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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

My Ten Premier League Signings of the Summer

With the transfer window slamming shut late last night, I've decided to run through my top 10 signings of the summer, in no particular order.

Roberto Soldado (Valencia to Tottenham Hotspur)
The signing of Soldado seemed to solve Spurs’ striking troubles. 2012/13 saw Andre Villas-Boas’ side have only Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe as recognised forwards. Thankfully for AVB, he had the talents of Gareth Bale at his disposal. In Soldado though, Spurs have really got that elusive 20-goal-a-season man in their ranks. A current Spain international, the 28-year-old moved to the Premier League from La Liga side Valencia for £26m, a club record until the capture of Erik Lamela. A total of 59 goals in 101 games for Valencia proves that Soldado, a former Real Madrid youth graduate, knows exactly where the net is. The ex-Getafe frontman has already netted twice in his opening three games with the north Londoners, both goals coming from the penalty spot.

GOAL-DADO: Spurs have their man
Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid to Arsenal)
It finally happened! I’m not talking about the capture of 24-year-old Ozil, who seemed to be having a medical for days rather than hours, more to the fact that Arsene Wenger finally decided to open the chequebook to go big. £42.4m was enough for Real Madrid to part with arguably one of the world’s best players on the same day that Gareth Bale rocked up at the Bernabeu. Ozil came to the attention of the world back in 2010 in South Africa, starring in a Germany team that tossed England aside on their way to bowing out at the semi-finals stage. It was Real that moved quickest to sign the German, snatching him from Werder Bremen for a fee of £13m. Over 80 assists since he joined Madrid, I have a feeling that Olivier Giroud is licking his lips. Arsenal could be sensational with their attacking options of Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Ozil.

Wenger has spent big on the quality capture of Ozil
Samuel Eto’o (Anzhi Makhachkala to Chelsea)
A player I’ve always wanted to see in the Premier League has finally arrived. Eto’o has been linked numerous times in the past, however, has pursued moves to Italy and then Russia, after departing Barcelona. A man who has scored goals wherever he's been, Eto'o didn't have the best of times at Anzhi, but still managed to find the net 25 times in 53 appearances for the Russian side. Even at the age of 32, you still expect that a man of Eto'o's quality should be fine with the quicker play and step up in quality from the Russian League to the Premier League, as he links up once more with Jose Mourinho. The duo were previously involved in the Inter Milan side that became the first ever Italian side to win the treble. The Cameroon striker has won everything on offer in Spain and Italy, will an FA Cup triumph or a Premier League title be next on his list of honours?

SAM THE MAN: Eto'o and Mourinho are back together
Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea to Everton)
A slightly surprising late move was Lukaku's more to Merseyside, departing Chelsea for his second successive season loan move, this time to Everton. An excellent campaign at West Brom in 2012/13, netting 17 goals for the Baggies, seemed to signal a stay at Stamford Bridge. However, after the signing of Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba staying at the club, Lukaku was farmed out on loan again, Roberto Martinez pulling a rabbit out of the hat by snaring the big Belgian, adding firepower to his new-look squad, Lukaku joining the likes of Nikica Jelavic and fellow new signing, Arouna Kone up top. Lukaku should thrive on the excellent service from the likes of Kevin Mirallas and the rampaging Leighton Baines, who is regularly seen scampering down Everton's left side. Expect 15+ goals again for 20-year-old Lukaku.

THINGS ARE LUK-ING UP: More goals on the way for Lukaku?
Scott Sinclair (Manchester City to West Bromwich Albion)
After a year of disappointment for Sinclair, he finally took off from Manchester City on a temporary loan spell at West Brom. It wasn't too long ago when the winger was excelling at Swansea City, playing for Team GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games and being touted for a call up to Roy Hodgson's England side. It's finally a chance to play for Sinclair and show his worth once more. He'll certainly get games at the Hawthorns and expect him to get a few assists for Baggies strikers Shane Long and fellow new signings Matej Vydra and Victor Anichebe. An opportunity for 24-year-old Sinclair to rebuild his career once again to reach the potential he had during his days at Chelsea.

