On the back of a 4-0 thrashing at Wycombe, resulting in fierce criticism from fans for Harry Kewell, Crawley responded in the perfect way with an impressive 3-1 win over fourth placed Exeter. Here are five things we learnt from the Reds’ performance.
Fighting for Kewell
From the offset, Crawley were out to prove a point and to put up a fight for their under-pressure manager. The players showed a desire to take some weight of Kewell’s shoulders. After a positive start from Crawley, which could have easily seen them take the lead, Exeter broke away on the counter and found the opener against the run of play. Even the most optimistic fan would have had every reason to fear that the Reds’ struggles in front of goal this season would once again hinder them, in finding a way back into the game.
However this was not the case, with Crawley getting back on the front foot instantly and it took just ten minutes for them to find the deserved equaliser. The ever-present Josh Yorwerth was hauled down in the box, providing Josh Payne the opportunity to draw the hosts level, which he did in style, powering the ball into the top left corner.
Reds attacked the Exeter backline at every opportunity, and not once did it seem like they would lose the game, which is a credit to the team’s performance and Kewell’s positive mentality. Their efforts were rewarded with two second half goals from ‘super-sub’ Jordan Roberts, earning only their second home win of the season.
Inspired individual performances
After the game, match-winner Roberts said the win was earned by fantastic individual performances, whilst the manager got his tactics “spot-on”, and I cannot disagree. Roberts himself, Payne and Boldewijn all put in superb performances in particular, to the extent which they must be undroppable for the next game. Any of the three could have been named man-of-the-match, such was their influence.
In the absence of injured captain Jimmy Smith, Payne provided a brilliant, and calming influence in the middle of the park. I don’t remember a single misplaced pass made by the midfielder, whilst his emphatic penalty epitomised his display of confidence and assurance. He also wasn't afraid to go forward, seeing several long-range efforts saved, whilst also getting back to fulfill his defensive commitments.
Enzio Boldewijn was just as brilliant. The Dutchman’s tireless efforts and blistering pace made him a constant threat in attack, earning him the club sponsors’ man-of-the-match. All that is missing for the 25-year-old, is regular goals to his game. In a rare unfortunate moment, he was forced off with a tight hamstring, and fans will be hoping for a quick recovery in time for the trip to Coventry on Saturday.
It goes without saying that Roberts made the most vital impact on the pitch. It was a surprise to see him named on the bench after recent performances, but the forward staked his claim to be a regular starter immediately after replacing Thomas Verheydt at half-time. He was on the front-foot straight away, trying to make something happen, and his efforts were awarded with a chance on a plate after Cedric Evina’s low shot had been saved by Christy Pym. He needed no second invitation, cooly tucking the ball inside the near post.
The second, however, was all his own making. Following a delay in play, after the Reds were awarded a free-kick, Roberts stepped up with remarkable confidence and composure. Without a second thought, he sent a delightful, curling shot into the far right hand corner, much to the sheer delight of the home fans, who had seen their side complete a remarkable comeback.
Kewell installs attacking mentality
As a former forward himself, it can be assumed that Kewell came to the club wanting to install an attacking mentality into his players. This has been evident for much of the season, with the Reds always looking to go forward, but have just been lacking a bit of composure and quality.
This was epitomised on Tuesday night, with Crawley never taking the foot off the gas, even at 2-1 up. They persistently piled on relentless pressure on The Grecians backline, rather than deciding to sit back and defend their lead. Kewell proved this attacking mentality, by bringing on striker Ibrahim Meite for Mark Randall, in search for the killer goal, which the brilliance of Roberts provided.
After a run of six league games without a win, and with only one league home victory, the Reds were in desperate need for a big performance and a result. After Saturday’s humiliation at Adams Park, many fans called for the immediate exit of Kewell, as their frustrations came to the forefront.
The post-match reaction couldn’t have been more contrasting to that of Tuesday night. Following the defeat at Wycombe, Kewell was involved in a heated discussion with a group of away fans, creating further tension. However, he stayed at the club and oversaw a vastly improved display and incredible reaction to previous poor results. In stark contrast, in the last ten minutes against Exeter, fans were cheering every single pass, and gave standing ovations for Mark Randall and Enzio upon their departures from the field. They then stood up and applauded once again at the full-time whistle, expressing what they thought of the performance.
Earlier missed chances could have proved costly
The fact still remains that Crawley need to make possession and chances count from the start of games. After a bright start, Kewell’s side posed far more a threat going forward than the away side but failed to take advantage.
Thomas Verheydt missed the biggest chance of the opening 25 minutes, but Boldewijn, Payne and Yorwerth all also missed good opportunities to break the deadlock. This led to Exeter taking the lead against the run of play which, on another day, could have proved very costly had Crawley been unable to make a breakthrough. If it wasn’t for the penalty decision, which could have been called either way, Crawley’s struggles in front of goal may have come to the forefront yet again. However, the hosts’ goals were well earned by a positive attacking mindset which they will need to continue as the season progresses.