Side Saddle Up

Going for a bit of a mash up this time around, taking Russ Conway and David Christie and smashing them together (as opposed to most people who would have just smashed their records).

A Tuesday night game is going to be commonplace for the next couple of months, as there are both originally scheduled games to play, plus a plethora of rearranged postponed games. Tonight is a home game against Walsall.

Since I last wrote there has been the single game, a narrow away 0–1 loss to high flying Crewe Alexandra on Saturday. A loss that saw us drop to fifteenth in the table, one place and one point above tonight’s visitors.

Our return fixture against them back in October was the last of the only three draws we have had in the league this season, where Danilo Orsi scored a ninety-fourth minute equaliser to give us a 1–1 draw, in a match that was also a Tuesday night game (one of three teams where both fixtures were scheduled to be night games along with MK Dons and Notts County, though with a postponement, we are now going to play both games against AFC Wimbledon as night games as well).

They are managed by the almost appropriately named, ex-Crawley player, Mat Sadler, and are on a similar run of poor form to us. So here’s hoping that continues for them and we can find winning ways again.

We have additional numbers with us on the way to the ground as for some reason our neighbours have asked to come as well. Must be a slow night on the telly. I’m not in the ground as early as I usually am before Saturday home games, but still in plenty of time to get settled before kick-off.

Walsall are in their all-white away kit. Walking around to the east marquee having come in on the west side, we can see the apron of the pitch is waterlogged and has puddles, but the actual pitch looks incredibly good considering the seemingly endless rain.

Early on there is lots of effort but very little quality from either side. There wasn’t a lot happening and my mind was wandering. I had a couple of minutes thinking that if the Walsall number nine had a very shiny shirt, would he need to change his name from Matt to Gloss?

It takes nearly fifteen minutes for the first proper shot of the game, Klaidi Lolos from distance has one that is just wide. Up the other end Walsall get a corner and there is a bit of a scramble in the six-yard box before Corey Addai collects the ball.

An unnecessary foul by Dion Conroy gets a yellow card and give Walsall a free kick to the right-hand side of the box, but thankfully it is easily blocked. Then some lax play gives the Walsall number eight (former Crawley player Isaac Hutchinson) a shot on target which Addai just tips around the post for a corner.

After a few games without a disappearing ball, we lose one over the KRL Logistics stand from a blocked cross. We are trying to walk the ball into the net again. Ronan Darcy is played through into the box, but he takes it wide and to the byline before crossing, instead of having a shot, and the cross evades the Crawley players and is cleared.

Ten minutes before the break and Walsall get a penalty for a foul in the box. Hutchinson calmly slams it into the corner sending Addai the wrong way, and we are behind 0-1.

At the other end, another blocked cross goes out over the west side of the KRL Logistics stand and that is a couple of balls gone. Back at the other end there is another Walsall shot which is well saved by Addai. There are three minutes of added time before the break, and as the half time whistle goes there are, if not boos, then certainly groans as the players go off, and the ref gets a warm reception. Hopefully, there will be stern words at half time, as the last ten minutes was pretty painful.

There may well have been as we come out quickly for the second half and get an early corner, which comes in and bounces in the six-yard box before being cleared. We then have two blocked shots in quick succession (from Lolos and Darcy). Then more pressure and another blocked shot, this one from Danilo Orsi. We have free kicks from about twenty-five yards out from both sides of the area one after the other, but there is no shot from either.

Nearly twenty minutes into the half and there is some good play in the middle of the park, and the ball is played into the area, Orsi wins the ball and lays it back to Liam Kelly who slams in a shot for the equaliser, and it is 1-1.

There is a flurry of subs from both teams, and Jack Roles who came on as one of them has a shot which goes wide left. But Walsall do some attacking of their own and have a couple of corners which are just about hacked away. Then there is more Crawley pressure, a corner comes in and the header is saved, and the ball is hacked away before another Crawley player can get to it.