Sinclair knows Steve Clarke from their Chelsea days
Pablo Osvaldo (Roma to Southampton)
A real statement of intent from Southampton was the signing of Italian international Pablo Osvaldo for a club record fee. Roma let the striker leave Serie A for a sum of £15m, with Osvaldo another option up front for Mauricio Pochettino, complimenting the likes of Jay Rodriguez and new England international Rickie Lambert, nicely. The Argentina-born striker netted 27 times in two seasons at Roma and worked with Pochettino at Espanyol in Spain. With the service from the likes of Adam Lallana and Gaston Ramirez, Osvaldo's goals could fire the Saints into the Europa League. See you in Westquay, Pablo!

RECORD BREAKER: Pablo's a Saint
Gary Medel (Sevilla to Cardiff City)
For a team that have earnt promotion to the Premier League for the very first time, Cardiff always needed a midfield enforcer, a battler in the middle of the park. Someone to get stuck in and get their foot on the ball is vital if they aim to stay in the top flight. In Gary Medel, Malky Mackay has snapped up a tough tackling little Chilean who's known as "The Pitbull". A consistent performer during his two years at Sevilla, Medel earned himself rave reviews, with Cardiff's capture something of a coup. The 26-year-old penned a four-year-deal at the Cardiff City Stadium after a record fee of £11m was agreed.

GOLD MEDEL: Cardiff have captured "The Pitbull"
Dejan Lovren (Lyon to Southampton)
Another player that will share residence with me in Southampton is Dejan Lovren. The experienced centre back made over 70 appearances in three years during his time at Lyon, and has 17 caps for Croatia. Defenders were the main priority for Mauricio Pochettino after conceding 60 Premier League goals in 2012/13, and with Victor Wanyama also arriving on the south coast, Southampton have certainly added quality to their backline. With the centre back still only being 24, he has plenty of time to develop into a world class defender at St Mary's.

HE'S LOVREN IT!: A coup for the Saints
Darren Bent (Aston Villa to Fulham)
An extremely shrewd loan signing by Fulham boss Martin Jol was that of Darren Bent. The duo worked together at Tottenham Hotspur and Bent, a prolific scorer wherever he's been will certainly get goals in west London. On paper, the striker duo of Bent and Dimitar Berbatov looks mouth watering for Whites' supporters as Jol looks to take Fulham to the next level, especially with the recent takeover at the club by Shahid Khan. It was surprising to see Bent left out in the cold by Aston Villa last season, and could have formed an excellent partnership with Christian Benteke.

Bent is back in the capital after time at Sunderland and Villa
Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Sporting Lisbon to Norwich City)
My final choice is Norwich's purchase of Ricky van Wolfswinkel. It was confirmed at the back end of last season that the talented Dutch hitman would head to Norfolk from Sporting Lisbon, despite City's Premier League status still in the balance. A striker that scored goals a plenty in Portugal, averaging a goal every other game at Sporting, van Wolfswinkel moved to Norwich for £8m, as Chris Hughton added a proven goalscorer to his ranks after hitting only 41 league goals last term. Has also notched almost 30 times back in his homeland with Utrecht. "The Wolf" could form a fruitful partnership with fellow new striker Gary Hooper.

HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF: Norwich have got themselves a goalscorer

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Return Of The Special One Will Signal A New Era For Blues

He's done it before and he'll do it again, that's what I think anyway, after Jose Mourinho's return home to Stamford Bridge, rejoining Chelsea.

It was back in 2004 when Mourinho first came to the attention of the world. That was of course, after he'd won the Champions League with FC Porto, defeating Manchester United along the way.

SLIDE OF SUCCESS: Mourinho's passion shines through
Turning up with his swagger and arrogance, there surely would have been murmurings of "Who does this bloke think he is?" when he first arrived in England.

