Five things we learned from Crawley Town’s defeat by Carlisle

Crawley FC v Carlisle United FC. Pic Steve Robards SR1724241 SUS-170930-164510001
Crawley FC v Carlisle United FC. Pic Steve Robards SR1724241 SUS-170930-164510001

Crawley Town have lost at home yet again in League 2, losing 1-0 to Carlisle United, despite playing against 10 men for the best part of 20 minutes.

With fans becoming restless and pressure building, I assess what is going wrong for Harry Kewell’s side.

Struggles at home

With five defeats from six home games, it is stark that Crawley’s main struggles this season lie at the Checkatrade stadium. The exact reason for which is unclear, with Kewell and his players adamant it is not down to a lack of confidence.

Barring one game against Notts County, where the Reds failed to register a single shot on target, a clear consistency in the defeats is a failure to take chances when presented an opportunity. Carlisle keeper Jack Bonham made two fantastic first half saves, from Jordan Roberts and then Jimmy Smith, both from Enzio Boldewijn crosses. These were Crawley’s only two shots on target during the game, with the other 10 shots failing to trouble the impressive Bonham. Kewell finished the game with no less than five attacking players on the pitch, but they were still unable to break down the resilient 10 men of Carlisle.

Dannie Bulman insisted after the game that only “fine margins” are costing them at the moment, but the lack of goals is a cause for concern.

Not learning from mistakes

For much of this season, the defensive side of Crawley’s game has been solid. Josh Yorwerth and Josh Lelan have formed a good partnership, with Mark Connolly also returning to the fold, and they haven’t conceded a huge amount of goals.

However, one lapse of concentration has repeatedly cost them this season and the worry for Crawley is that it only takes one or two goals to be beaten. In particular, against Notts County, neither team looked like scoring and it looked set to be a 0-0, but a slip from Yorwerth early in the second half allowed Jonathan Forte to break clear and cross for Jorge Grant to tap in. This time around, against Carlisle, Lelan was the culprit as he left Hallam Hope unmarked to head home the eventual winner, just after half-time, with Carlisle’s only shot on target. This lack of concentration after the interval is something which needs to be addressed by Kewell, if Crawley are to improve.

Squad rotation

A commonly mentioned positive about Crawley this season has been their strength in depth. With countless amount of options available and with an almost fully fit squad, it can be assumed that Kewell must have a selection headache every week. However, the same players seem to be starting week in, week out and other players, who could make a telling impact, are being left out. For example, many fans are confused at the regular absence of Dean Cox, who remains one of the leading assist providers in League 1, with 65 assists, over the last 10 years during his time at Brighton and Leyton Orient. Likewise, former Chelsea man Kaby Djalo, who could offer something different in the middle of the park, has been consistently missing from the squad.

Despite the abundance in depth and individual quality, it could be said that the Reds’ attack is very one dimensional. After the exits of James Collins and Matt Harrold, and with summer signing Thomas Verheydt still out injured, Crawley are lacking a tall target man to deploy when their fast and tricky forwards are struggling for goals. Ibrahim Meite, Enzio Boldewijn, Panutche Camara, Jordan Roberts and Moussa Sanoh all offer a fast, tricky and dynamic approach but lack the goal scoring touch of a poacher or target man, which could make all the difference.

Tensions boil over

In uncharacteristic fashion, tensions boiled over for Crawley in the closing stages against Carlisle. An injury-time scuffle between the sides saw Yorwerth sent off for his involvement, with Boldewijn and Young joining Evina and Roberts in the book. What caused the initial flare up between Yorwerth and Cumbrians defender Tom Parkes, who also saw red, is unknown but it can be assumed that it was a build-up of frustration which seems to be surrounding the club.

Restless fans

This growing frustration is epitomised by the Crawley Town fans. As well as questioning the apparent decision by Kewell to ‘freeze’ out Cox from the squad, they are beginning to question whether the manager is the right man for the job. Their discontent at the second half performance against Newport County on Tuesday night was clear for all to see, with loud boos coming from the home supporters after watching their club let slip a 1-0 lead. Saturday’s defeat will only add to the rapidly growing tension and unrest amongst the fans, who feel Crawley are underperforming with a much bigger squad and higher budget than they have had in recent years.