Tomorrow at an evening kick-off time of 18:30, John Yems’ Reds host the league leaders Cheltenham Town at The People’s Pension Stadium, almost six months after our 2-0 defeat against the Robins in the reverse fixture in Gloucestershire last October.
Before our marvellous win in Bradford on Tuesday evening, the Reds had endured a difficult four weeks since our win over Mansfield Town at The People’s Pension Stadium. Since the victory over the Stags, we had drawn to Walsall, Scunthorpe and Southend United, and lost out to Barrow, Port Vale, Carlisle United and Oldham Athletic.
But fortunes changed on Tuesday when we travelled to West Yorkshire to face Bradford City, a side with an impeccable home record in 2021. Jordan Tunnicliffe opened the scoring after staying forward following a set-piece, as Tom Nichols worked the ball wide to Josh Wright who crossed perfectly towards Tunnicliffe who leaped up and guided his header into the top corner of the net.
Bradford hit the woodwork through 37-year-old Clayton Donaldson but it was Crawley who took all three points when we doubled our advantage as an inch-perfect Jack Powell free-kick was met by a bullet header from Joe McNerney, meaning both centre-halves left with a goal and a clean sheet.
Cheltenham have won 11 out of their last 17 league games which has proved an important run of form, keeping them safe in the automatic promotion spots with the likes of local rivals Forest Green Rovers dropping down the table. The Robins currently sit in top spot after trophy contenders Cambridge United were beaten 1-4 by Exeter City last week, as Cheltenham were able to capitalise and clinch top spot with a valuable game in hand to play.
Michael Duff’s side have had a healthy start to April, achieving seven points from a possible nine in the league. April was opened with a rampant 4-0 home victory over promotion hopefuls Tranmere Rovers. Midfielder Conor Thomas opened the scoring early on as goals from Will Boyle and Adam May followed in the first half, leaving the Lilywhites with a three-goal deficit to pull back at half-time.
20-year-old Callum Wright was the scorer of the fourth as a resilient Robins defence stayed strong to keep the clean sheet, bolstering their impressive defensive record, which is second best in the league to out of form Salford City.
Over the past four years, the Reds have faced the Robins on eight occasions, picking up three victories which all came within the three ties previous to this season’s 2-0 loss in Gloucestershire. 1-0 was the final result in each of these fixtures with Ex-Red Ollie Palmer scoring the three decisive goals.
Before three consecutive 1-0 victories, an anomaly saw the Robins pick up an impressive 5-3 away victory at The People’s Pension Stadium in March 2018. The Reds trailed 5-1 before the hour mark, but late goals from Panutche Camara and Lewis Young halved the deficit before the final whistle.
Alfie May and Andy Williams have both scored eight goals so far this season, forming a threatening partnership which was featured in their recent clash with in-form Leyton Orient, in a game in which the Robins took three crucial points in a 1-0 win.
Forward Sam Smith has given healthy competition to the pair however, costing Williams a starting place in the eleven in more or less every game since he joined from Reading in January, after a fairly unsuccessful loan spell at rivals Tranmere before the turn of the year, where he only featured in the league five times, not scoring at all. Smith has scored three times in fifteen league appearances so far for Michael Duff’s side, so it will be interesting to see which pair line up against the Reds tomorrow.
Cheltenham’s defence has also proved to be a goalscoring threat too this season so far, as the Robins have had good success with set-pieces including an impressive Ben Tozer long throw-in, which tested Crawley in our last trip to Cheltenham when the ball was deflected off of Tony Craig and into the net. Centre-half Will Boyle has scored six goals in the league this season, including two in his last two outings.
19-year-old Goalkeeper Josh Griffiths has made 38 league appearances so far this season, after his loan from West Bromwich Albion. The stopper also achieved a call up to the England Under 21s National Team last month and was on the bench for their three group stage games. Griffiths has a remarkable 50% clean sheet rate this season, keeping 19 since August.
Reece Grego-Cox and Tom Dallison remain unavailable. Tyler Frost, Tony Craig, Mark Wright and George Francomb are all doubts.
HOW THEY BET*
Crawley Town 3/1
Cheltenham Town 10/11
*Odds correct with EFL partners Sky Bet at the time of writing. Please gamble responsibly.
You can watch the match live on iFollow from 6:25 with commentary from Gary Smith and Tony Vessey.
You can purchase a match pass for £10 by clicking here.