However, the "Special One" soon showed his specialities. Bringing in bright talent from across the globe, the Chelsea charge, thanks to the millions of pounds distributed by Roman Abramomich, was only just beginning. Chelsea, Abramovich and Mourinho had changed the way football is today. It was just the start.

Of course, the "Galactico" era at Real Madrid was and still is highly talked about with the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and Ronaldo all pulling on that famous all white kit during the same period. However, Chelsea took it to a new level.

The likes of Arjen Robben, Claude Makelele and Didier Drogba all arrived in west-London, all with big egos, but all had big talent.
Claude Makelele
Arjen Robben

Drogba, of course, was the hero in the Club's Champions League success in 2012, Makelele, during his time with Chelsea provided a new role for the world to talk about, taking defensive midfield to another stage in football positioning. Chelsea have never replaced him despite years of trying. Robben always had the talent and injuries played a part in his Blues career, but when you also have Real Madrid and Bayern Munich on your CV, you must be good.

These were three of many during Mourinho's first year as Blues boss, I haven't gone into detail about the rest such as Petr Cech and Ricardo Carvalho, for example, two more that played a huge part in Chelsea success.

Two Premier League titles, a couple of League Cups, a Community Shield, an FA Cup, and three years later, the Portuguese was gone. It was to prove a case of the old saying "you don't know what you have until it's gone".

BACK FOR MOUR: Jose will want success again
Chelsea didn't do too badly during his time away from Stamford Bridge, winning another league title in 2009/10 under Carlo Ancelotti, three more FA Cups, another Community Shield and consecutive successes in Europe with the Champions League, under Roberto Di Matteo, and then the Europa League, a year later, in 2013, under the guidance of the much maligned Rafa Benitez.

Elsewhere, Mourinho was still picking up trophies, winning the treble with Inter Milan, a first for any Italian club, a La Liga title, a Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup during his three year spell with Real Madrid. Ultimately, his tenure in Spain was never enjoyable despite his success, with Jose failing to get on with the Spanish press.

REIGN IN SPAIN: But Jose's time with Madrid  turned sour
The problem for Chelsea though was the amount of bosses Abramovich hired, and then fired since Mourinho's 2007 departure from the Bridge.

Avram Grant had a season in charge after taking over once Mourinho had left, current Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari then had a go but was sacked after only 36 games. Even current Sky Sports pundit, Ray Wilkins had his turn for a solitary game, only for Guus Hiddink to fill in for the rest of that season until May 2009.

Ancelotti spent two years in charge, before Abramovich paid a world record £12 million for another Porto manager, this time Andre Villas-Boas, who was part of Mourinho's backroom staff during his first spell at Chelsea. He only lasted 40 games, before Di Matteo and, a year later, Benitez had his spell in charge. Phew, got all that?

THE EXIT'S THAT WAY: Abramovich has a record of sacking managers
In a way, it signals an end to Abramovich's experiment. He's taken managers almost on a trial basis before wielding the axe. The fact that the longest spell someone has had in charge being only two years shows the high pressure job involved.

Is it a case, with Pep Guardiola heading to Bayern Munich, Abramovich had just ran out of managers? Was there no-one else to turn to?

Mourinho will bring a number of top class individuals to the Club as he bids to bring the good times back to the Bridge after a time away.

What's not to like though? He'll brighten up the press conferences and there will be another horse in the title race for the foreseeable future if he has his way. 

Monday, 25 February 2013

Away Day Experience: Leyton Orient

This Saturday saw a rare chance for me to get to see Crawley play "in the flesh" since our 1-1 draw with Swindon Town at the start of February.

At the beginning of the season, I decided that I'd make every London away game to watch the Reds.  Leyton Orient, I believe the last of the clubs in this vicinity.

