As a second lockdown looms in an ever changing national climate, the Reds have played ten league games so far in this year’s Sky Bet League Two campaign.
We have travelled west to the likes of Cheltenham Town and Exeter City, and north with great performances in Oldham and Salford. But as we all know, these trips were even tougher than before with the absence of Reds supporters in the stands.
We opened our campaign with an away trip to Vale Park, the destination that we would have travelled to anyway before the 2019/20 season came to an early stop, following an impressive home victory over Oldham Athletic.
Tough tests against Millwall and Gillingham came first in cup competition, in games that the Reds narrowly lost out in, despite promising performances and a competitive debut goal for new man Sam Ashford.
Ashford started the game positively at Vale Park, and came close with a headed effort, but the home side proved a strong outfit early on, as Mark Cullen opened the scoring late in the first-half, firing past Glenn Morris. Cullen found the net once again after the hour mark, and despite a late burst of energy from newly-introduced substitute Tom Nichols, the Reds were unable to find a way back into the game, leaving Staffordshire with no points.
Reds XI vs Port Vale: Morris; Doherty, Craig, Tunnicliffe, Davies; Francomb, Ferguson, Powell (German 46’); Ashford (Hessenthaler 68’), Frost (Nichols 68’), Nadesan.
We then returned to home soil to take on Scunthorpe United at The People’s Pension Stadium; and after impressing in his debut cameo at Vale Park, Nichols started the game, partnering Ricardo German up top.
It didn’t take long for our new No.16 to make an impact, scoring after 15 minutes. Tyler Frost received the ball on the left following a neat Nathan Ferguson pass and Nichols was alert to pounce on the cross, finishing sharply.
Despite a much lower share of possession than the previous week, the Reds held on well, withstanding all Scunthorpe pressure, to keep the lead and pick up our first league win of the season. The perfect confidence booster ahead of the trip to Greater Manchester, where a familiar face would be in attendance.
Reds XI vs Scunthorpe United: Morris; Doherty, Craig, Tunnicliffe, Francomb; Bulman, Ferguson, Matthews (Hessenthaler 77’), Frost; German (Allarakhia 68’), Nichols (McNerney 87’).
After a disappointing defeat away to Port Vale on our first away trip of the season, the Reds were ready to impress this time up north. Harry Kewell’s Oldham were next, a team that had not yet won in the league so far. But it was not a straight-forward test, as Oldham started sharply. Danny Rowe put the hosts ahead on the half-hour mark yet this was when the spirit of Crawley shone brightly, as Ashley Nadesan equalised only one minute later, after some great work from Tarryn Allarakhia, who returned to the starting eleven.
All momentum was with Crawley now who were playing some fantastic football, and in a matter of minutes the Reds led the game, in quite spectacular fashion. Captain George Francomb picked the ball up in Oldham’s half before deciding to shoot from range, blasting an effort past a helpless Lawlor to fire the Reds ahead in the game. A definite goal of the season contender, only three games deep.
The in-form Tom Nichols doubled our lead with 20 minutes remaining with a pouncing header at the back post, netting his second in two consecutive starts. Ten minutes later, Conor McAleny fired in for the home side, meaning the Reds would have to hold on to their 3-2 lead for the remaining ten minutes. Oldham came forward on many occasions, but resilient defending and organisation saw out the game for the Reds to make it two wins in three, after a difficult start to the season in Staffordshire,
Reds XI vs Oldham Athletic: Morris; Doherty, Craig, Tunnicliffe, Francomb; Bulman (Hessenthaler 52’), Ferguson (Powell 65’), Allarakhia, Frost; Nichols (German 78’), Nadesan.
Another in-form side in Cheltenham Town were next up, a physical side with an impressive defensive record under Michael Duff. Jake Hessenthaler made his first start for the Reds after impressing in his cameos against Scunthorpe and Oldham. But Crawley could not quite find that rhythm that worked so fluently at Boundary Park the previous week.
A long throw-in set-piece routine put the Robins ahead in the first-half, and Andy Williams doubled the hosts’ lead early on in the second-half to put the game to bed. Crawley struggled to break down a strong Cheltenham defence and returned to West Sussex without a point.
Reds XI vs Cheltenham Town: Morris; Doherty, Craig, Tunnicliffe, Francomb (Davies 81’); Bulman, Hessenthaler, Allarakhia (Matthews 54’); Frost (Ferguson 80’), Nadesan, Nichols.
After a midweek defeat to Arsenal’s U21 side in the EFL Trophy, the Reds were ready to take on the league leaders Morecambe at The People’s Pension Stadium. Jack Powell came back into the starting eleven to pair Jake Hessenthaler in midfield - a partnership that would prove effective in the games to come. The Shrimps held us to a half-time stalemate, with neither side creating many huge chances in the opening 45 minutes, but the second-half would prove to be a spectacle for those allowed into the stadium or watching at home on iFollow.
New signing Max Watters, previously of Doncaster Rovers, replaced the injured Ashley Nadesan at the break, after our No.10 was unable to carry on after the first 45 minutes.
After scoring such a stunner only two weeks previously, George Francomb was at it again firing past a helpless Turner in net from outside the area, following a fluent and flair-filled sequence from the Reds. From this point on, Crawley really turned on their style and began to play the best football of the season against a side sitting top of the table. New man Max Watters scored twice in the space of five minutes after the hour mark, and Tyler Frost claimed his first goal in a Reds shirt five minutes later with a controlled finish on the turn.
The game would finish an emphatic 4-0, with the Reds sharing 61% of possession and dispatching four of their five shots on target.
