Mixed record for Reds in final game of the year
Reds will be looking to finish the year on a high with victory at Home Park on Saturday, but our Football League record in the final match of the calendar year is a mixed one.
Hard to believe four years on, but Reds finished 2012 with a trip to AFC Bournemouth, who these days are mixing it with the biggest clubs in the country in the Premier League. Fresh from a 2-1 League One win at Portsmouth, Richie Barker’s side travelled to Dorset in good spirits but the Cherries had been transformed since the arrival of Eddie Howe following our 3-1 win over Bournemouth at the Checkatrade Stadium a few weeks earlier.
The hosts raced into an early lead through Gary Alexander’s own goal and ended up with a comfortable 3-0 win. Incidentally, Alexander will finish 2016 in the manager’s dugout at East Grinstead on Saturday as he takes charge of Ryman League Greenwich Borough. And a bit further down the A275, Jonte Smith will be leading the line for Lewes in the same division against Three Bridges. Back on December 29 2012, Smith made his professional debut as a second-half substitute against the Cherries as Reds ended the year eighth in League One. The crowd at what is now the Vitality Stadium that day was 7855 and included 380 Crawley fans.
A year later and Crawley finished 2013 with what has been their only Football League win in the final game of the year when Mark Connolly’s second-half header settled a scrappy contest against Notts County 1-0 at the Checkatrade. It was a first home League win for Barker’s replacement John Gregory with Connolly winning it when he headed in Nicky Adams’ 53rd-minute corner. Jamie Proctor twice hit the woodwork late on while Sergio Torres made his first start of the campaign.
Twelve months later and a new era began at the club with Dean Saunders taking charge of Reds for the first time in the final match of 2014 after Gregory stepped down because of health reasons. Reds went into the game on the back of a 4-1 hiding at Leyton Orient on Boxing Day and Saunders’ options were limited because of injury. Marvin Elliott played at centre-half alongside Joe Walsh and Bobson Bawling fitted in at left back. A dour goalless draw in front of a crowd of 2,046 at least lifted Reds out of the League One relegation zone.
A year ago Reds finished 2015 with a 2-0 loss at Wycombe Wanderers. Having beaten Stevenage 2-1 two days earlier, boss Mark Yates was confident of getting a result but horrendous traffic issues on the M25 meant some of the squad didn’t arrive until 2.25pm. Wycombe scored a goal in each half and only four of Reds’ 18-man squad for that game are still at the club as we prepare to bring down the curtain on 2017 at Home Park.
Picture shows a bearded Mark Connolly celebrating the winner against Notts County in the final game of 2013.