Hopping on the train from Southampton at 11am. The packed carriages meant me and two other friends had to stand the whole way to Waterloo - believe me, it wasn't a pleasant experience, with people treading on your toes, barging, pushing etc. A harrowing experience for a chubby, 5'7' man!

Anyway, we reached Waterloo, took a train to Bank and then reached darkest, deepest east London and the delightful sights that Leyton has to offer. A plus note was the pringle shaped velodrome that we could see in the distance as we walked towards the ground.

Now those who do not know me, won't understand my difficulties with trains! I'm very thankful for both Josh and Ben in showing me the way to reach the destination with plenty of time. On coming back from Aldershot, I got through my door in Southampton at 10.30pm. It was a 3pm kick off for goodness' sake, and both places are in the same county!

We reached the "Coach and Horses", a stones' throw away from the ground and I've got to say, it was very nice - an old school Nag's Head (Only Fools and Horses) feel about it. The prices weren't too bad either, considering we were in London.

The pub in all it's glory
It soon started filling up with a number of Reds fans, a few natives dotted around as well and about half an hour before kick off, we left and headed to Brisbane Road; a new ground for me and my Dad, who now has visited all but one London Football League ground; The Valley, Charlton Athletic.

It was a strange stadium; wooden seats seemed to signal the history that the place had, after all, it has been the home of Orient since 1937. However, in the four corners of the ground, were modern, swanky looking flats! It just didn't make sense. Surely things aren't that cramped in London that flats are being build inside a ground!? A decent view for the occupants though, I'd imagine.

You can see part of one flat to the left, and one in the other corner
Onto the game and, we really did dominate early doors; Billy Clarke opening the scoring with an absolute cracker after turning his man, he fired into the top corner.

A few of our fans were ejected for lighting a smoke bomb, my view is that it's slightly idiotic, however, it's only for a bit of colour/fun etc and it's not as if every week this happens (I think the last time was Accrington at home a few years ago during the Majeed era). Not that I'm condoning it due to some people's health (asthma etc) problems, but some were making it out to be the next World War. It wasn't.

It could have been more when the much-maligned Mike Jones saw his header hit the crossbar.

Second half was different though, Orient had their spells and threw everything at us, particularly in the final 15 minutes, but great defending by in particular, Joe Walsh and Mark Connolly saw a resolute performance turn into our first win since New Years Day.

Expected more from the hosts in truth, they had no real clear cut chances and the home fans were very quiet throughout. Russell Slade's side could be in for a tough next couple of months if they continue playing like they did.

It sets us up nicely for out match against Brentford tomorrow (Tuesday) night. A win against them and then Bury away on Saturday could see some momentum gained at just the right time.

The home fans quickly dispersed 
A quick KFC to celebrate the win and an un-eventful train journey back, saw me in at 8pm - a little different from the Aldershot trip!


Thursday, 31 January 2013

The rapid demise of Aston Villa

It wasn't too long ago that Aston Villa Football Club were one of the best up-and-coming sides not only in England but in Europe too.

Randy Lerner had taken over at Villa Park in 2006 and soon began to pump money into the club to  in a bid to possibly reach the Europa League or, as it was called back then, the Uefa Cup.

It was all going well; Villa brought in the likes of Ashley Young, James Milner and Stewart Downing (He was good once, honest!) as the club looked at assembling a squad that could push for the top 6 at the very least and with it, potentially locking horns with Europe's elite.

SIGNING: Downing was a wanted man (Zimbio)
The thing that most fans (apart from the likes of Birmingham City, Wolves, West Brom) liked, was boss, Martin O'Neill bringing in young, hungry, English talent and it looked for all the world that Villa would soon blow the dust from their trophy cabinet, and return to the glory days of the 1980s; winning the old First Division (equivalent of the Premier League) in 80/81, the European Cup (Champions League) in 81/82 and the European Super Cup in 82.

