All Is Wonderful On New Year’s Day

A happy New Year to everyone, what better way to start than by going to a home game? If it was pre Rattle And Hum, then I might consider an apology to Bono, but as it’s after then it’s difficult to apologise to anyone who has crawled so far up their own backside.

Since our last home game, the disappointing loss (and performance) against the Wombles, we have played two away games. The first was an early kick-off on Boxing Day against Gillingham. I was up north visiting relatives, and was in Arnside for lunch, with this view out of the window as I surreptitiously tried to watch the BBC live text on my phone. A nice 2-0 win.

Then there was the trip to Milton Keynes and the other Dons last Friday night. I spent a lot of time in a car coming back from the frozen north with a whole host of illness. Frustratingly there was one point on the M40 where I was only 15 miles or so away from Milton Keynes, but with nowhere to stash an octogenarian for a couple of hours, especially not an ill one, it was BBC live text again and another 2-0 game, only this time a loss, although the score could have been so different if our strikers hadn’t been so profligate and could actually hit a cow’s arse with a banjo.

The two results, and many others around us meant we are still in fourteenth, as we were at the end of the Wombles game, but now five points off the playoff places and one of four teams on 33 points in mid table.

Today’s opponents are Swindon Town. An old favourite from the Soccer Saturday drinking game. They were the only side in the English and Scottish leagues whose full name didn’t include a letter from the word ‘mackerel’, and therefore the last person to shout mackerel when Swindon came onto the Vidi printer had to do two shots. Messy days.

They are also on 33 points, but two places above us in twelfth on goal difference, as they are four goals better off than us, although we do have a game in hand on them. Of course, that goal difference is all from the game against them earlier in the season when there was the crash back down to earth in the 6-0 shellacking at their place. If we had kept it to half of that then we could have swapped places with them before this game.

Our manager Scott Lindsey came to us from Swindon, and we signed Dion Conroy and Ben Gladwin from them as well. We could really do with turning their old side over today.

With it being New Year’s Day, we have picked up some waifs and strays to bring with us to the game with three neighbours from the street being weaned off their Premier League supporting aspirations to come and watch some proper football.

Getting to the ground though, it would have been a good guessing game as to who we were playing. The date and time of the next fixture was up on the board as you come onto Winfield Way from the roundabout, but the opponents were missing. Was it ever up there, or has someone just nicked the Swindon Town sign?

It is busy at the ground, there were two coaches and a minibus already parked up for the away fans, but we were early enough to get a quick stop in Redz Bar, a very brief one for me as the queues to get in the east marquee turnstiles was already back to the bar by half two. Yes, we can go in by the west stand end of the terrace, but that far corner really does need more turnstiles, especially with the extra bag checks. Plus, the extra ticket check to actually get into the east marquee.

Swindon are in purple shirts and shorts and white socks, and the officials are in standard Stabilo Boss highlighter kits.

There are early corners for both teams, both of which are easily cleared. It takes a few minutes for the game to settle down a bit. On ten minutes there is some clever work down the right-hand side and Ronan Darcy is played into the edge of the area, he goes to the byline and crosses the ball and Danilo Orsi tries his best to make a mess of it but forces the ball over the line and we have an early 1-0 lead.

There doesn’t seem to be much urgency on show from either side. Both teams are playing it out slowly from the back and there is a fifteen-minute spell where neither side has an attempt on goal, which we end as Will Wright drags a shot from the edge of the area wide.

Just after this we get a free kick over on the left-hand side of the pitch. The ball is eventually played into the area and there is a bit of head tennis going on back and forth before the ball falls to Jack Roles on the edge of the area and he unleashes a shot into the bottom corner, and we are now 2-0 up.

We are playing much better now, and another attack ends with a Nick Tsaroulla shot which ripples the net, but unfortunately it is the outside of the side netting. We get another corner which is played short and worked out to Roles again, but his shot ricochets just out of reach of any other Crawley players and the Swindon keeper dives on the ball. A couple of minutes later Orsi has a first time shot from about thirty-five yards out trying to lob the keeper. It misses. By a lot.

As the end of first half normal time approaches the ball ends up squirming through our defence and a Swindon striker is in on goal one on one with Corey Addai, but it is a poor shot, and it trickles wide. Two added minutes are announced and there is another Swindon chance which is just tipped onto the bar by Addai and out for a corner. Which Swindon waste and the half time whistle goes with us leading 2-0.

When we were getting into the ground it was trying to start to rain, but after a minute’s applause before kick off to remember those who dies in 2023 it started to come down properly, and it looks almost misty by half time as the rain comes teeming down.

In the second half there is some early back and forth, before there is a good piece of play from Crawley. Possession is worked to Wright and his shot falls to Orsi in the middle of the box, and Orsi beautifully side steps the sprawling keeper and taps the ball into the net to give us a 3-0 lead.

