HARTLEPOOL UNITED (A)
Crawley began their league campaign in North East England against newly-promoted Hartlepool United, a side who were excited by their return to the football league after an dramatic play-off run that saw them achieve promotion after winning three consecutive games.
The atmosphere inside the stadium was electric as both home and away supporters made incredible noise on the opening day ahead of kick-off. It was certainly a tight affair on the field with end-to-end action throughout but it was the home side who broke the deadlock late on through Gavan Holohan who dispatched an inch-perfect effort ahead of the roar of the Hartlepool supporters.
The game saw league debuts handed to the likes of Owen Gallacher, Will Ferry and Jack Payne who all battled hard before the game was sadly lost late on as the Pools picked up three points.
SALFORD CITY (H)
Crawley returned to The People’s Pension Stadium with one thing in mind - three points. Salford had a high reputation ahead of kick-off with many quoting their high league budget and quality of players, but the Reds boasted an unbeaten record against the Ammies in our previous four league meetings since their promotion to the football league.
With the underdog status fully taken on by every red, we started the game strongly but conceded early when Ian Henderson found the net with too much space against the run of play. Crawley reacted well and late on in the first half captain George Francomb picked out Ashley Nadesan who grabbed his first of the season to level things up.
Yems’ men grafted hard in the second-half and applied added pressure with every attack, eventually edging ahead when Francomb picked up his second assist of the game to pick out a leaping Jake Hessenthaler who nodded into the net with precision.
FOREST GREEN ROVERS (A)
A trip to Gloucestershire followed, as we faced a side sitting pretty at the top of the table after a remarkable start to the season under Rob Edwards. The hosts fortunately took the lead only seconds into the affair as Nicky Cadden’s effort was deflected into the back of the net past a helpless diving Glenn Morris.
Jake Hessenthaler scored his second in successive games to level the scores with a composed finish on fourteen minutes, as Crawley grew into the game and played some excellent football with new man Will Ferry causing problems. The Green Army regained the lead ten minutes later through league top scorer and Player of the Month, Matty Stevens.
On the half hour mark it was Hessenthaler again who scored his third goal in two games to equalise dramatically in an end-to-end, all out attack affair. Three minutes into the second-half, Jamille Matt netted to edge the home side ahead and an onslaught followed when a further three goals were scored within the space of minutes, with wing-back Nicky Cadden securing a hat-trick. Kwesi Appiah scored his first Reds goal late on as the score finished 6-3 and Crawley left Gloucestershire without a point despite early promise and fight.
NORTHAMPTON TOWN (H)
After conceding six away at a side battling for the title, we then hosted another team who had started the season well in recently relegated Northampton Town, bossed by Jon Brady.
The Reds were without captain George Francomb as well as key players such as Tom Nichols and Jordan Tunnicliffe, as Sam Ashford earned a start following his goal against Gillingham in the Carabao Cup.
Ashford partnered Nadesan up top and the pair worked hard from the first whistle, boasting pace that stretched the defensive line of the Cobblers, who guarded their goal impressively throughout the 90 minutes of play.
Crawley also defended impeccably, displaying major improvements on the previous game with Forest Green, with Ludwig Francillette achieving the sponsors Man of the Match award after being part of a defence that eventually kept a solid clean sheet in a 0-0 draw at home.
BRISTOL ROVERS (A)
Next on the calendar was an away trip to yet another recently relegated side, who appeared to be a favourite for promotion under Joey Barton’s leadership at The Memorial Stadium. The Gas had a tough start to the season, with supporters feeling underwhelmed at the early results on their League Two return.
Tom Nichols returned to the side after his recovery from a shoulder injury which kept him out of the beginning of the season, and partnering him up top was Sam Ashford who kept his place in the side. George Francomb was forced to play in a slightly unnatural centre-half role alongside Tony Craig, after Ludwig Francillette also sustained a shoulder injury after the Northampton draw.
It was Crawley who dominated the game from start to finish, creating many chances and attacking with fluidity, whilst keeping a solid back-line as the skipper adjusted comfortably to a slightly unknown role within the back four.
Despite building pressure with waves of attack, Rovers struck first through Leon Clarke only moments into the second-half, and a resilient defensive Bristol performance meant that Crawley travelled back to West Sussex without a point despite having nineteen goal attempts in comparison to Rovers’ eight.
CARLISLE UNITED (H)
Three points was the sole aim against a side that Crawley have remained winless against within our last fifteen meetings. Carlisle made the long-haul trip after a solid start to the season, boasting an impressive previous record against the Reds at The People’s Pension Stadium.
New signing Joel Lynch made his debut for Crawley after his registration was finalised throughout the week, meaning George Francomb could move back to his more natural full-back position. Tony Craig was now out with illness meaning that Lynch would partner Tom Dallison in central defence, who had recovered from his injury in the week leading up to the game.
The pair gelled incredibly well, with Lynch using his experience of over 300 championship games to command and organise the defensive line, who won nearly every ball in the air - only losing out on very few aerial duels.
Tom Nichols struck alertly from Will Ferry’s corner after the half-hour mark to give the Reds a deserved lead in the game, as Crawley then looked more likely to add another when the second-half unfolded. However, Jon Mellish smashed an unstoppable close-range effort past Morris on 83 minutes just after the away side had picked up a short spell of attacking momentum.
But it was Crawley who would prove victorious when Nick Tsaroulla alertly snatched onto a loose deflection and hit a wonderful half-volley with his left foot into the corner of the net before wheeling away in celebration to the roar of the Crawley supporters. Incredible scenes.