Sometimes football makes no sense.
Crawley Town are getting used to conceding the opening goal. Against Plymouth Argyle they were outplayed; at Northampton they took time to find their feet but against Walsall they dominated the play, looked a cut above the opposition yet were two goals down inside 27 minutes.
It was more than just against the run of play it was baffling as Walsall were the lowest scorers in the division. The reasons were clearly evident as Reds were exposed at the back. Nobody was near James Clarke as he blasted in the opener from 30 yards. The Saddlers’ skipper had enough time and space to have re-laced his boots before shooting.
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On the flank David Sesay, who was great going forward, twice declined to tackle Wes McDonald who set up the second and crashed home Walsall’s third himself. Crawley bossed the middle of the park through Nathan Ferguson, Panutche Camara and Reece Grego-Cox with the match stats later emphasising their dominance.
Defensively the visitors held firm, ably marshalled by former Reds’ favourite Mat Sadler, and we often faced two banks of four defenders. The inventiveness of the build up was frequently wasted as we tried one pass too many and there was a return of the old failing of not being willing to try a shot.
Bez Lubala. on as a substitute, showed the way with an early cracker from distance that went narrowly wide and similarly Josh Payne announced his return with three attempts. His first was woeful but his second made it 3-2 before he nearly saved a point with virtually the last kick of the game. Ashley Nathaniel-George also scored with a nonchalant penalty.
It was a big set back after the euphoria of Tuesday evening’s defeat of Championship club Stoke City in the Carabao Cup. Their place in the relegation zone was explained by their error-prone and shambolic performance which did not offer the threat that Walsall’s subsequently did.
Despite that our win was hard earned. Not for the first time the team’s efforts fell apart in the opposition’s penalty area and the need for better coaching in shooting became ever more obvious. It is no use dominating play if your finishing leaves you with nothing to show for it.
Reds’ reward for their penalty shootout win was dubious as they will face divisional rivals Colchester United who have now eliminated both Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace. It will be tough and not necessarily a money spinner. Interestingly the U’s are the next visitors to Broadfield in the league.
I felt a great evening was tarnished by the moronic throwing of flares that the ground staff insisted on removing rather than covering thus spreading the pall of smoke. No doubt the FA will back up their warning and the club will be fined. Disappointingly an understandable pitch invasion included some adults who should know better.\