Loan pair Forte and Ajose out of Reds’ FA Cup clash

Nicky Ajose is unavailable this Saturday along with Jonathan Forte
Nicky Ajose is unavailable this Saturday along with Jonathan Forte

Richie Barker admits Crawley will be light upfront on Saturday after confirming loan pair Jonathan Forte and Nicky Ajose are unavailable.

Tottenham right back Nathan Byrne though will be free to face Met Police.

With Forte and Ajose’s parent clubs, Southampton and Peterborough Utd respectively turning down Reds’ requests for them to feature, and young forward Jonte Smith out injured after returning from a successful spell at the Police, it leaves Gary Alexander, John Akinde, and Billy Clarke as Reds’ only recognised strikers.

While skipper Alexander has been ever-present, Akinde has hardly featured in Barker’s plans, making just two appearances from the bench so far this season, the last in the away win at Preston on September 15.

“It does (leave me short) a little bit, it doesn’t give me many options that’s for sure,” Barker said on Thursday. And on Akinde’s chances of being involved he continued: “Well he certainly moves up the pecking order. He’s had to bide his time and with us not having a Reserves it doesn’t make it any easier for him.”

Midfielder Hope Akpan also misses out as he starts a four-game ban for his sending off against Oldham on Saturday, but the rest of the squad came through training today (Thursday) unscathed. Joe Walsh is back in contention after his recent injury but the match is likely to come too soon for fellow defender Shaun Cooper after a lengthy abductor injury.

Even with his small squad stretched Barker’s side are expected to comfortably beat a Met Police team currently mid-table in the Ryman Premier, four leagues below League 1.

The Reds boss has promised to pick a strong line up for the First Round tie, and having been on the wrong end of an FA Cup shock as a player when his Rotherham side lost a replay with Northampton, missing out on a clash with Manchester Utd in the next round, he is keen to avoid repeating that feeling as a manager.

He said: “Complacency is going to be the biggest issue, people who think we can just turn up and win the game, that’s how we’ll come a cropper so we need to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“For some (Police players) it’s probably the biggest game they’ve ever played in, the First Round of the FA Cup, against a League 1 club, so they’ll be right up for it. These are the games where if we’re not up for it and they are, we could end up looking pretty silly.”

Having not been a part of Reds’ historic cup runs to the Fifth Round in both of the last two seasons Barker is keen to forge his own FA Cup fairy-tale at the Broadfield, though he is keenly aware expectations levels are now much higher.

“The fact I wasn’t here, you couldn’t get away from it over the last two years so I was certainly aware of it,” he said. “It would be nice to create something ourselves, and obviously the expectations are fairly high as well because, Fifth Round for the last two years, so even the Third Round would be a failure by the sounds of it.”

“They’re (some of the squad) also aware that the gap between us and the Met Police is similar to the gap that some of these players over the last couple of years have bridged pretty well so I don’t need to explain to one or two who have been here for a while how giant killings and cup upsets work because they’ve been a part of them, albeit on the other side.”