Opinion: Three is key for Crawley Town in superb Cambridge United win
Three times Crawley Town battled the number three as they overcame high-flying Cambridge United.
After three minutes Joe Ironside cleverly shot the visitors into the lead. Three minutes into the second half Harrison Dunk hit the crossbar and nearly restored their advantage - and three minutes from the end of normal time Jake Hesketh was red-carded for an over-the-top challenge on Kyle Knoyle.
The referee’s decision was correct and the Reds’ ten men then repulsed no fewer than eight goal attempts by the Us in added time. Keeping up the theme they ran out winners by the odd goal in three.
John Yems is looking for resilience from his squad and Crawley certainly showed that quality. They were not short of canny football either, as was shown by nicely taken goals from Max Watters and the sparkling Tom Nichols. They also showed shrewdness in their build-up play and muted the threat of the high-scoring Paul Mullin.
It was hard to pick a player of the match from a side that values team play rather than hoping for the best from talented individuals. The result is shown in the unchanging nature of the choice of the starting line-up but there may have to be a change for the midweek fixture at Walsall after skipper George Francomb suffered a painful shoulder injury.
Consistency, which has rarely been a feature of Crawley sides of recent seasons, seems to have become the norm. Mistakes have been fewer against the tough opposition we have faced recently and it is a welcome trend that we seem to be getting the results we deserve. That’s another aspect that has changed in this campaign.
It was close but the Reds probably just about edged every aspect of the game which, against such strong opponents, brings renewed confidence for the future.
Last week Reds fans were celebrating their favourites’ second consecutive 4-0 home win. This welcome, if unexpected, success came against Tranmere Rovers and demonstrated how important it is to take your chances. Two had already gone when Max Watters scored his fifth in five games after 13 minutes. The impressive Tom Nichols soon added a second and with just 24 minutes gone Jordan Tunnicliffe headed home from George Francomb’s great cross.
Reds remained in charge and the visitors’ big names – Jay Spearing, once of Liverpool, and former Everton striker James Vaughan - both suffered a miserable evening. Tyler Frost put the icing on the cake with a well-struck fourth in the second half to complete a very impressive win that meant only one side had scored more goals this season.
That side was Cambridge United, the Reds’ next opponents, and we all know what happened when they met.