Reds XI vs Morecambe: Morris; Doherty, Craig, Tunnicliffe, Francomb; Powell (Ferguson 87’), Hessenthaler, Matthews, Frost (Allarakhia 80’), Nadesan (Watters 46’), Nichols.
After an impressive league debut brace following a midweek goal against Arsenal, Max Watters, much like the name of our pre-match show, really was the ‘talk of the town’. We travelled down to Devon to face Exeter City three days later and it was that man once more who put the Reds ahead; applying pressure on Sweeney before shrugging him off and striking past Ward in goal. The Reds led at the break in a fantastic half of football, as we continued the form of the Morecambe victory away from home.
But this time we were unable to hang on, as Exeter worked their way back into the game, scoring two late goals through Jake Taylor and Ryan Bowman, who was able to deflect the kick of Morris into the net in an unfortunate turn of events.
Reds XI vs Exeter City: Morris; Doherty, Craig, Tunnicliffe, Francomb; Powell, Hessenthaler (Ferguson 61’), Matthews, Frost (Allarakhia 76’), Watters (Hesketh 56’), Nichols.
Another tough away trip to Salford City was next, as TV personality Mark Wright joined the Reds to train away for the first time. After appearing at Exeter, new loan-signing Jake Hesketh made his first start for the Reds, on the left side of midfield, and after also impressing, Sam Matthews started once more on the right, with Watters and Nichols the pair up top.
Salford started brightly, as Brandon Asante looked a bright spark on the right side, causing problems with his electric pace from the first whistle. However, the first half saw few chances for either side, as the game ended level at the break.
Ex-Manchester United and Brighton forward James Wilson gave the hosts the lead minutes before the hour mark with a composed, curled effort that tucked into the top-left corner from the edge of the area, sailing past the outstretched glove of Glenn Morris. Yet the Reds felt hard done by falling behind in a game where they had shown attacking promise, Sam Ashford came back into the side following an injury spell to replace Jake Hesketh who had been booked in the first half.
Archie Davies also replaced Josh Doherty who picked up a knock on 68 minutes, seeing captain Francomb shift over to left-back to allow Archie to play on his favoured side. This modification proved successful only minutes later, when Francomb was alert in the box to pounce on a loose ball following a Reds attack to finish professionally and wheeling away in celebration - claiming a deserved point on the road for Crawley.
Reds XI vs Salford City: Morris; Doherty (Davies 68’), Craig, Tunnicliffe, Francomb; Powell, Hessenthaler, Matthews, Hesketh (Ashford 64’); Watters, Nichols.
Tuesday night flew around and next up were Tranmere Rovers, who had been relegated from League One last season before the early conclusion. The Reds' famous home form at The People’s Pension Stadium was prominent in the build-up to the game, as Crawley were eager to build on the 4-0 victory over Morecambe only ten days previous. Before picking up a well-earned point in Salford against Paul Scholes’ side.
After such a fantastic performance against Morecambe, the rhythm we had against the Lancashire side translated to the clash against the Superwhites, as we found out only minutes in when Jack Powell had a curled effort punted away by Davies before Watters tapped wide from close range. Yet on 13 minutes, Watters put things right by latching into a delightful cutting pass from Powell, after he had turned elegantly past his marker in midfield.
More goals closely followed as Tom Nichols scored his third of the season with a curling strike which flew past the gloves of Davies, after he had chopped inside, beating his marker on the edge of the area. Minutes later, Jordan Tunnicliffe scored his first of the season following a set-piece which fell to Francomb in the box who was sharp to pick Jordan out with a cute cross to which last year’s player of the year headed home to conclude an early spout of goals.
The Reds continued to dominate, achieving 18 total shots in the affair, but it wasn’t until the 77th minute that we found our fourth. Tyler Frost poked home after returning from a personal issue which kept him out at Salford, paying tribute in his celebration after he had wheeled away.
Sam Ashford and Tarryn Allarakhia also came on late as the Reds picked up another three points at home, moving them within touching distance of a play-off position.
Reds XI vs Tranmere Rovers: Morris; Doherty, Craig, Tunnicliffe, Francomb; Powell, Hessenthaler, Matthews (Frost 72’), Hesketh; Watters (Ashford 76’), Nichols (Allarakhia 86’).
In our tenth game of the campaign we faced yet another tough test, as Cambridge United travelled to The People’s Pension Stadium. The U’s sat in second position in League Two and had scored the most goals, with leading scorer Paul Mullin sitting on 11 goals in only 9 league appearances.
He had met his match in Max Watters however, who had scored four goals in as many games for the Reds in league competition. But it was neither player who opened the scoring in the affair, as Joe Ironside of Cambridge headed past Morris only three minutes in.
The U’s were a strong side, and arguably the best we faced this season so far. But the Reds fighting spirit and tenacity shone through once again and we battled our way back into the game.
Max Watters latched onto a Nichols though ball on the brink of half-time before smashing home sharply past Mitov to level the game up at the break. Following his intelligent assist in the first-half, Nichols got his goal to put the Reds ahead, heading directly from an inch-perfect Matthews corner.
Cambridge continued to pose an attacking threat, striking the bar twice, and Jake Hesketh was given a red card following a late challenge in the Crawley half on 87 minutes. Seven additional minutes were indicated and the Reds held on to win once again at home. Making it 14 consecutive league games without defeat at The People’s Pension Stadium, moving into seventh.
Reds XI vs Cambridge United: Morris; Doherty, Craig, Tunnicliffe, Francomb (Davies 62’); Powell, Hessenthaler, Matthews (Frost 74’), Hesketh; Watters (Nadesan 52’), Nichols.