They came close under O'Neill's guidance; during his four year tenure at Villa Park, he achieved a creditable 11th place finish (first season) before guiding the club to a trio of sixth place endings, thus sending the club on a European tour to the likes of Hamburg, Amsterdam and Prague. The future was looking very bright.

Curtis Davies (R) takes on CSKA Moscow's Vagner Love (L) (Zimbio)
However, then came the bombshell that Villa fans didn't want to hear; the news of O'Neill resigning just a couple of days prior to the opening 2010/2011 Premier League game at home to West Ham, and this was the start of Villa's slide.

Their stars soon began departing; Milner eventually signed for Manchester City soon after O'Neill left and the following summer saw wingers, Young and Downing leave for the north-west; signing for Manchester United and Liverpool respectively.

Young and Milner moved on (WhoAteAllThePies)
Gerard Houllier was the man entrusted to take over where O'Neill had left off, however, medical conditions saw the Frenchman only last a season at the club, ending the season in 9th place.

Next up was Alex McLeish. Big 'Eck had managed to relegate arch rivals, Birmingham to the Championship, despite winning the Carling Cup. The appointment of the former Scotland manager was lambasted by Villa fans and they were never on side for his solitary season (finishing 16th) and he was soon relieved of his duties. During this campaign, Villa had the poorest home record in their history, gaining just 19 points out of a potential 57.

And then, came the appointment of Paul Lambert. Another Scotsman placed in charge of first team affairs and, so far, it's been another disappointing season. The club spent a lot of time and money pursuing Lambert in the summer before finally getting their man from Norwich City.

Lambert's side have been disappointing (SportsMole)
However, his first transfer window at the Villa helm was a poor one - preferring to go with youth rather than signing more experienced heads and it's quickly deteriorated into a dreadful first half of the campaign with only Cristian Benteke standing out from a bunch of poor, in-experienced signings. A falling out with regular "20-goal-a-season man" Darren Bent hasn't helped their cause, they suffered defeat in the Capital One Cup to League 2 side Bradford City, and after their latest defeat in the game against fellow strugglers, Newcastle, Villa seem certain to be heading through the relegation trap door.

With no spine of the team and little experience, you struggle to see how the club can survive. And the worst part? The Championship is a very difficult league to get out of.

BENT-CH WARMER: Star striker (L) and Stephen Ireland (R) (London24)

Friday, 18 January 2013

Warren meets... Brian McDermott

On Wednesday afternoon, I had a chat with Reading manager Brian McDermott about his career as a player, coach, Chief Scout and every other job he seems to have had at the club! Anyway, here it is, I hope you enjoy it!

WL: Brian, it all began for you at Arsenal, how big a thing for you, after getting released by QPR, to come up through the ranks with the Gunners and into the first team?

BM: Yeah, it was a big thing for me. I made my debut at 17. Obviously was at QPR for a long time but never made the grade there. Then went to Millwall and had a trial there and it just didn’t happen for me there, and I was lucky enough to get taken up by Arsenal, played 70 odd games for them. It’s a fantastic club and a great experience.

TOP GUN: Brian during his Arsenal days
WL: So during your time there, who were the main players at Arsenal?

BM: Liam Brady - I made my debut with Liam Brady. There was Graham Rix, Tony Woodcock. Later time in the 80s there was Charlie Nicholas, Pat Jennings, we had some fantastic players there... Kenny Sansom was another one. We got to three cup finals and it was a really good experience and still, it’s a top club.

WL: After Arsenal, you spent a bit of time in Sweden. How did that move come about and was it a hard decision to make due to you only being in your early 20s?

BM: Yeah, it wasn’t easy to leave home at the time. I just felt I needed to have a new experience. At the time I wasn’t getting many games at the Arsenal and I just felt that I needed to go to get life experience more than anything. It went well for me in Sweden; I was Player of the Year over there in 1984 and I had a great time and I’ve got a real affinity with Sweden.

WL: You mentioned that Player of the Year, how high does that achievement rank in your career?

