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A game by game summary of the Reds opening half of the Sky Bet League Two 2020/21 season

2 February 2021

Club News


A game by game summary of the Reds opening half of the Sky Bet League Two 2020/21 season

2 February 2021

As a second lockdown looms in an ever changing national climate, the Reds have played 23 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 through-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. 

Next we travelled to Walsall to take on a side lower than us in the league table, but we soon found out that the Saddlers should not be underestimated. 

Crawley hit the woodwork through Tom Nichols but failed to create many other clear goal scoring chances, as ex-Red Mat Sadler hit the back of the net to give the hosts a 1-0 lead - a scoreline that Walsall held onto resiliently.

Reds XI vs Walsall: Morris (McGill 55’); Doherty, Craig, Tunnicliffe, Davies; Powell, Hessenthaler; Ashford (Nadesan 78’), Frost (Allarakhia 78’); Watters, Nichols

Following the dramas of an FA Cup trip to Devon, as the Reds advanced to the second round after scoring six to defeat Torquay United 5-6 in a fixture that will never be forgotten, we traveled up to League Two new boys, Harrogate Town, without the injured Jordan Tunnicliffe for the first time this season.

Tom McGill and Glenn Morris also being unavailable meant that Stuart Nelson made his first start for the Reds in league competition, after making a substitute appearance at Torquay before playing 90 minutes at home to Ipswich in the EFL Trophy - a game that Brian Galach excelled in with a brace.

Max Watters scored in the opening 30 minutes after a bright start from Crawley, but Jack Muldoon equalised late on to steal two points from John Yems’ side, who left disappointed that they didn’t win the game.

Reds XI vs Harrogate Town: Nelson; Doherty, Craig, McNerney, Davies; Hessenthaler, Powell, Allarakhia (Dallison 78’); Nichols, Nadesan, Watters (Frost 58’).

Carlisle United would prove a tough test for the Reds, as the Cumbrians made the long trip down south in an attempt to push higher up the table.

In a 0-3 home defeat, Carlisle impressed and forced nine saves on the returning Glenn Morris, as the Reds failed to test Paul Farman in the Carlisle net even once. David Sesay came on and made some impressive defensive actions but was sent off after being the last man and bringing down his man to deny a goal.

Reds XI vs Carlisle United: Morris; Doherty, Craig, McNerney, Davies (Sesay 46’); Hessenthaler (Watters 65’), Powell, Allarakhia (Frost 73’), Hesketh; Nichols, Nadesan.

Three days later we welcomed Ian Holloway’s Grimsby Town to The People’s Pension Stadium, and despite a wonderful volley from Max Watters in under five minutes, The Mariners fought back to claim their first away win of the season, as the game finished 1-2 following goals from Matt Green and Max Wright, who both scored their only individual goals of the season so far in West Sussex.

Reds XI vs Grimsby Town: Morris; Doherty, Craig, McNerney, Adebowale; Hessenthaler, Powell, Matthews (Nadesan 62’), Hesketh (Frost 86’); Nichols (Ashford 89’), Watters.

A cruel defeat looked set to inspire some form; and after beating AFC Wimbledon, 1-2, at Plough Lane to advance into the third round of the Emirates FA Cup, a magnificent ten-game unbeaten run would commence. Two tricky away trips were next, but in both games Crawley may have felt hard done by not to win.

In Colchester, winger Harriott scored from an unbelievable position against the run of play to put the U’s ahead, but Jordan Tunnicliffe got a hold of Tom Dallison’s contact on the ball following a set-piece to equalise only seven minutes later.

Many chances were created throughout the 90 minutes but after a fantastic goalkeeping display from Dean Gerken, the Reds were denied a second goal, and left with a point ahead of Mansfield.

Reds XI vs Colchester United: Morris; Tsaroulla (Matthews 67’), Dallison, Craig, Tunnicliffe, Sesay; Hessenthaler, Powell; Nichols (Frost 68’), Watters (Ashford 87’), Nadesan.

Mansfield Town away provided more drama and heart attacks for the travelling Reds contingent; after a disappointing first-half in which Crawley trailed, Max Watters turned the game on it’s head and encouraged a real team showing after coming on for the second 45 minutes.

Max hit the back of the net three minutes after coming on, before volleyed efforts from Tom Dallison and Watters put the Reds 1-3 up. However, when George Lapslie pulled one back on 72 minutes, Mansfield piled on the pressure and were able to eventually equalise with the last kick of the game, clinching a point as Andy Cook fired in after coming on from the bench.

Reds XI vs Mansfield Town: Morris; Tsaroulla (Watters 46’), Dallison, Craig, Tunnicliffe, Sesay; Hessenthaler, Powell, Bulman (Matthews 74’); Nichols (McNerney 90+2’), Watters (Ashford 87’), Nadesan (Frost 74’).

After government regulations changed temporarily, we were able to welcome back a fraction of our supporters to watch us take on Barrow AFC at The People’s Pension Stadium in mid-December. 

It was the first time that the red army could see Max Watters live in action, and they certainly didn’t leave disappointed, after the 21-year-old bagsman netted his first Reds hat-trick which was sealed in the 93rd minute.

Tom Nichols scored from the penalty spot to put us 3-2 up, after Barrow worked hard to overturn an early 1-0 deficit with goals from Josh Kay and Sam Hird.

An entertaining affair overall, and perfect momentum to take into the next fixture at home to Bradford City, where almost double the attendance would be allowed.

Reds XI vs Barrow AFC: Morris; Dallison (Davies 71’), Craig, Tunnicliffe, Sesay; Hessenthaler, Powell, Frost (Ferguson 64’), Matthews (Nadesan 64’); Nichols, Watters.

