With the days swiftly passing by before our season finale at home to Bolton Wanderers on the 8th of May, seven league fixtures remain to be played in an exciting end to our 2020/21 campaign.
Our next opponents are Southend United, who at the time of writing have controversially sacked manager, Mark Molesley, bringing back Ex-gaffer Phil Brown in the tough quest for EFL survival, with only six fixtures to play and a daunting five point deficit to diminish.
In our match-up with the Shrimpers earlier this season, in only our fourth fixture of the league campaign, struggling Southend United traveled down to West Sussex after achieving only a point from their opening three games.
Reds broke the deadlock after 20 minutes when Jake Hessenthaler pulled back a cheeky quick free-kick into the path of an on-rushing Ashley Nadesan who neatly curled in. Reds added more pressure but could not double their lead as Southend’s Nathan Ralph met the cross of Terrell Egbri in the final minutes of the game to equalise with a neat volley.
Then we travel to Bradford City on the Tuesday for an evening kick-off in West Yorkshire, against a side who have risen up the table since the sacking of Stuart McCall, which happened just before our reverse fixture in December.
Bradford had gone on an eight game winless run ahead of the 1-1 draw with the Reds, in a fixture that was spectated by 1500 socially-distanced supporters at The People’s Pension Stadium, following a 4-2 win over Barrow that even less fans were fortunate to see.
Crawley went behind to a Lee Novak effort early in the first-half but pegged back a deserved equaliser as Harry Pritchard deflected the ball into his own net following a Sam Matthews free-kick.
After the break, Crawley worked with relentless pressure but couldn’t find the effort to achieve the winner, meaning new managers Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars picked up their first point in charge of Bradford, which later upturned the form of the club dramatically, with the Bantams now sitting above the Reds in twelfth with seven games to go.
Our next home game follows the midweek Yorkshire trip on the following Saturday as we host promotion hopefuls, Cheltenham Town, who currently sit in second place with a five-point advantage on Bolton Wanderers in the play-offs. Our away trip to Gloucestershire earlier on in the season ended in a 2-0 defeat, as Tony Craig unfortunately deflected a long Ben Tozer throw-in into his own net before Andy Williams doubled the Robins lead minutes into the second-half.
We then travel to Wales to take on a Newport County side who have been flirting with the play-off spots ever since their drop from the automatic promotion positions earlier on in the season. After a number of their home fixtures were moved away from Rodney Parade and over to the Cardiff City Stadium earlier on in the year, the Exiles have returned to Newport where they will play on April 20.
On Boxing Day, the welsh side travelled to West Sussex to take on the Reds at The People’s Pension Stadium, in our final home game before a cardinal cup clash with Premier League
Leeds United. Crawley were on a six-game unbeaten streak since the FA Cup victory away at rivals AFC Wimbledon, but went behind after five minutes as full-back Ryan Haynes struck past Morris after being set up by the impressive Scott Twine, who is now with Swindon Town after returning from his successful loan spell.
However, showing that almighty fighting spirit, Crawley forced an equaliser after Mickey Demetriou headed the ball into his own net, levelling the game before the half-time break. Tarryn Allarakhia was shown a red card after a late challenge on Liam Shephard in the second-half, but John Yems’ side remained solid in defence and fought hard to earn the point with 10 men.
After yet another midweek away day, we then host another promotion hopeful in Forest Green Rovers, who we emphatically defeated following the home draw with Newport County on Boxing Day. On a freezing cold evening in Gloucestershire, Forest Green were heavy favourites to win the game, chasing automatic promotion at a ground that the Reds had a negative record at before a magnificent Tom Nichols brace.
Nichols struck in each half after Forest Green substitute Jake Young drew the home side level after the break to extend Crawley's unbeaten run to seven and end Forest Green’s eight-game undefeated tally. Central midfielder’s Jake Hessenthaler and Jack Powell provided the assists for Nichols who took his goals very professionally, executing both strikes with confidence and precision.
Our final away trip of the season will be at the Lamex Stadium of in-form Stevenage, who looked like fighting a relegation battle earlier in the season before a remarkable change in results, which almost kickstarted in their win over the Reds in West Sussex in February.
Lee Bradbury was the man in temporary charge as Gaffer John Yems served the first of his two-match touchline ban. After dominating possession for the entirety of the game, but sharing fairly equal chances with the Boro, Elliot Osborne struck in the 83rd minute with an almighty strike that John Yems claimed that he would “likely never score again in his career”, to give Stevenage an unlikely late lead.
Crawley were awarded a late penalty when Arthur Read brought down Jordan Maguire-Drew in the area. Tom Nichols stepped up with a well-earned point in mind but David Stockdale was level to the effort, palming away and wheeling away in celebration.
Our final game of the season will be played on May 8, as we host league title contenders, Bolton Wanderers, who have also had a marvellous run after a very poor start to the season under Ian Evatt. In their last game, the Trotters lost for the first time in fourteen league fixtures, a superb unbeaten run which saw them rise from one side of the table to the other.
We travelled to The University of Bolton Stadium in early January, after a magnificent win at Forest Green. The Reds were named as the bookmakers underdogs in Greater Manchester but again we proved the doubters wrong with yet another memorable performance. George Francomb combined with Tom Nichols before slotting in yet another important goal for the Reds who withstood late pressure from a creative Bolton side to keep the three points and a clean sheet.