It takes until twenty minutes into the second half to lose the only ball of the day, a deflected clearance from Swindon ends up over the top of the Eden Utilities Stand for a corner. From which Swindon break and Addai makes a good save to give Swindon another corner. Which comes to nothing.

There is more Swindon pressure now. They have another corner which is taken short, the cross comes in, there is a miscued clearance straight to a Swindon player in the six-yard box, but their attempted shot just bounces into the grateful arms of Addai.

Up the other end there is free kick on the edge of the D. Will Wright territory of late, but his shot hits the wall and is cleared away.

Not long on to the pitch, Harry Forster has a run towards goal, and drifts past a player into the box, and from out angle it looks as if it should be a penalty, but the ref ignores it and play continues, and then another recent sub Klaidi Lolos is brought down on the far side just outside the area and a free kick is given. And wasted.

The sign goes up for there being five minutes of added time as they were lining up to take that free kick, and during that added time, Swindon get a free kick near the centre of the goal, twenty-five yards out. The ball is tapped sideways, none of our defenders seem to react and the ball is drilled into the corner to make it 3-1. The remaining time is played out and the game finishes with a 3-1 victory for Crawley.

The crowd was announced as being 3,646 with 548 away fans, and the sponsor’s man of the match as Danilo Orsi.

The win takes us back into the top half of the table in twelfth and leapfrogs us over Swindon.

A great start to the new year. And it was followed by a very agreeable curry at The Downsman. Shame there is this work malarky to go back to tomorrow.

We have an away game against Bradford City on Saturday who sit a point and a place behind us in the league, and then another away game next Wednesday against Peterborough United in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy before being back in action at home in nearly two weeks’ time against Salford City.

Come on you reds.

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

Away day number four of the season for us, more than we might have envisioned at the start of the season. It is the final game of what has been an absolute clusterfuck of a season for Crawley Town. Safety, and therefore another season in League Two next year, was confirmed by the 0-0 draw against Walsall in our last home game of the season last weekend. A point which meant Hartlepool could no longer catch us. And which should have been three points, but in a now traditional last home game of the season screwing over of us by officials they didn’t signal for a goal in front of the home terrace when the ball was over the line. Granted, it wasn’t as blatant as the one against Leyton Orient last year, but still, they should have gone to Specsavers.

The away trip is to Wiltshire, and specifically to play Swindon Town. A game our manager Scott Lindsey would love to win after leaving them earlier in the season under somewhat of a cloud. In addition, club captain Ben Gladwin was another January acquisition for us from them to go along with the summer signing of Dion Conroy. So, there shouldn’t be any lack of a will to win from our lot. Although, by the same token I’m sure Swindon would like to get one over on their old boys as well.

And they will be looking for some revenge over us after we beat them earlier in the season. That was the first game of Matthew Etherington’s short lived chaotic stint as our manager, and at the time Swindon were in the playoff places. A heavily deflected Nick Tsaroulla effort and Jack Powell’s ‘wonder’ goal from near the halfway line with the Swindon keeper stranded saw us win 2-0 in what was a rare clean sheet for us. It was a game that led to a poor run of form from Swindon that saw them drop out of playoff contention and part company with Scott Lindsey.

The match report for that game is below.

The game is a 12.30 kick off on a Bank Holiday Monday, which is a ridiculous time for a game of football, mainly due to being bumped from the Saturday because some bloke with big ears is getting a new hat in London.

Saying that, ridiculous kick off times may become the new normal. The new Sky Sports deal with the EFL had headline figures of 236 League Two games to be televised per season. That is just over five per set of fixtures (46 * 5 = 230). Which, seeing as there will be the same amount of League one games being televised and double the number of that for Championship games, it will see the standard 3.00pm on a Saturday and 7.45pm on a Tuesday fixtures disappear. Friday night, 12/12:15/12:30/12:45 Saturday lunch time, 5:15/5:30 and 7:45/8 pm Saturday evening games. Multiple time slots on a Sunday, and then midweek fixtures played any night of the week. It is going to be carnage. If all teams were equally covered it would mean they would be on TV 20 times a season. I’m hoping that isn’t the case and that the number of games quoted is going to cover the whole of the five-year period of the contract and not every year. Granted some teams would get covered more often than others (Wrexham spring to mind), but there would probably be a minimum of 10 games disrupted by TV.

Helen and I had travelled over to Swindon on Saturday evening and had spent Sunday wandering around the town. It’s not as bad as it had been made out to be. The ground is by the Magic Roundabout, which looks a counter intuitive nightmare, and would be permanently blocked by crashes in Crawley. We got a bus up to the ground from the hotel we were staying in, and we saw the three supporters coaches come roaring past us as we were at a bus stop.

