Crawley Town 1-0 Swindon Town: Red is the colour

TheWashbag.com debutant Anthony Gingell sees Town caught on the counter attack.

As a first time blogger/reporter I set off to Crawley with my Dad hoping to see Swindon win. Having also visited the end of the earths at Luton on Tuesday night; perhaps a short flight would have seemed logical for Saturday’s game (By the way, I’m no plane spotter).

The last time I visited, it was the Broadfield Stadium with a certainly rotund Scottish figure of Steve ‘I look more like a second-hand car salesman’ Evans in the FA Cup on a freezing cold night. Now the ground has a new stand (well about 2000 seats on some scaffolding with a marquee which looks like the main road may receive in some windy weather) and renamed the Checkatrade.com Stadium.

While on the way the traffic announcement said about a broken down bus on the M25. Was that a sign that the team wouldn’t make the game? Luckily the line-up of Swindon was only missing Liverpool loanee Brad Smith (due to injury) which may have seemed before kick-off to hamper on our left sided attacking prowess. I know some didn’t think much of Smith but my personal opinion is that if he could be match fit then he would be an asset. This meant the inclusion of Jack Barthram with Josh Lelan making the bench.

The warm-up in the sun on a good looking pitch, possibly needing a cut but much better than the cabbage patch Adam Rooney scored on the other season, also had some entertainment occurring with the Swindon fans winning 3-2 in the Home vs Away quiz.

The starting line-up for Crawley boosted the experienced names of Brian Jensen, Dean Leacock, Gavin Tomlin and Izale McLeod; not a bad team given the average attendances of 3.4k for the last couple of seasons. A colleague who supports Crawley explained they would be happy with a mid-table finish as the new squad needs to gel but they had played well so far this season.

Crawley kicked off the game with the game shaping up as expected. Swindon playing the tippy-tappy, knock-about football on show against Scunthorpe and Luton in the past seven days. The pace was a little too much for Crawley but Town never really penetrated. Crawley started to mark man for man, causing problems with passing out from Foderingham who was regularly closed down by McLeod and Tomlin.

A shot in anger on 5 minutes from Massimo Luongo after tidy play by Yaser Kasim made this game look like the first goal would be a killer. Town were looking dangerous on the left until Barthram needed to cross, as the change to the right foot let the big defenders get back in position.

A chant of “Non-league and you know you are” was sung by the travelling contingent with not so much of a murmur from the home fans.

The first dubious decision began in just the 8th minute. Ben Gladwin, in front of the attacker, and in possession has the free-kick given against him as the Crawley player falls dramatically. Luckily the free-kick is wasted. Town break to the other end and Smith is on target after more good football on the break. This all before Louis Thompson has a 20 yard screamer heading for the ‘keeper’s top-left tipped over by Jensen.

After 14 minutes, Crawley finally had a chance has Town were opened up too easily. Good job Crawley were very poor… A Kasim long-range strike didn’t test the experienced Jensen who was magnificent to save Luongo’s near-post header from the first decent corner Swindon provided. Smith’s follow-up shot deflected wide. There was only one team in the game at this point with Nathan Byrne’s trickery and Luongo’s ability to make space seemingly the major threats.

Crawley again showed non-league potential by giving the ball away, even more cheaply than Town did in the pre-season friendly against Leeds, playing their first passage of football in the 23rd minute.

This is where my pen ran out and the game didn’t change much either for the rest of the half. Should McLeod still be on the pitch at this point having ‘raised’ hands / elbows twice in the first half? The referee has blown up for the foul and then decided not to do anything in 26th minute against Branco and later against N. Thompson. Could this be a source of frustration later?

The only other notes in the first half were the save from Tomlin by Wes Foderingham; a complete waste of a header from McLeod; wasted corners by Town and the most blatant dive by Tomlin, who rightly got the yellow card. Having raced past the defence and shrugging off Thompson (where I thought he’d go down), side-stepped Swindon’s number 1 and then a disgrace to match Luis Suarez’s biting incidents with the fall. 0-0 at half time with Swindon looking the more composed, yet Crawley’s defensive display was standing firm.

The second half started with no major differences for the first couple of minutes compared to the first 45 except the swap of Gladwin for Andy Williams (who changed the game at Luton). Then as Town had another corner they did nothing with; Jensen used his experience to welly the ball route one for McLeod to run into Swindon’s penalty area. Being chased by Byrne and Louis Thompson, it looked from the other end a Thompson foul, but outside the area. However; the referee who was closer than me, but still in Crawley’s half pointed to the spot; giving a straight red to Louis. The annoyance at the time was the referee’s assistance never gave anything and the referee didn’t consulted him. Even worse was getting home to watch the replay. Never a foul but it was inside the box. Mark Cooper was right to feel aggrieved.

From that McLeod (in my eyes should not have been on the pitch) scored the resulting penalty. Fair play to Swindon as they kept battling away; but didn’t do much in the final third. Corner after corner; shot after shot; Swindon could not get past the Crawley rear guard or man of the match Brian Jensen. Swindon were looking more like the team with 11 men.

Another note was youngster Will Randall coming on, who in per-season looked like some first-team football would do him good, replaced Barthram for some more attacking style of football. He showed glimpses of skill and definitely one to blend into the team.

Gaps were beginning to open in the Swindon defence as we came forward trying to get the equaliser. N. Thompson and Branco trying their best David Luiz impersonations by just running to the other end of the pitch with the ball but no end product materialised.

Crawley ever so nearly made it 2-0 with Edwards crashing a shot off the underside of the crossbar and out.

Swindon were unlucky on Saturday and were by far the better team. Possession; shots and corner stats all greater than Crawley but the score-line says 1-0 to the home team. We lacked in the final third against a good defensive unit that we will see more of this season. The referee’s decision was incorrect and should be rescinded by the Football League without an appeal. I think the formation would have worked had we continued with our 11 v 11 but we are lacking balance without Brad Smith. Let’s see who else Lee Power and Cooper have in mind but we do need a couple more bodies to be able to change things when not going as planned.

Overall – still positive from the game even with no points but must get back to winning ways as soon as possible (hopefully tonight against Gillingham).

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