Ball three of the night disappears way out over the KRL Logistics stand
again from a Crawley clearance. That definitely would have left a dent in
someone’s car. And Crawley keep applying pressure. There are two more blocked
shots, and one just wide right following a corner. The board goes up to say
four minutes of added time. We get a corner, another corner, both wasted. Another
attack brings another corner, cleared, played back in, punched out, and the
shot is then blocked before Lawrence Maguire goes down with an injury. After a
delay there is another attack and another corner, it is initially cleared and
comes out to Harry Forster and his shot trickles agonisingly inches wide. The
final whistle is blown as the resulting goal kick is in the air and the game
finishes 1-1, our first draw in the league since the last time we played

The crowd wasn’t announced, not was the sponsor’s man of the match (always
assuming there was a match sponsor). A point sees us stay in fifteenth, but now
three points away from the team above us. It was a bit of a crazy night for scores
in our division, the only two teams not to score were the two Dons, and
Mansfield beat Harrogate 9-2. Next up are bottom of the table Forest Green
Rovers at home on Saturday, another one we really have to win.

Come on you reds.

Safe (Just)

Written on the day, but not getting home until midnight after the game, and other Bank Holiday activities means I’ve only just gotten around to typing up my scruffy notes.

And here we are, the last home game of the season on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the end of a ridiculously wet April. Last weekend saw only our second away win of the season at fellow relegation candidates Hartlepool. A win, courtesy of two Dom Telford goals and a good look at his sports bra, saw us move six points clear of them with just the two games left to play, and it also gave us a goal difference six better than them.

To hear everyone talk you would think that we were easily safe. Which only leads me to believe everyone is trying to jinx us. Jeff stelling on Soccer Saturday I can understand, after all he is a hopeful Hartlepool fan. But it has been everywhere. Three different articles in the Football League paper, on the forums, on the BBC match report, in the Downsman, and yesterday in Horsham I heard someone say we were safe as we were six points clear and with a much better goal difference so it’s effectively seven points.

Stop it. all of you. Six goals are fuck all. Two defeats for us and two wins for Hartlepool is automatically four of them. And if we do lose, we do have a capitulation habit to bear in mind. We have a terrible habit of throwing things away when the fans get too cocky and start taunting away fans. This falls into the same category. We need a point. When we get it, I might finally release that breath that I seem to have been holding in for the last nine months.

Today’s opponents are Walsall. When we played them away earlier in the season, we took an early lead through a Dom Telford goal. Walsall equalised in the first half, and then got a winner deep into second half added time. A goal that if we had prevented it, we would now actually be safe.

It isn’t the only time we’ve thrown away points late on in games this season. Five times we’ve dropped a point by conceding a losing goal in the last couple of minutes or added time. And two points were dropped when we let in an added time equaliser against Newport in the first game of the calendar year. Only once have we grabbed a late point, that being against Crewe. Those dropped seven points and the six-goal difference they would have meant would have put us in the heady heights of sixteenth and two points ahead of today’s opponents instead of six points behind.

Walsall are on a terrible run of form, so hopefully that’s something we can capitalise on, and not just scrape a point, but get a point. Get safety in style and if coupled with a Wimbledon loss it would put us above them in the table which would be a passing moment of sweetness in a morass of shit this season.

There is a new manager in charge at Walsall after their poor run of form, the appropriately named Mat Sadler, a former Crawley player. It turns out our manager, Scott Lindsay hails from Walsall, so it is a bit of a reversal.

I am straight to the ground from writing, and it is busy in and around the ground an hour before kick-off. There was no sign of an away fans coach by that point, but when the others turned up there were three out there. We had waited until the last game of the season to use the free ticket vouchers for the game and have Terri and Tom along today.

The programme still doesn’t have Anthony Grant in the squad on the back of it, despite the fact he has been playing in seven of the last eight games (and he came on as a sub again today).

Meanwhile I’m wondering whether it is work experience weekend at the ground as the little ginger steward in front of our block only looks thirteen at the most. Is that what they must resort to when Al isn’t around. Brighton have a home game at three on a Saturday afternoon for the first time in ages.

Walsall are in an all-white kit and are sponsored by Poundland. Which sounds like it would have been a much more appropriate sponsor for ourselves for most of the season.

