Harrold strike makes it seven home wins out of eight for Reds

There were plenty of promising signs for Mark Yates as Crawley overcame Cambridge United 1-0 on a wet afternoon at the Checkatrade.com Stadium to make it seven home wins out of eight and, considering the circumstances, claim one of their best wins of the campaign.

A dominant home display was sealed when Matt Harrold’s strike separated the two sides, completing a double over their opponents for the Reds.

The boss named five changes to the defeat at Portsmouth with Jimmy Smith injured and Luke Rooney and Roarie Deacon dropping to the bench. Mitch Hancox and Josh Emmaunel returned to their parent clubs, whilst Lee Barnard, Gavin Tomlin, Ross Jenkins and Jon Ashton made starts.

There was also a place in the starting XI for Reds latest addition, George Smith, at left-back. The 19-year-old loanee has played 17 times for Barnsley in League One this season and was up against his former Tykes team-mate, Luke Berry, who returned to the U’s in the summer.

Crawley were looking to get the first three points of 2016 against the team they gathered their first win of the season against back in August.

In the opening 25 minutes the home side’s best chance of finding the net came from direct balls into the box. Deliveries from Simon Walton and the sweet left foot of Smith reached Matt Harrold on numerous occasions and the target man did well to hold up the ball. On 15 minutes he shielded the ball from the U’s defence for the oncoming Tomlin, who shot through a crowded box only to be parried by Will Norris.

Reds’ dominance paid off on 35 minutes when Lee Barnard’s low driven cross from the right met the boot of HARROLD, who slotted home passed a helpless Norris from six yards for his fifth goal of the season.

As the rain began to pour down the slippery surface made it tricky for both sets of players to judge the bounce.  The quality of football, however, showed no sign of fading, especially from the Reds. Both full-backs combined with Gavin Tomin and Gwion Edwards, but the inch-perfect final ball was proving the obstacle preventing Crawley from grabbing a second.

Reds were in trouble in the early stages of the restart as Conor Newton’s knock down was met by Berry, whose 30-yard effort swerved away from the goal, clipping Darryl Flahavan’s left-hand post.

Midway into the second half the U’s had a ten-minute spell where they were putting Reds under pressure, but the towering home defence were first to every ball and prevented Flahavan from having to produce a save.

Harrold and Barnard looked like a proven strike partnership and both put in solid performances. Harrold could have opened the scoring even earlier when he found himself in on goal with a few yards on the chasing Darnel Furlong, but the right-back recovered, sticking a toe out to deny the striker.

The addition of Smith at left-back looks to be a smart bit of business by Reds and he certainly won the battle against Berry. The newcomer didn’t put a foot wrong all game and was a threat going forward, and impressive defensively chasing back and helping the back four clear their line.

Reds looked comfortable towards the latter stages of the game and cruised through four minutes of injury time to claim a well-deserved three points which lifted them to 13th in the League Two table.

 

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#RoamingRed part 9 – Nha Trang, Vietnam

From Cambodia I took the 15-hour bus journey to Nha Trang, on the coast of Vietnam, via Ho Chi Minh.

Nha Trang is a holiday hotspot for Russians and until my final day I still hadn’t met anyone else from the UK. Which was what made me look twice when I thought I saw a Newport County shirt stuffed in a backpack on the beach.

I waited for the owner to come back and I was right, it was the home shirt of Reds League Two rivals and I had finally met someone who wasn’t Russian.

Michael was a very friendly man who comes from the Welsh valleys, just a bit north of Newport. He came to Vietnam three years ago and has never looked back and you can’t blame him with 300-plus guaranteed days of sunshine each year.

Michael told me how County had gone out to Vietnam to coach football schools for the youngsters, but had to stop as the Vietnamese didn’t want to pay for the quality of coaching.

I managed to catch ten minutes of a local match and from what I saw they could definitely use some coaching. In the blistering heat they ran around like headless chickens, all chasing the ball leaving one solitary defender at the back. It wasn’t a problem though, as the opposition had no how idea to counter-attack and there was a swarm of 17 players around the ball all the time.

Whilst taking the photo I couldn’t help but raise three fingers in respect of Reds’ 3-0 victory earlier in the season, where Gwion Edwards controlled the game with two goals – one a thunderbolt – and provided an assist for Matt Harrold.

Michael hoped Newport County would steer clear of the basement battle with Dagenham & Redbridge, York & Yeovil, but admitted the gruelling festive period could have a bearing on the battles at both ends of the table.

