TASTE OF THE TERRACE: Pilgrims combine with referee to spoil Crawley Town's party

Crawley Town fan Geoff Thornton.'Picture by Steve Robards
Crawley Town fan Geoff Thornton.'Picture by Steve Robards

I am delighted to confirm that the good Dr Jekyll is alive and well at the Checkatrade Stadium.

Without showing any ill-effects from their poor display at Rodney Parade, the Reds took the game to promotion favourites Plymouth Argyle but were cruelly short-changed by a scarcely deserved injury-time winner for the visitors.

Crawley played well and, following a settling in period during the opening 15 minutes, they played the better football and delighted the home supporters with their positive attacking movement.

Billy Clifford led the way with some intuitive play backed by his fiercely competitive spirit.

Things may have been different though if the referee had showed any ability.

Ben Toner appeared totally ill-equipped to officiate at this level and, although there was no suggestion of bias, his lack of competence impacted badly on the Reds by the end.

Clifford’s great performance might not have happened if another official had been in charge.

Early on, Jimmy Smith was taken out by the sort of tackle that can result in serious injury and an incensed Clifford reacted with a ferocious lunge of his own.

Both challenges might have resulted in red cards yet the referee lamely waved play-on, presumably on the basis that the foul count was equal.

Mr Toner’s leniency at this point was appalling but with the opportunity to continue, Clifford scaled new heights.

His impressive contribution culminated in a fine goal as he perceptively started the move that led to the over-lapping Lewis Young setting up Dean Cox with a precise short pass.

It was a delightfully constructed strike.

A second Crawley goal before the break would have emphasised the balance of play but it did not come and in the second period Argyle worked their way back into contention.

They needed help to score, however, as Glenn Morris very nearly saved Graham Carey’s penalty.

The atmosphere was completely soured when James Collins received a second caution for an alleged foul on Yann Songo’o.

Crawley fans will take a lot of convincing that Collo’s challenge was even a foul let alone one worthy of a yellow card.

But referee Mr Toner took the bait, spoiling the contest as cries of ‘cheat, cheat’ rang out around the ground.

Sadly in added-time Lewis Young, whose game had fallen apart, wiped out the memory of his brilliant first half assist by ballooning the ball unchallenged straight to an opponent.

Plymouth took full advantage and pirated three vital promotion earning points that they hardly merited.

I am sure Plymouth Argyle will be in League One next season.

Their overall play during this campaign deserves it but they certainly didn’t deserve the win that their massive travelling support rapturously celebrated at the final whistle.

A lot of so-called Crawley fans stayed away again and missed a fine match but this supporter was certainly a very unhappy bunny when he left the stadium.