BM: Yeah, that’s up there. That was when I was a player and the person who was a player was 20 years ago now probably. It was such a long time ago, I can’t really remember too much about it! It was up there though, I had a great experience and I really enjoyed the people over there.

WL: You then came back to England before having a spell in Hong Kong, can you tell me a little bit about the move out there?

BM: I’d just been at Exeter, we’d won the league and I went to Yeovil. I then left Yeovil and was offered the chance to play abroad in Hong Kong. It was a completely diverse experience; I took the family out there and we had a great time out there. We spent about six months out there and again, it was another really good experience for me.

WL: You played the last of your playing career for your hometown club, Slough, however, you soon got into management; was this an aspiration of yours?

BM: Not particularly. I was at Slough for a couple of years and financially we were going under. We ended up 8th in the league, in the Conference and managed to get to the semi-finals of the (FA) Trophy. It was a fantastic year for us but the club went under because the chairman didn’t want to finance the club anymore. I ended up at Woking and was there for 18 months before I ended up at Reading where I’ve been ever since.

WL: As mentioned, you’ve had that non-league experience, how did those tough times with the smaller clubs shape you as the man you are today?

BM: Non-league is completely different (to the Football League); you train two nights per week and you play on the Saturday, you haven’t got the training facilities and you have to do a lot of the work yourself. Everything really; you haven’t got a lot of staff, players don’t turn up on training nights sometimes. It’s a good experience and it’s part of your 10,000 hours where you’re learning!

WL: We’ll talk about Reading now, you’re time there is similar to the spell at Arsenal in starting at the bottom and working your way to the top, seemingly holding down every job at the club, but, did you ever think 13 years ago that you’d ever be manager of Reading Football Club?!

BM: Not really. I’m not someone who thinks like that; I live very much day-to-day. I’ve enjoyed every job I’ve done. I’ve done the under-17s, the under-19s, Chief Scout, I’ve been reserve team manager, so I’ve done every job at the club now and I know the club off by heart! We’ve got great supporters at our club, really good staff and I really enjoy coming into work every day.

Shane Long was unearthed by McDermott (Zimbio)
WL: You had play-off final heartbreak at the end of the 2010/2011 season (to Swansea), what did you say to the players after the match that helped them bounce back from that and reach the Premier League the following campaign?

BM: I just spoke to the players and told them just how proud I was of them for their efforts over the season. I was generally just so proud of what they’d done and was so disappointed for them. I think I was more disappointed for them than myself. We had a tough three months but we had to rebuild and go again. You have two choices; you can give up or you can thrive, get on with it and do what you have to do. We did what we had to do and last season was one of our proudest and one of the best achievements you have seen at Reading Football Club in many a year.

SINC-ING FEELING: Scott Sinclair slots away the penalty (Who Ate All The Pies)
WL: Of course, you finally achieved promotion from the Championship against Nottingham Forest, but was there ever a point in the season or a specific game (other than the Forest one) where you thought you’d do it and it would be your year?

BM: No, I just thought very much day-to-day. Never thought ahead, never looked back and I concentrated on the job in hand every day. I never thought about promotion, the only time I did was when we did go up. Even then, I was determined to win the league and that was important to the players; there were players in the dressing room that hadn’t won a medal – Ian Harte, Jason Roberts, Mikele Leigertwood, Jobi McAnuff and I wanted them to win a medal, and they did.

Reading reach the Premier League (The Sun)
WL: Brian, now you’re a Premier League manager, if there any time to relax and if so, what do you do to relieve the stresses?!

BM: There’s time to relax. I’m okay with it really. I’m a very calm person, I do the best I can, I enjoy talking about football to the players and the staff. To be honest, my relaxation is still, completely football orientated.

WL: As a Crawley supporter, I’ve got to ask, you took Hope Akpan from us last week, where can Hope get to under the guidance of you and the staff at Reading and what did you see in him to make the offer?