We were seated up quite high in the away stands, the highest up I’ve been for any normal game of football in nearly twenty years. The last time being when I was dragged to a Southampton away game at Blackburn when I lived in Manchester. The most memorable thing about that game being the thirty or so kitted out Blackpool fans who turned up. They were there to cheer on Brett Ormerod who had moved to Southampton from Blackpool that year.

Being nice and early we got a decent seat, and I got a programme. I was really impressed by it, it’s a really good programme, despite big ears being on the cover. There are many lessons that could be learnt. The piece in it, and the announcement of tribute to fans who had died during the season was a nice touch.

Crawley are playing in white shirts, black shorts, and black socks. Meanwhile off the pitch, despite a more vigorous search team on the way in the first of the red smoke flares is let loose by the Crawley fans. And the national anthem is played. Almost as if something happened this weekend.

Crawley definitely settled into the game quicker, with lots of possession and some nice interplay, but as with so many other games this season, the final ball is letting them down. Another ongoing theme of the season is the seemingly biased decision set by officials. Swindon are getting every 50-50 decision, and most of the blatantly 100-0 ones as well.

The away support is loud and raucous and is all we can hear. Plenty of taunting going on as well. After being comfortable for 39 minutes, a ball is headed on and Charlie Austin beats the last defender for pace and slots the ball in and it is 0-1. And having been the target of some of the taunting he classily celebrates by taunting the away fans.

A couple of minutes later and it isn’t getting any better. Ben Gladwin gets a booking for a silly foul, and it lines up Swindon for a free kick from about thirty yards out. Which the taker smashes into the top corner leaving Corey Addai no chance and us 0-2 behind.

Two added minutes are played at the end of the half and the half time whistle goes with it being 0-2. There have been a few more smoke flares during the half, and the police have been filming the fans, the fire marshals have been up a couple of times and the lead stewards have all been having conflabs with lots of pointing up at the Crawley fans. One of the chief stewards looks as if he is going to bust a blood vessel with the stress of it all.

The second half is only thirty seconds in and Swindon waltz through our defence again, but Addai saves and the follow up shot goes wide. At the other end we get a free kick in a similar position to the one Swindon scored in the first half. It is tapped sideways for Tom Fellows to smash goalwards, but it is saved by the keeper. It is recycled a couple of times and then Ashley Nadesan gets a shot away but straight at the keeper.

On the hour mark Tsaroulla drives into the penalty area and is tripped, and we have a penalty. Dom Telford stands over it. And scores, and it is now 1-2, and it triggers another red smoke flare. I hope they bought them in bulk to reduce the cost.

Five minutes later and it is Swindon’s turn to be awarded a penalty. It did look suspiciously like Johnson got the ball. Saved. Addai does it again, a second penalty save in the last few games, and it is still 1-2.

The stadium announcer announces Gladwin being subbed, only it appears our bench wasn’t ready to put Anthony Grant on, and it is another five minutes before the substitution is made. We have some very slick play down the left-hand side and the ball is crossed, but the shot and the rebound both are straight at the keeper before it is hacked away.

Four minutes of added time are announced, and the crowd is 10,450 with a magnificent 528 Crawley fans. The game kind of fizzles out and the full-time whistle goes for a 1-2 defeat. The latest in the string of smoke flares takes longer to fizzle out, and the players come over to applaud the fans the fans applaud the players, and a lot of match shirts are given away.

And so, the season is done. We finish twenty second, a massive three points clear of the relegated teams. Time to head off back to the hotel and the car to do the drive back to Crawley. The 2022-23 is a wrap. Roll on next season.

Come on you reds.

All Bets Are Off

It’s the first game since the 0-0 draw against Gillingham two Tuesday nights ago. And lots has happened since then. Last Sunday saw the announcement that Lewis Young had parted company with the club. Which to me meant one thing; he wasn’t going to be made the permanent manager of the side, and so finally he’d had enough of being messed about and was off, hopefully to find somewhere he would be appreciated.

An hour later came the announcement that Matthew Etherington was to be the new manager. He was the under-23 coach for Peterborough and had briefly been the interim manager there last February. The announcement included the words data driven, which went down like a bag of sick with the fans on the forums. There were mini meltdowns as it has all the hallmarks of a Kevin Betsy Mk II. Only this time with a Tottenham background instead of Arsenal.

In fact, I can remember seeing Matthew Etherington and his assistant Simon Davies playing for Tottenham back in the early noughties. Back in the days when I was a Tottenham fan before the whole Mourinho and European Super League debacle.

Some wags have said Matthew Etherington’s appointment is somewhat of a gamble, in a less than subtle dig about his well-documented gambling issues and the £1m plus that he blew. Though somehow, I’m drawn to wondering what the odds are on him lasting the season.

