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Will it be a red Christmas?

16 December 2014

A look back at holiday fortunes in our League history

It’s the busiest time of the season for Football League clubs as Christmas throws up as glut of fixtures in a short space of time.

For Reds, the festive schedule involves three games in eight days starting with Saturday’s home match against Port Vale.

On Boxing Day we make one of our shortest journeys of the season to face Leyton Orient – a club we have a 100% record against in four previous League meetings - at the Matchroom Stadium before saying goodbye to 2014 at the Checkatrade.com Stadium on December 28 with a home fixture against Colchester, after which time we will have played all our League One opponents and be halfway through the campaign.

Reds have a reasonable record over Christmas as a League club.

Our first season in 2010-11 in League Two saw us pick up four points in the holiday games.

It didn’t start well though. In front of what was then our highest League attendance of 4,255 we took the lead at home to Gillingham on Boxing Day through Matt Tubbs’ penalty only to lose 2-1 after defender Claude Davis was sent off.

Four days later at home to struggling Barnet an early goal, appropriately enough from Tyrone Barnett, eased us to a welcome 1-0 win in front of a crowd of 3,008.

Three days later, on January 2, a large contingent of Reds’ fans saw a howler by goalkeeper Scott Shearer gift Oxford United the lead at the Kassam Stadium in front of a crowd of 9,009. But Barnett scored a superb stoppage-time equaliser to rescue a thoroughly deserved point in a 1-1 draw.

Two seasons ago we were in the middle of our first League One campaign.

 

On Boxing Day 2012 we made our first ever visit to Fratton Park looking to avenge the early-season 3-0 defeat we had suffered in front of the Sky TV cameras against Portsmouth.


Billy Clarke celebrates his winner at Portsmouth in 2012

It didn’t look good when Pompey took an early lead in front of 13,169 – at the time the biggest attendance at a Crawley League fixture – but Mat Sadler’s free kick and a poacher’s goal in the second half by Billy Clarke sealed a superb 2-1 win.

Three days later we headed back to the south coast where a resurgent Bournemouth team, who were on their way to the Championship, ran out 3-0 winners. There wasn’t a lot to remember the occasion by except if you were Jonte Smith, who made his League debut as a second-half substitute in front of his proud parents.

We returned to the Checkatrade.com Stadium for a New Year’s Day tussle with Colchester United and Reds ran out 3-0 winners when 3,160 watched Mark Connolly score his first goal for the club. Clarke and Nicky Adams added the others.

Last season the holiday fixtures began with a trip to high-flying Leyton Orient. Reds stunned the home side with a 3-2 win, the first under new boss John Gregory, with the goals coming from Josh Simpson, Andy Drury and Adams.

On Boxing Day we welcomed MK Dons in front of a 3,249 attendance. The visitors scored a goal in each half to win 2-0 although Reds had enough chances to have got something out of the game.

There was a quick three-day turnaround before the last game of 2013 saw Connolly score with a second-half header in a 1-0 win over Notts County, watched by 3096. The New Year’s Day game at Swindon was postponed less than two hours before kick off because of a waterlogged pitch.


Mark Connolly celebrates the only goal against Notts County in the final game of 2013

So what does 2014’s holiday programme hold in store?

Manager Gregory knows it’s a crucial time for any club. He said: “We have got three winnable games ahead of us and if we can reproduce the performance level we’ve had in the last two games I think we can get some good results. That’s the challenge I gave to the players after Bristol City – can you do it again this Saturday against Port Vale?

“We take each game one at a time. Having just 48 hours between Orient and Colchester is not ideal but the players are used to it at this time of year and then there is a break because we won’t have a game on January 1 and we might not be playing at Chesterfield on the 3rd either.”

The big question is, will the players be training on Christmas Day?

JG said: “I’m not sure yet. We didn’t train on Christmas Day last year and lost the next day. We'll wait and see!"


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