Crawley Town striker Matt Harrold was touched by the warm reception he received from the home fans.
Immediately before being signed up for Reds by John Gregory in 2014, the former Bristol Rovers player spent three seasons at the Memorial Ground, scoring 27 goals in 76 appearances.
However his spell as a Pirate was blighted by injury problems.
He said: “I left the club in different circumstances, it was a decision I made and you’ve got to stick to decisions and it is nice to see how well the club’s doing now.
“I loved it here. I just wish I was here in happier circumstance like now.
“In the first season I enjoyed things and the second and third I had a number of niggly injuries and one serious one.
“The fans never really saw me at my best. But that’s the life of a footballer.
“I enjoyed it - I’ve got fond memories personally of playing here. I would have loved to have come back and spoilt the party.”
Harrold revealed Crawley’s aim was to soak up the home side’s pressure.
He said: “We knew we were coming to a team with a bit of momentum and we tried to stifle it.
“It is disappointing coming back and losing 3-0, but it’s one of those things and I hope they go on to do well.
“I got a bit of stick during the game which I expected.
“I really do appreciate the reception I got. It meant a lot to be honest.
“We have got to aspire to be a bit better and more comfortable with the ball like Bristol are.
“To be fair to the boy upfront, Taylor, he’s the smallest player in the box and has scored two headers, which isn’t good enough from us but it shows it’s not size, it scores, it’s movement and strength. We’ve got to be better in both boxes. The gaffer’s had his hands tied with numbers and he hasn’t even been able to play 11 v 11 in training. We’ve got ownership now where we could be pushing to near the top next year.”
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