early goal to go behind, then a quick flurry to equalise and then take the lead before half time, an equalising own goal before a Crawley sending off for an off the ball incident, which left hanging on to take a point. Not bad against a side in the promotion places.

Helen is still not fit for supporting duty, and so I head to the stadium to see the game against Bradford City, another side above us in the table, on the verge of the playoff places. But with our home form this season, and a recent unbeaten run (plus eleven players on the pitch) there is still a level of confidence going into the game.

It has been a bit overcast and trying to rain all day, but on the stroll down to the stadium the sun came out, it was turning into another lovely afternoon to watch the football. I had a quick chat with Alan as I was waiting to get into the ground, and then got drinks for the whole game from a much shorter queue than at the last game. I was also glad to see that the screeching row of howler monkeys that had been sat behind us for the last few games had been replaced by adults. My ears were glad of it.

Bradford’s home kit of orange and maroon was obviously thought to be too much of a clash with the red of Crawley, and so they lined up in their away kit of all light blue, and at kick off it did look remarkably like it was a Crawley home team lining up against a Crawley away team. Although to be fair the kits were both outshone by the glare of the sun bouncing off the head of the completely bald referee. For crying out loud mate, dip, don’t dazzle your forehead.

There was an early chance for Crawley, and the crowd were in fine voice with the help of the drummer from the first minute. It turned out that Bradford had bought their own drummer with them as well as they could be heard in rare quiet moments from the partisan home crowd.

Penalty!! No, not quite, it did look like the ref had given it, but it turned out to be a free kick on the edge of the area, but it was a booking for the Bradford defender. It was a strange free kick, low into the penalty spot, as if it was a miscued shot, but the shot from the penalty spot was even more miscued, going well wide.

Bradford soon had their first real chance with a one on one on the keeper, but the striker tried to be too clever and chipped it well wide as well. Their shooting doesn’t get any better as the half goes on, the first ball out of the ground soon followed with a ball that may not have landed yet, and when (and if) it does it will be in the grounds of Broadfield House. A few minutes after that another Bradford effort from forty yards out sailed out over the Ryan Canter Club stand as well.

It’s 1-0 in the thirty ninth minute as a neat little chipped through ball by Jake Hessenthaler was put away into the bottom corner by Will Ferry. There was nearly an equaliser straight from the restart, with only a fine save from Glenn Morris preventing it. Just before half time, Bradford’s second booking led to a free kick near the corner flag, and on the second attempt to get the ball into the box, a header was crashed against the crossbar, and it was quickly followed by a good save from the Bradford keeper to prevent a headed own goal.

The sprinklers came on pretty much as soon as the half time whistle was blown, and the players only just avoided as soaking. I was feeling happy there was no queuing to be done. There had been some slick play from both sides in the first half, and it could have been a bigger Crawley lead or a draw going into the second half.

Music was just about coming through the poor speakers in the stand, and I could hear Seven Nation Army, and thinking it could be used for a new song for the Crawley chanting section. “Whoa Jake Hessenthaler” has a good ring to it and fits perfectly.

Bradford came out early for the second half and were made to wait a few minutes before the officials and Crawley players came out. And it would be another five minutes before Crawley started playing.

There was another injury to a Crawley player, with the goal scorer limping off with what looked like a hamstring injury. It does seem we are somewhat injury jinxed this season. Not long after the substitution the play came to an unexpected halt as the sprinklers in the half we were defending came on. It took a minute before someone managed to find the off switch. I wonder if it will be the first time that a groundsman will get a yellow card?

Bradford were attacking again, and so ball three made its way out of the stadium, this time over the KRL Logistics stand. A first Bradford substitution followed the wasted free kick, and after Crawley had woken up a bit after their half time slumber, Bradford brought their last two subs on in an attempt to change the game for them.

It didn’t go quite to plan for them as a minute later it was 2-0 to Crawley. Two weeks ago, Nick Tsaroulla had volleyed in a last-minute winner from the edge of the area. This time, it was the same place, but a low drive into the bottom corner and mass celebrations again.

The sun coming around is a bit lower now it is later in the year, and just after the second goal it was low enough to make the cover of the stand ineffective. It may be time to bust out the prescription sunglasses for future Saturday night games, as this low sunlight is going to hit earlier and earlier.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Crawley game without giving us fans a few palpitations, and Bradford pulled a goal back with less than ten minutes to go. (Glenn Morris got a booking in the aftermath as he tried to prevent Bradford getting the ball back.) It got a bit nervy, but it would appear that Crawley are getting good at seeing games out, and a lot of time was spent in the corners at the Bradford end of the pitch.

The crowd was announced as 2,475, the largest of the season, buoyed by the 498 fans Bradford had brought with them. It was also announced that the match sponsors had chosen Ludwig Francilette as their man of the match. Not sure what game they were watching. Our new signing Mark Marshall came on as a sub for the last few minutes and helped see the game out. There was a groan when they announced four minutes of injury time, but at least there was only four minutes, rather than the masses of extra injury time that had been played recently.

The final whistle goes, and we are up to eighth in the table and only out of the playoff places on goal difference. It is now officially a streak. When I’m in attendance, and Alan is on stewarding duty, the result is a 2-1 home win, it’s three on the bounce now this season. (As a side note, he’s stewarded two games I’ve not been at, and they’ve finished 2-2, and when he was at Brighton, and I was at the game it was 0-0). Let’s see how long it goes on.

On leaving it is annoying to note that too many people just leave their rubbish and empties on the stands, expecting someone else to clear it up. The bearded father at the end of my row had brought food and drink for him and his son in a Tesco’s carrier, and then left it behind at the end of the game. Why? If you can manage to bring the bag with you, then you can manage to take it away again you lazy fucker. There are bins at the foot of most of the stairs out of the stands. Twats.