Managerless Bradford came to West Sussex after a poor run of form, which left Stuart McCall out of a job in December. But the Yorkshire side were tough to break down from the first whistle, and Lee Novak gave them an unexpected lead on 11 minutes.

Sam Matthews whipped in a great ball from a free-kick which was flicked in by Bradford’s Harry Pritchard, flying past his own goal-keeper, Richard O’Donnell.

The likes of Ashley Nadesan and Sam Ashford were introduced to try and source a winning goal but Bradford remained solid in defence and held out for a 1-1 draw.

Reds XI vs Bradford City: Morris; Tsaroulla, Dallison (Nadesan 61’), Craig, Tunnicliffe, Davies; Hessenthaler, Powell, Matthews (Ferguson 61’); Nichols (Ashford 81’), Watters.

Following two positive home results, the Reds travelled to tier 3 East London to face Leyton Orient -  a side in a similar league position to ourselves.

Sam Matthews delivered an almost identical ball into the mix as his effort against Bradford, but this time it found the net with less contact from an opposition player, thus being awarded his first Crawley goal.

Tom Dallison deflected in an equaliser for Orient, but that man Max Watters poked in to seal a Reds away win after a delightful Ashley Nadesan pass, to continue our positive record against The O’s in league competition.

Reds XI vs Leyton Orient: Morris; Dallison, Craig, Tunnicliffe, Davies (Sesay 57’); Hessenthaler, Powell, Allarakhia (Bulman 72’), Matthews (Nadesan 65’); Nichols, Watters.

Next on the agenda were league leaders, Newport County, who had in-form players such as Scott Twine and Josh Sheehan within their armory. Twine was the assistant to Ryan Haynes who scored the opener only five minutes in, as Mickey Demetriou kicked the ball past his own goalkeeper into the back of the net to level the scoring.

But no further shots at goal from Crawley meant that defence became a late priority to keep the point, especially after Tarryn Allarakhia was shown red for a late challenge in the middle of the park on the hour mark.

Another positive result and a place up the table for the Reds, who defended brilliantly and  extended their unbeaten league run to six games.

Reds XI vs Newport County: Morris; Dallison, Craig, Tunnicliffe, Davies (Francomb 84’); Hessenthaler, Powell, Allarakhia, Nichols (Nadesan 64’); Nichols, Watters.

Next up we traveled to Gloucestershire to take on high-flying Forest Green Rovers, who were known for their impressive defensive record in the lead up to the game. Crawley’s previous record at The New Lawn was less than impressive, but with John Yems in charge we knew that fortunes could change on a freezing cold Tuesday night after Christmas.

Lone striker, Tom Nichols, excelled on his return to Gloucestershire, after playing for Cheltenham last season. It was Nico who gave us a deserved lead on 16 minutes before substitute Jake Young equalised five minutes into the second-half with an impressive free-kick.

Nichols then brought down a marvellous Jack Powell pass with such elegance before finishing precisely with ten minutes remaining. The back 3 of Dallison, Craig and Tunnicliffe again stood strong, winning many aerial duels before the full-time whistle was blown as we traveled home with three points, putting an end to a poor record against the vegan-based side on the road.

Reds XI vs Forest Green Rovers: Morris; Tsaroulla (Frost 83’), Dallison, Craig, Tunnicliffe, Sesay (Nadesan 69’); Hessenthaler, Powell, Francomb (Davies 52’), Matthews; Nichols.

Ahead of the attractive fixture against Premier League Leeds United, Crawley would travel to

The University of Bolton Stadium in another tough away game. George Francomb was back in the midfield alongside Powell and Hessenthaler, and Ashley Nadesan returned to partner Tom Nichols up top, a killer duo.

In a tightly contested first-half, the Reds created a few decent chances without finding the killer ball, but early into the second, some intricate build-up play led to a top finish from Captain George to put the Reds ahead yet again on the road.

Once more, Crawley defended incredibly, keeping the likes of Eoin Doyle and Antoni Sarcevic out. Glenn Morris was an arguable man of the match, making seven saves in total, with his cat-like antics pretty much winning us the game.

Reds XI vs Bolton Wanderers: Morris; Dallison, Craig, Tunnicliffe, Davies; Hessenthaler, Powell, Francomb (Bulman 70’), Matthews (Ashford 70’); Nichols, Nadesan (Sesay 87’).

Next came that famous day against Leeds in which the lads defeated Bielsa’s whites 3-0, in Crawley’s most impressive result in recent history. Nick Tsaroulla, Jordan Tunnicliffe and Ashley Nadesan were the scorers as the nation stood still in awe at Yems’ men.

Bournemouth followed and Crawley were perhaps unfortunate not to take the game to extra time, as Joshua King fired in in the second-half. A 2-1 defeat ended our incredible Emirates FA Cup run, and now all attention turned back to the league.

League leaders Cambridge United were the first team that we took on for the second time this season, having still not played Stevenage. 

Joe Ironside was first to score for the hosts following a free-kick that was scooped into his path, yet Jake Hessenthaler scored his first in a red shirt to level the scoreline only three minutes later. But Crawley were hit with a suckerpunch as Knoyle fired in emphatically moments before the half-time whistle was blown.

Ex-Premier League midfielder Wes Hoolahan scored late on in the second to double The U’s advantage as Crawley left with nothing, in the lead up to a month filled with fixtures.

Reds XI vs Cambridge United: Morris; Dallison (Rodari 68’), Craig, Tunnicliffe, Francomb; Hessenthaler (Doherty 68’), Powell (Tilley 46’), J. Wright, Matthews; Maguire-Drew (Davies 68’), Nichols.

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