Crawley Town verdict: Best display of the season gives cause for optimism

Crawley Town columnist Alain Harper
Crawley Town columnist Alain Harper

Crawley saved the best performance of the season until the last game, at home against play-off hopefuls Tranmere Rovers.

It was like someone had turned a switch on because gone was the lethargic build-up, playing the ball slowly at the back, not closing down the opposition.

Manager Gabriele Cioffi made changes to the Red Devils’ line-up, Ollie Palmer was on the bench while Dannie Bulman was unavailable due to family reasons.

In came Matty Willock and David Sesay. It was a young starting line-up, but full of pace and energy especially in midfield and up front.

From the kick-off we witnessed a high tempo, high defending and abundance of energy for a full 90 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong, Tranmere were still looking for a win – they had made changes, but James Norwood, the leading league goalscorer, was still in the side.

They are a strong physical side who at times were a bit cynical which the referee failed to act on.

Early chances were made by the visitors and at times they looked like scoring, only for some great defending by Tom Dallison and Joe McNerney.

Two goals in the first half by Ashley Nathaniel-George following up from a Willock shot saved by the keeper and an own goal which was somehow credited to Filipe Morais gave the Red Devils the 2-0 half-time lead.

Tranmere pulled one back early in the second half from the penalty spot through Norwood, adding to his season’s tally – but the final goal of the season for Reds in added time was greeted with the biggest cheer of the match.

Panutche Camara had just been deservedly voted man of the match for his performance as the game was coming to a close.

Crawley were defending and from the clearance the ball fell to Camara just inside his own half. He sidestepped the heavyweight Steve McNulty and was clear with a one-on-one with the keeper, outrunning the lumbering defender, he rounded the keeper, who tried bringing him down – but he then calmly sidefooted the ball into an empty net from a few yards. The home support erupted as if the Town had won the league title.

There were brilliant scenes all around the ground as the referee blew the final whistle, except the away end of course.

Panutche had capped off a great performance and a win.

Wow – where did that come from? This squad have talent in abundance and have now proved it, they need to take that into next season’s campaign and build on it – with new signings to be made we can only hope that the likes of Luke Gambin, Matty Willock are somehow in the manager’s plans.

The 3-1 win was thoroughly deserved, watched by one of the largest home attendances of the season, just under 3,200, with 783 travelling from Tranmere.

Let’s hope that those home supporters who witnessed that performance will spread the word and come back again.

The season has ended on a high, so maybe we can go into the summer break with a little bit of optimism for the new campaign starting in August.