There was no game last weekend as we’d been knocked out of the FA Cup by Accrington. So, it’s back to league action today and next up this week are Swindon Town. I have it in mind that it is imperative to get to the ground early, as this was one of two fixtures last season where all the programmes were sold out by the time I got to the ground and I’ve still not been able to get a copy of. (The other was the Sutton game.)

Swindon Town sit just inside the playoff places in seventh place, twelve places and thirteen points above us in the league. Even with a win we can’t climb the table, but all points are good points, and it would be great to get off to a winning start under the new manager. Plus, we’ve done quite well against clubs in the playoff places so far this season.

By the time we kick off over half the games in the division will be over, three moved to Friday night, three had 12:30 kick offs, and one had a 13:00 kick off as clubs have moved games to avoid potential World Cup clashes, as if England had finished runners-up in their group they would have been playing at the same time as we were today.

It’s a cold day, so plenty of layers, and we amble down and get there in plenty of time, possibly the earliest Helen has been in her seat before a match. So early in fact, that Helen is possibly developing a Herbert Lom style twitch as it isn’t the last possible moment.

I got a programme. There is the usual sloppy blatant error included. This time there is a double page spread of photos, and down the right-hand side of the pages it says Barrow Vs Crawley Gallery. Only for all the pictures to obviously be of training this week, as they include the new manager, and assistant, and not an opponent in sight. It’s just sloppy.

There were three coaches parked up for the away fans, and the away end is looking full well before kick-off, and the Swindon Town fans are making lots of noise. They are playing in a green and white kit, diagonal checks on the front, green back, arms and socks, and white shorts, looking like some kind of Ireland youth side. They usually play in red as we do, but it took their fans about quarter of an hour to stop chanting come on you reds.

There is no Harry Ransom in the squad for us today, which means he won’t be playing against the side he’s captained for most of the two previous seasons.

We saw Al as we walked round for the match, he was chatting away to another steward in the car park. He’s on duty on our West Stand today, where there seems to be a dearth of Stewards. The club put out a statement that they were short staffed everywhere today, and they weren’t joking. The programme has adverts for all types of game day staff.

Five minutes in and we are having to make an injury substitution. Teddy Jenks pulls something with no one near him, and James Tilley comes on in his place. All in all, it is a jittery start from Crawley. But we get a shot away in the ninth minute. If we were playing rugby, it would have been worth three points as Jack Powell belts it out over the bar and over the KRL Logistics away terrace.

On twenty-one minutes we have the ball in the net. There is a scramble from a corner and the ball is poked in, but the celebrations are short lived as the linesman has his flag up for offside.

Just after the half hour mark ball two disappears, this time over the Eden Utilities home terrace, again from a wayward shot, this time by a Swindon Town player. There aren’t a great deal of chances for either side and the first half slips away in a midfield mire, and after three minutes of injury time the half time whistle goes with the score at 0-0.

From somewhere the half time playlist has found a new song, but I’m not convinced that McFly is a great addition to the playlist. And for a change both sides come out together after the half time interval.

There are a few more chances in the second half, and Crawley seem to be a lot less jittery. We make another early in the half substitution. James Balagizi goes off after a decent fifty or so minutes in his first game back after injury. Nineteen minutes into the second half and ball three of the afternoon disappears out over the KRL Logistics away terrace, with another wayward Swindon Town shot.

In the thirty-fourth minute of the half a free kick into the box is headed out as far as Nick Tsaroulla a few yards outside the penalty area, and he fires in a shot, which takes a wicked deflection, wrong footing the Swindon keeper and it is 1-0 to Crawley.

Less than five minutes later and Oteh is chasing a poor Swindon back pass. The Swindon keeper rushes out of the area and slides in to get the ball first, it goes to Jack Powell, who hits it towards the open goal from forty yards out. For once he doesn’t hit the first man and it goes in and we lead 2-0.

Swindon hit the post with a speculative shot, and then not long before the end of full time they hit the post for a second time. Just not with the ball this time, one of their players smacks into the post headfirst and bounces off and goes down. There is a lengthy stoppage for treatment as stretchers are called for. During the stoppage it is shown there will be nine minutes of injury time, but it ends up being nineteen minutes as it was another ten minutes before the player was wheeled from the pitch.

The sponsor’s man of the match was announced as being Nick Tsaroulla (not even a forty-yard goal is going to swing it for Jack Powell). The attendance is announced as being 3,230, with 920 away fans.

Eighteen minutes into injury time and ball four is hoofed away over the west stand by Ashley Nadesan. A minute later the final whistle goes, and Crawley win 2-0. And here comes the Black Eyed Peas.

There is no position climb for Crawley, but we now have three teams above us within a win of us, and we play bottom of the league Hartlepool next. Swindon dropped two places and out of the play off places. Their sixty-one percent possession not converting into shots on target, as they had none (even if they did hit the post twice – but only once with the ball).

Come on you reds.