Kick off is a couple of minutes late and there is a nice early chance for Tom Fellows which is saved. And there is a red smoke flare going off in the home terrace within five minutes.

Eleven minutes in and we lose ball one out over the KRL Logistics away stand from thirty yards out by a Walsall player for a corner. A goal by Barrow against Hartlepool filters through and brings about a chant of one nil to the Barrow boys.

There isn’t a lot of action, and the next attempt of note was a free kick for us about thirty yards out which was tapped sideways to Jack Powell whose shot was deflected just wide for a corner. Not long after, Nick Tsaroulla digs a cross out and the Ashley Nadesan header is just tipped over for a corner. Which comes out to Tsaroulla, and the shot is just over.

Both teams are attacking more and there are penalty shouts at either end and both are waved away. James Tilley is on the receiving end of a few fouls in quick succession and there is a stoppage for treatment for him.

There are four minutes of added time, and in that, former Crawley loanee Isaac Hutchinson is allowed to cut in and curl a shot in, but good strong hands by Corey Addai put it out for a throw before the half time whistle goes with it 0-0. And we find Hartlepool have equalised against Barrow as well.

Into the second half and it is a bit frustrating. The final ball just isn’t working. There is lots of possession, but a lack of shots. Then a Ben Gladwin cross comes over, Telford misses his header, and the ball bounces off Nadesan and squirms through the keeper who scoops it out. It looked to us as if it were in (and replays later suggested it was over the line), but it is waved away. A recurring theme from the last home game of the season, as there was the one against Leyton Orient last season which was two yards over the line and not given.

A break see a Tilley shot well saved, and then at the other end a Walsall corner almost sneaks straight in at the near post, by Addai keeps it out and ends up in the net instead. The Walsall fans celebrate the ‘goal,’ not aware that it’s the ball that needs to go in, and not the keeper. We breakaway and it is another piss poor final ball.

And now Hartlepool are leading. It’s not good for the nerves. Nor is the Walsall free kick twenty-five yards out in the centre. But it hits the wall, as does the follow up attempt.

Half an hour into the half and ball two disappears, it is smashed well over the east marquee by the brick shithouse of a Walsall defender. That is in real danger of smashing a window at Thomas Bennett school a quarter of a mile away.

Then we get a free kick on the edge of the area. And do nothing with it. The crowd is announced as 4,189 with 281 away fans, and just following that Gladwin gets a booking at the defensive end, and as the Walsall player rolls around like an extra from Platoon, the home terrace thrown three red smoke flares onto the pitch, which are cleared off long before Walsall get around to taking their free kick, which thankfully goes straight out for a goal kick.

Six minutes of added torture time is announced, Hartlepool are now leading three one, and the sponsors man of the match is announced as Tom Fellows, which isn’t bad as he was subbed off a quarter of an hour before the end. Six minutes go on for far too long before the final whistle is blown, and the match ends 0-0. We are officially safe, and I can take that breathe now.

Remarkably there is only the one pitch invader, who is more celebrating everyone seeing him on the pitch than us surviving. The stewards treat him as if they are fishing and have caught a minnow and they just throw him back into the terrace.

The players lap of appreciation follows the game and most of the crowd stay to applaud the players who are gradually being de-robed as they walk around as they give away shirts, boots, socks, and shorts to ‘lucky’ fans. And a few kids get out onto the pitch.

We stay in twenty-second in the table, but we will still be in League Two next year. One game left, Bank Holiday Monday 12.30 away at Swindon, which we will be going to for our fourth away game of the season.

Come on you reds.

Then in the pub after the game I came up with a poem to describe the season.


It has been tense

It has been tough

We have been dreadful

And often not tough enough

We have played badly

And we have played well

And lost time after time

Putting the fans through hell

In the relegation zone often

In danger of leaving the league

With only very rare wins

To prop up the emotional fatigue

A point today was good enough

But no goals were scored

Still there was plenty of action

To prevent us being bored

The final whistle was blown

And we got the point we need

Survival is now ensured

Despite all those blown leads

The season didn’t go to plan

In fact, it was a nightmare

Let’s learn from this next time round

So we don’t repeat this despair

Games Are Longer Than Eighty Minutes

It’s the penultimate home game of the season. Walsall. Just don’t call the Brummies. Since the las home game, we’ve only had the one game, away on Good Friday to Newport County, where we managed a 2-1 victory, which consolidated our twelfth place in the league, still eight points behind eleventh, but now four points above Hartlepool in thirteenth. And with a game in hand. It also managed to knock Newport out of the play off places. If we can’t make the playoffs ourselves, then wrecking other teams’ chances in the run in seems a perfectly acceptable alternative.

