'Exciting times ahead for Crawley’

Crawley's Connolly puts in strong tackle on Chelsea starlet Ike Ugbo during 1-1 draw. 
Picture by Steve Robards.
Crawley's Connolly puts in strong tackle on Chelsea starlet Ike Ugbo during 1-1 draw. Picture by Steve Robards.

Crawley Town defender Mark Connolly has said he feels the club are heading towards 'exciting times', after their well-deserved 1-1 draw with Chelsea XI in their third pre-season friendly.

In the middle of a 5-man defence, consisting of three centre-halves and two wing-backs, Republic of Ireland born Connolly put in a strong performance restricting the youthful but talented Chelsea side to just one goal from few chances.

The former Bolton Wanderers defender also waded in with a rare assist for fellow centre half Joe McNerney, who made no mistake in powerfully heading home the cross to level the score in the closing minutes, after Charlie Brown had given Chelsea the lead with 15 minutes to go.

Following the match, Connolly made clear that despite the abundance of talent possessed by the opposition, Crawley felt 'comfortable' and they successfully achieved their aim of restricting Chelsea chances.

He said: “I think we played well, there were glimpses of the way we can play and the way the manager wants us to play.

"It’s only our third game in, so it's going to take a little bit of time to get used to, but I think today we showed the way he wants us to play.

“We sat off and soaked up the pressure from a good Chelsea team. They’ve got the pick of the best players in the world, and don't get me wrong, they’ve got some young players but their very talented and I think we dealt with them quite well. I don't think they had many chances, I think they were playing in front of us the whole game which is what we thought would happen. I think we felt quite comfortable.”

Connolly also praised the mentality of the team, to get back into the game after falling a goal down to such a high calibre side.

He said: “We need to be physically fit but also mentally switched on. We went a goal down, which was disappointing, but we got back into the game and ended up getting a draw against a good Chelsea team. They were younger but definitely they are good players but for us we’ve got to take the positives fitness wise and the structure of the team was solid today.

The 25-year-old was also keen to praise the work of manager Harry Kewell and assistant head coach Warren Feeney.

He said: “It’s been very very good (working with Kewell). It's been hard, not many days off but he’s played at the top of the football pyramid and every time he talks you listen because you want to learn from him and I think that’s what we’ll do.

“He drills everything in that he wants us to do and walks through everything the way he wants us to play, with the positions he wants us in, so it becomes second nature. He’s very professional. I think he’s enjoying coaching the first team, it’s been brilliant, the boys have taken to him very well, we’ve been working very very hard.

“Warren Feeney has been brilliant also. The two of them work well together and it does feel exciting times for Crawley and hopefully we can do well from this season.”