- Verheydt's first competitive Reds goal rescues point
- Drastic second half improvement from Kewell’s men
- First league goal since 7th of October away to Morecambe
- Draw leaves Reds 18th in League Two table
- Roberts almost snatches all three points in stoppage time
Thomas Verheydt netted his first competitive goal for Crawley Town to rescue a point at home to Forest Green Rovers on Saturday afternoon in an open, entertaining and well contested game.
The visitors were in control of proceedings for much of the first half, twice going close and striking the woodwork, however the Reds came out after the interval a different side and dominated the game. Despite their ascendency, they were dealt a blow when Christian Doidge tapped into an empty net against the run of play, with just over 20 minutes left on the clock. 10 minutes later though and Crawley got what they deserved when Verheydt headed from close range to secure a point for his side. Jordan Roberts could’ve won it in injury time, but failed to sort out his feet after rounding Bradley Collins. Rovers then almost nicked it late themselves, as a deflected shot struck the upright.
Verheydt made his first league start since the 19th August against Cambridge United following his return from injury, at the expense of Panutche Camara who dropped to the bench. Josh Doherty was away on international duty which allowed Cedric Evina back in the starting line-up, after the left-back missed last week’s FA Cup tie with Wigan Athletic through illness.
Both sides after all three points…
It was clear from the outset that both sides were eager to take maximum points from this fixture in what some were labelling a “six-pointer” in the build-up. The visitors had a fantastic chance just four minutes in when Doidge found himself one on one, but Glenn Morris did brilliantly to deny the striker. Five minutes later and the Reds had one of their own after Jimmy Smith did excellently to hunt the ball down high up and dispossess two Rovers men, with the ricochet putting Lewis Young in on goal, but his shot from a tight angle was saved.
Ball playing Rovers…
As the first half grew older, Forest Green began to talk hold of the game, as they moved the ball across the surface smartly. They were inches from taking the lead after quarter of an hour, with Keanu Marsh-Brown rattling the crossbar with a powerful effort after the ball had been cut back to the edge of the area. Seconds later the Reds almost shot themselves in the foot, with Doidge in on goal off the back of Roberts’ loose back pass, but the forward fluffed his lines. The Crawley goal-frame was shaking once again, as Doidge’s flicked, looping header rebounded off the helpless Morris’ post. The Reds stopper was at the centre of the action once more on 36 minutes, when he rushed out to meet Doidge who knocked the ball past him outside of the area, only for it to strike Morris on the hand. The travelling fans and players were calling for a red card, however after consulting his linesman, the referee brandished just a yellow, assumedly because Joe McNerney seemed to be on the cover.
Harry Kewell opted for a double change at the break, introducing Josh Yorwerth and Josh Payne in place of Young and Dannie Bulman, and the alteration saw a dramatic improvement in play. The Reds looked a different side, with Smith almost immediately bursting beyond the defence only to be cynically hauled down on the edge of the area. The advantage was on for Verheydt who had a clear sight of goal, but the referee pulled up for a free-kick. It was then the hosts turn to hit the woodwork, with substitute Payne rifling a superb effort on the half volley with the outside of his boot from the edge of box, that crashed back off the bar. Enzio Boldewijn was becoming a growing influence in the game, twice beating his man down the right and finding dangerous crosses that only marginally eluded Red shirts. 63 minutes had been played and the second half was still all Crawley Town, going close again when Mark Connolly drove a dipping volley goalwards from a corner, but Collins did very well to deny the Irishman. The door knocking continued just a minute later, with Billy Clifford who’d recently replaced the limping Smith, finding Verheydt’s head just yards from goal with a great cross, but the Dutchman’s header was straight at Collins.
Just as the crowd sensed it was going to be another one of those days, their premonition took a step towards reality when the hosts took the lead completely against the run of play. Rovers in fairness put a great passing move together that eventually found Marsh-Brown one on one with Morris to the left side of the box, the keeper did well to deny him but the rebound presented itself kindly to Doidge, who tapped into an empty net. The Reds then went straight up the other end in search of a reply, with Roberts chasing a long ball, beating two defenders to it before being brought down in the box, but the referee kept his whistle away from his mouth.
The Reds could be excused for feeling a little hard done by, but they got a reward for their endeavour with just 10 minutes left on the clock. Verheydt was on cue to head home McNerney’s headed cut back from close range, and the big man cut a relieved figure in his celebration to net his first competitive goal in English football. The action wasn’t done there though, as the game saw a frantic period during stoppage time. Roberts so nearly won it late for the Reds, beating his man to the ball in the box and rounding the keeper to set up an open goal, but a defender did superbly to get in and block his effort. The ball then went up the other end, with Rovers striking the upright from a deflected strike.
Reds XI: Morris, Young (Yorwerth, 45), McNerney, Connolly, Boldewijn, Smith (Clifford, 59), Roberts, Evina, Bulman (Payne, 45), Lelan, Verheydt.
Unused Subs: Mersin, Tajbakhsh, Lewis, Camara.
Attendance: 1,732 (201 away).