#RoamingRed part 3 – Bali, Indonesia 

Bali, what a place! After struggling to find football in Hong Kong and Malaysia it took me just five minutes to spot a sports bar with multiple TV screens showing different matches.

A lot of the pubs were dominated by Aussie rules as Eastern Australia met the West in the semis, but lucky they all finished just in time for the real football to kick off.

Everywhere you looked the place was crawling with football tops; mostly replicas of course, but luckily no dodgy Reds shirts being sold for cheap- good news for Puma!

As I walked up and down Kuta beach, looking for surfing lessons I bumped in to an Indonesian man who was wearing a Bayern Munich shirt but supported both the German champions as well as Arsenal.

After turning down many offers from others to teach me to teach me how to surf, I took up his bargain of about £10 for two hours simply because he clearly enjoyed football and talking about it.

His name was Olot and his favourite player was Welsh playmaker Aaron Ramsey. When I asked who he wanted to win when Arsenal meet Bayern in the Champions League group stages, he said Arsenal because he likes the English people who he teaches to surf every day in Bali.

When we got on to the topic of CTFC, Olot insisted he did not know much about League Two but told me his friend is in the UK having trials at lower league clubs.

He took a liking to the home shirt and said he will be looking out for Reds scores in the future, adding that they would be easy to spot on television thanks to the similarity in colours of Man United’s red, black and white home shirt and the iconic red devil.

Next stop, Australia, where I will be hoping to meet some interesting people, animals, insects- and maybe even some Crawley Town fans!

#RoamingRed Part 2 – Malaysia

For the second instalment of #RoamingRed I made the three hour flight south from Hong Kong to Malaysia.

My first port of call was the capital, Kuala Lumpur; a typical Asian city, very similar to the overcrowding and hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, but with a different culture. After the usual tourist activity of sightseeing, I headed to the beaches of the Perhentian Islands where I met Mr Ali.

He was a part time taxi driver and the most interesting person I had met on my travels so far. For the hour-long journey he did not stop talking and we were soon on to the subject of football, when he told me his favourite team were the champions of Europe, Barcelona.

Mr Ali fancied himself as a winger back in his playing days, but he assured me these are long since over and now he enjoys racing one of his four cars, along with fishing and buying animals to farm.

When driving through his village to get to the port, we saw his son playing football with about 30 others on a patch of sandy grass home to chickens and goats, with goalposts made from bamboo.

Mr Ali told me his sons followed the English game avidly and would be up sometimes in the early hours of the morning, because of the time difference, to see the scores come in via the internet.

When I asked if he knew any of the English leagues, Mr Ali named the top four flights of English football, but insisted his sons would know much more.

He also mentioned he had a grandson who is too young to have a team yet, to which I said look no further and pulled out the Reds Jersey just as we approached the destination.

After talking about the club and holding the home shirt, Mr Ali laughed then asked if they were available in smaller sizes and seemed happy to take the photo. He was looking forward to checking the website with his sons as he didn’t think they’d believe he would be featured on an English club’s

Another overseas’ Reds fan recruited!

#RoamingRed part 1- Hong Kong

When I left to go travelling earlier this month Crawley Town gave me the 2015/16 shirt and told me to spread the gospel about the club to as many football fans in other parts of the world as I could.

First up was Financial capital of Asia, Hong Kong.

I met Seung-Jae Lee whilst at Victoria Peak, looking down at the Skyscrapers that make up the impressive skyline of Hong Kong. He is South Korean and, like many of his fellow countrymen, is an avid fan of English football; which has a huge following in Asia.

Lee watches games every Saturday night at 10pm local time and he told me that the pubs and bars in his local city of Seoul are packed with fans watching English teams. Korean broadcasters have different rights when televising football, meaning Saturday 3pm kick-offs are much more accessible to watch compared to in the UK.

As football fever hit South Korea when they joint held the 2002 World Cup, Lee was undertaking the national mandatory military service. This meant he couldn’t attend any of the matches, but he never missed a game on TV as he watched his country defy the odds on their way to a fourth place finish.

He has little knowledge of the football league but when talking about Reds he was impressed with the growth of the club in the last ten years, especially back-to-back promotions & the FA Cup run that ended at Old Trafford with a Wes Brown header.