Today’s opponents sit three places and seven points behind us in the table. And we come into the game with the third best form in the division, after the teams in second and third in the table (Exeter City and Port Vale). Let’s hope we can continue that.

As for most of the Easter weekend, it looks sunny out there, and I’ve been and searched (successfully) for my prescription sunglasses for the game, something I could have done with for a few of the previous games.

It does seem strange to be playing on a Monday afternoon, but there is no rushed feeling on a Bank Holiday, and we amble to the ground with plenty of time to get there. There weren’t very many cars parked along Wakehurst Drive as we walk to the ground and precious few people walking in our ground. There were lots of parking spots available, usually unheard on match days.

We see Al before we even get to the programmes, but he did sound as happy as Larry.

There was soe seating confusion around us. A family of five arrived and plonked themselves down next to us. Only for another bloke to turn up and have a ticket for one of the seats they were sat in. Turns out the family of five should have been in row E, not F. Only when they moved forward a row, they still weren’t right as one of the five seats belonged to a season ticket holder. But they shuffled across one. Personally, I’m not sure they had the right stand.

Walsall were playing in an all-green kit, and they started well and had the ball in the net within the first four minutes. A deflected shot fell to a Walsall player who turned it in. it looked offside and there was a nervous ten seconds before the linesman put his flag up.

And breathe.

Halfway through the first half and there is a disappearing ball, out over the corner of the KRL Logistics stand after Nadesan kicked a ball away after being called for a foul. After a few warnings to players from both sides about ‘stealing’ yards at throw-ins, the referee decides he’s had enough and penalises Walsall by giving a throw the other way after another yard stealing attempt.

Ten minutes later there is a strong penalty shout, as Sam Matthews appears to be wrestled to the ground with an arm around his neck, but the referee waves play on.

The half time whistle goes. There has been some decent play, but it’s the final ball in again. Case in point is a corner in the final minute of the half, we send everyone up for it, and then take it short, fanny about with it before putting in a belated cross which is easily cleared.

We have new owners, hopefully the DJ will be one of those to go in the inevitable shake up. And if not, then at least buy him some new tunes.

Just before a quarter of an hour into the second half a Walsall corner doesn’t get cleared and a Walsall player slides in to shoot, and the shot hits the post and then it bounces into the grateful arms of Glenn Morris.

Halfway through the half ball two disappears after a huge hoof from the Walsall keeper flies over the Mayo Wynne Baxter stand. The ball is only just back in play when there is some great work down the left from Joel Lynch, Mark Marshall has a shot blocked and Isaac Hutchinson rifles in from outside the area to give Crawley the lead.

With a few minutes left Morris launches a ball over the People’s Pension Stand, in what seems a deliberate time-wasting ploy. Whilst the ball is out, the sponsor’s man of the match is named as Will Ferry, and the crowd was announced as 2,258 with 264 away fans, and so we just missed out on two thousand home fans.

There was lots of late Walsall pressure, nothing new for late in Crawley games. And with a minute left of normal time Walsall hit the crossbar after another poorly defended corner.

The board goes up for four minutes of injury time, and with it up pop Murray and Murray Goldberg in front of us to head for the car park to beat the rush.

The final whistle goes and puts us out of the tense misery of defend, defend, defend.

We stay twelfth, as we knew we would, but are now five points behind eleventh (Swindon Town) and also five points ahead of thirteenth (Leyton Orient – who we play in our final home game). Before then we have two away games, both against playoff chasing teams, with Mansfield Town on Saturday and Sutton United next Tuesday. Let’s see if we can throw some more spanners in the works in those two games.