Stevenage 1, Crawley Town 2: Bulman justifies selection with winner

Dannie Bulman is mobbed after scoring the winner for Crawley against Stevenage (Pic by Jon Rigby)
Dannie Bulman is mobbed after scoring the winner for Crawley against Stevenage (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Dannie Bulmam justified his selection with his first goal of the season and the winner as Crawley earned a league victory for the first time since October 23 away at Stevenage.

Hope Akpan had levelled Robin Shroot’s second half opener just four minutes before Bulman struck in sweetly against his former club, and a gritty defensive display thereafter gave Reds a first League 1 win in eight games.

In a game between two sides whose ascent to League 1 had followed a similar path, hosts Stevenage began the game in fifth with Crawley down in tenth.

In a first half of few clear openings Mike Jones had a couple of early sighters from the left, dragging wide and then shooting straight at Steve Arnold in the home goal after cutting in from the wing.

At the other end Lee Hills was picked out in space on the left. His cross was palmed away by Reds stopper Paul Jones and on the follow up Tansey should have hit the target from inside the box.

Robin Shroot and David Gray combined effectively down the right, but when Crawley dealt with Gray’s cross Hope Akpan opened his his lungs and burst down the left on the break. Mark Roberts though beat Gary Alexander to the centre.

Stevenage were beginning to get their renowned passing game going and down the right again Gray kept the ball in and his low ball came all the way across the box where Lee Hills’s placed effort was blocked by Mark Connolly.

Crawley looked threatening from a couple of corners towards the end of the half and Akpan was wayward with a strike from 20 yards as a largely uneventful first 45 minutes drew to a close.

Jamaican defender Claude Davis had been hobbling through most of the first half with an ankle injury and at the break he was replaced by Joe Walsh.

With the rain now lashing down inside the Lamex Stadium the game bust into life with a well worked opening goal. A slick move down the right involving Mark Roberts and Marcus Haber saw Shroot bundle in to give Stevenage a 55th minute lead.

Akpan was immediately booked for a rash challenge on Boro skipper Roberts.

Crawley had hardly threatened the hosts’ goal before, in the 64th minute Nicky Adams fired in a stinging low shot from 25 yards and although Arnold made the low save Akpan was following up to slot in for 1-1.

And just four minutes later Josh Simpson’s attempted cross deflected into the path of Bulman, who let fly from 25 yards and saw his effort take a deflection to wrong foot Arnold and fly into the net.

In the space of four minutes it was a remarkable turnaround, Bulman justifying his selection with a fine goal against his former club to the delight of the visiting fans behind the goal.

Shroot then shot just wide of Jones’s post having turned Bulman, while at the other end Adams fed Akpan who came equally close with a sweep of his right boot as suddenly the chances came thick and fast.

Boro boss Gary Smith made two changes not long after, Darius Charles and Luke Freeman coming on, and not long after Pat Agyemang joined to provide a spearhead to the attack.

The hosts continued to pepper Crawley from the flanks but the defence, and in particular keeper Jones was equal to everything thrown at them.

The visitors stuck everyone behind the ball but still in the 92nd minute Jones pulled off an excellent diving save to deny a powerful Akins drive and then again to keep out a dipping Tansey free kick as Reds held on to end their recent drought.

Reds: P Jones; Matt Sadler, Mark Connelly, Claude Davis (Walsh 45), David Hunt; Mike Jones, Nicky Adams, Josh Simpson, Dannie Bulman, Hope Akpan; Gary Alexander.