Portsmouth 1, Crawley Town 2: Clarke seals memorable win

Crawley celebrate their equaliser against Portsmouth (Pic by Jon Rigby)
Crawley celebrate their equaliser against Portsmouth (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Billy Clarke hit the winner on his return to the Crawley side in a famous 2-1 win at Portsmouth this afternoon.

A neat angled finish put the Reds in front with 17 minutes to play, after Mat Sadler’s first half free kick crept in to cancel out an early Claude Davis own goal.

It was Crawley’s first Boxing Day win since beating Welling United back in 2001, and sees Richie Barker’s side go eighth in the League one table.

There was an early scare for the Reds when Paul Jones was forced to parry a Johnny Ertl shot after a loose clearing header from David Hunt. But otherwise it was an encouraging start for Crawley as Nicky Adams and Billy Clarke - one of two changes, along with Claude Davis - carved the Portsmouth defence open.

Pompey grabbed the opener after ten minutes though.

The hosts kept the ball well and worked it wide left to Scott Allen via Jon Harley, and Allen’s cross was met by a combination of Claude Davis and striker Paul Benson - who was awarded the goal after the glancing touch beat Paul Jones to nestle in the bottom corner.

Crawley remained the more threatening coming forward, and Adams’ 25th minute cross was headed straight at Simon Eastwood by Hope Akpan.

And the Reds were rewarded for a good spell, when Mat Sadler swung a free kick in from the right wing, and his left foot cross beat everyone to find the bottom corner for his first Crawley goal.

Five minutes later, it was almost 2-1, when Akpan lashed a left-foot volley over the bar after his initial header was blocked, and the home support was starting to get restless. The Reds could smell a second and Adams whipped a wicked cross just out of Gary Alexander’s reach.

Portsmouth finished the half well though as Mustupha Dumbuya fired over and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing had a goal chalked-off for offside.

Crawley made a subdued start to the second half, and after surviving a spell of Portsmouth pressure, Adams and Josh Simpson saw shots deflected inches wide. Despite those half chances, Portsmouth were a changed side in the second half, applying more pressure through Scott Allan down the left flank.

Reds keeper Paul Jones remained untested though, and Crawley punished the hosts on 73 minutes. Adams’ corner came back to him, and the second ball was whipped in low and hard, where Clarke angled home a classy finish to put the Reds in front. Now with their tails up, Crawley almost forced a third when Eastwood twice parried from Adams and the atmosphere was cranked up by the 13,000 strong crowd inside Fratton Park.

But as the afternoon’s heavy rain eased off, Crawley survived a frantic SEVEN minutes of stoppage time - although Paul Jones was called into a terrific save to tip Darel Russell’s header behind.

Portsmouth: Simon Eastwood, Mustapha Dumbuya, Ricardo Rocha, Gabor Gyepes, Jon Harley, Scott Allan, Darel Russell, Johnny Ertl, Brian Howard, Nathanial Mendez-Laing, Paul Benson.

Subs: Phil Smith. Liam Walker, Lee Williamson (on for Mendez-Laing 80), Izale McLeod (on for Ertl 73), Lubomir Michalik (on for Gyepes 65), Ashley Harris, Adam Webster.

Crawley Town: Paul Jones, Mat Sadler, David Hunt, Claude Davis, Mark Connolly, Hope Akpan, Josh Simpson, Mike Jones, Nicky Adams, Gary Alexander, Billy Clarke.

Subs: Shaun Cooper (on for Adams 86), Michel Kuipers, Dannie Bulman (on for Clarke 83), Joe Walsh, Nicky Ajose, Sergio Torres, John Akinde (on for Alexander 90).

Billy Clarke hit the winner on his return to the Crawley side in a famous 2-1 win at Portsmouth this afternoon.