As a South Korean & a Manchester United supporter, Lee enjoys watching forward-minded players like Lee Chung-Yong, Cristiano Ronaldo & Rooney- not CTFC’s very own number 10, but the England captain.

When checking up on the latest United score, I scrolled down a few leagues to see how the Reds are getting on and get urged him to get involved with the Twitter & Facebook pages for updates on the club.

Lee has never been to England, but wants to visit the capital. When he does make the 11 hour flight west, there are now two things to check off his to-do list:

– To watch Wayne Rooney lead the Three Lions out at Wembley

– An hours drive south to the Checkatrade.com Stadium to see Reds in action

First-half goals put Seagulls in charge – Crawley Town 0-3 Brighton

Reds lost 3-0 to Championship side Brighton in Wednesday night’s friendly in front of a 2,200 crowd at the Checkatrade.com Stadium.

First-half goals from Dale Stephens, Tomer Hemed and Beram Kayal put the Seagulls in control.

Crawley did a lot better in the second half and missed the chance to get a goal back when Simon Walton’s penalty was saved by David Stockdale.

Most of the positives from Reds’ performance will have been taken from the second half display, in which the home defence remained solid and the forwards combined well after a disappointing first period.

The travelling fans were in full voice before kick off, with 933 Seagulls making the short trip up the M23. Their side started the game as they would have liked, releasing Kazenga Lua Lua and Solly March down the wings to attack Reds’ makeshift full-backs Lewis Young and Conor Henderson at every opportunity.

However, it was the home side had the first opportunity of the game. Luke Rooney’s clearance, following a few minutes of Brighton pressure, found Shamir Fenelon through on goal just inside the Crawley half, but the ex-Brighton forward couldn’t find a finishing touch as his effort rolled wide.

There were shouts for a Reds penalty on 13 minutes when Bruno Salter appeared to control Jimmy Smith’s cross with his arm but the referee waved play on.

Down at the other end the away team broke the deadlock on 16 minutes. Dale Stephens’ acrobatic right-footed volley from a right-sided cross left Callum Preston motionless as it flew into his left-hand corner.

Stephens should have doubled Brighton’s advantage shortly after his opener. Another great Albion move down the right found Salter, whose controlled pass took him into Reds area where he found the ex-Charlton midfielder, but his effort flew high into the KR-L stand.

The visitors did punish Mark Yates’ team minutes later. Lua Lua’s low driven free kick was parried by Preston straight into the Path of Tomer Hemed, who poked home from close range making it 2-0 midway through the first half.

It was 3-0 on 27 minutes. A long clearance from Lewis Young found the lively Lua Lua, who drove down the right past Luke Rooney and cut the ball back to Beram Kayal. The Israeli international coolly side-footed the ball past Preston.

Chris Houghton would have been pleased with his side’s first half attacking display. The wide men, including substitute Inigo Calderon, were linking up with the strikers and making runs to create pockets of space behind the home defence.

If Crawley were going to create any chances on goal, Rooney looked the most likely to provide them in a red shirt. The playmaker was picking up loose balls and driving forward from deep in his own half, but often lacked attacking options in front of him.

It was nearly four as the halftime whistle blew when Hemed’s long-range effort was tipped over by Preston, making his third impressive save in as many minutes.

Reds had a chance to pull one back moments into the second half. Simon Walton picked out a perfectly weighted through ball to an on running Jimmy Smith, who went down under keeper David Stockdale’s challenge. The Crawley skipper took the resulting spot kick, but was denied by the keeper’s strong hand as he saved down to his left.

Even after the penalty miss Yates’ men refused to be deflated and instead played their most promising football of the match in the final third.

There was the first feel of local derby tension on 60 minutes with Walton and Inigo Calderon clashing on the halfway line, but the referee stepped in cooled the situation without issuing any cards.

Yates made his first changes with 25 minutes left, bringing on last year’s top goal scorer Izale McLeod, Bobson Bawling, Sonny Bradley and trialists Lee Barnard and Issac Nehemie among a raft of changes.

McLeod was nearly off the mark within seconds of being introduced. The forward picked up the ball on the right side of the opposition half and cut inside, unleashing a 30-yarder that went centimetres over the Brighton goal.

Reds: Preston (GK), Walton, McNerney, Edwards, Smith, Rooney, Henderson, Young, Fenelon, Ashton, Harrold.

Subs: Bradley (Henderson 66), McLeod (Harrold 66), Aaron Lennox (GK, Preston 80), Bawling (Young 66), Isaac