BM: Well probably the same of what you’ve seen in Hope! You’ve probably seen him play more times than what I have. He’s a top lad, he’s got energy, he can pass it, he can score goals. He’s hungry for it and he believes that he can do it so that’s always half the battle.

ROYAL APPOINTMENT: Hope Akpan (Reading FC Facebook)
WL: This season is about survival, but where can you see Reading as a club in three to five years time?

BM: No idea! Haven’t got a clue, and that’s why I live in the moment. Where you see yourselves, I don’t know. I can never answer that question; I have no power over the future, I’ve only got the now and I only live in the now and the moment!

WL: Finally, we’re in the middle of January now, transfer window is still open of course, are there any specific areas of the squad you want to strengthen?

BM: We maybe come up with something. We’ve signed three players so far (Hope Akpan, Daniel Carrico and Stephen Kelly) but if something comes up that interests us then we’ll look to possibly do a deal.

Many thanks to Brian for the interview.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Reds battle back to stun Stevenage

Stevenage 1-2 Crawley Town

A Dannie Bulman winner against old club Stevenage grabbed Crawley the points as Richie Barker's side recorded their first win in eight.

Leaving at 11.30, the trip to Broadhall Way was disrupted by a few hold ups on the M25 before finally arriving at Broadhall Way almost two hours later.

Outside the ground was a memorial for former Boro winger Mitchell Cole who passed away last month.

Memorial: Mitchell Cole
Before the match began, there was a minute's silence that was impeccably observed by all before referee Michael Oliver kicked off the game.

Crawley started well and winger Mike Jones had two early chances within the opening five minutes; firstly firing wide and then straight at Stevenage goalkeeper Steven Arnold.

Stevenage had their own first notable effort after eight minutes when Robin Shroot, fresh from signing a new two-year deal, saw his run and cross tipped away by visiting 'keeper Paul Jones to Greg Tansey, who's follow up was blocked by Crawley defender Mark Connolly.

On 24 minutes, a driving run from Hope Akpan saw him reach the byline but his cross just eluded Nicky Adams at the back post.

Stevenage had possibly the best chance of the first half when, after 39 minutes, David Gray's burst from right back saw his low cross dummied by Lucas Akins to Lee Hills; his goal-bound effort was hacked clear by the impressive Connolly.

My view at Stevenage
The away side saw Josh Simpson's toe poke fly just wide after an out-swinging corner from Adams wasn't cleared by the hosts just five minutes before the break.

Stevenage came out with more purpose after half time with Tansey slicing wide just four minutes before Gary Smith's side earned the opener; a quick throw found Gray who's ball across the box reached Shroot, and he scrambled the ball past Mat Sadler on the line.

Despite going one down, the Red Devils upped the ante and Akpan had two efforts in quick succession just after the hour mark; shooting over the bar from 20 yards and seeing his downward header comfortably saved by Arnold.

However, Akpan's luck changed on 67 minutes when he pounced after Adams drive was only pushed away by Arnold.

Four minutes later and Crawley took the lead; a pass from Mike Jones found Bulman with space, he let fly and his 30 yard strike deflected of Bondz N'Gala and into the back of the net to send the travelling fans into ecstasy.

Stevenage boss Smith, made a double substitution on 78 minutes in a bid to get back into the game as Darius Charles and Luke Freeman replaced Miguel Comminges and Hills respectively.

Tansey had a few more chances that flew wide before Freeman and Tansey once more had Paul Jones flying across goal as Crawley held on for a much needed victory.

STEVENAGE: Arnold, Gray, Hills (Freeman, 78), Tansey, Dunne, Haber (Agyemang, 81), Akins, Roberts (c), Comminges (Charles, 78), N'Gala, Shroot

CRAWLEY: P.Jones, Sadler, Connolly, Akpan, Alexander (c), Simpson, Hunt, Bulman, Adams (Akinde, 89), M.Jones, Davis (Walsh, 46)