The presence of home supporters could have encouraged Crawley Town to a Boxing Day win - opinion
The Boxing Day fare at the People's Pension Stadium would have brought limited cheer to Crawley Town’s fans who have once again been forbidden to watch live football during the pandemic.
The presence of home supporters might have encouraged the Reds to a win but the actions of referee David Rock were more akin to Scrooge than Santa Claus.
His key involvement was the dismissal of Tarryn Allarakhia as he was unable to differentiate between an accident and a deliberate foul. The Reds’ midfielder had been one of the game’s better players when the ball bounced off his thigh and he kicked Newport County’s Liam Shepherd in the midriff as both went for the dropping ball.
The coming together was entirely accidental but the official saw the chance to take centre stage and showed a complete lack of discretion.
With Crawley reduced to ten men the previously competitive match took a different course. Until the 59th minute it had been close, if rather somewhat dour, but afterwards it was one way traffic which the Reds did well to resist.
The Exiles had taken a fifth minute lead as left back Ryan Haynes slammed an unstoppable cross shot into the top far corner from the edge of the box.
That effort was admirable but Crawley’s equaliser with half an hour gone had a touch of good fortune and comedy about it. In attempting to clear Jack Powell’s lofted through ball Mickey Demetriou, under pressure from Max Watters, misdirected his attempted header back to his goalkeeper and the ball rolled wide of the scrambling Nick Townsend from nearly 25 yards.
The current Crawley side are renowned battlers but their attacking options of late have been dominated by Watters.
The young striker was subbed at half time and then Allarakhia’s dismissal led to midfielder Jake Hesketh replacing Ashley Nadesan to stem the visitors’ increasing onslaught on the home goal leaving Tom Nichols alone upfront.
That change, along with the welcome return from the bench of George Francomb, ensured a vital point was earned but also meant the Reds offered no attacking threat of their own. Embarrassingly a wayward shot by Powell (to add to his earlier “assist”) proved to be the sum total of Crawley’s threat to the Newport goal in the entire game.
The team will now have to regroup for another tough encounter on Tuesday evening as they visit second-placed Forest Green Rovers.
The New Lawn Stadium is not a happy hunting ground for us but another draw would represent a tidy return from the demanding festive fixtures. Christian Doidge is building his reputation in Scottish football but Rovers now have Jamille Matt and it will not be an easy ride for the Reds.