A 12pm kick off time meant that instead of the usual shenanigans of wasting a morning waiting for the usual 3pm kick off was out of the window and instead, it was out of bed, shower, change and off to the football. It was definitely strange to be playing on the Sunday though; Saturday becoming rather boring this week despite a day in listening to Jeff Stelling get excited!
Dad and I entered the stadium at about 10.45 - Probably the earliest I have taken my space in the ground for a Reds game in almost 14 years but it was a big'un so it was acceptable!
|Where the action happens - The Broadfield Stadium|
26. Rene Gilmartin
13. David Hunt 28. Claude Davis 4. Pablo Mills (c) 3. Dean Howell
5. Kyle McFadzean
11. Josh Simpson 15.Dannie Bulman 8. Sergio Torres
10. Sanchez Watt
23. Tyrone Barnett
Stoke looked and sounded as strong as everyone knows they are and named a very experienced side, certainly more of the so called "big names" as I was expecting considering they played Valencia in the Europa League on Thursday and face the return leg at the Mestalla fast approaching. The Stoke XI:
1. Asmir Begovic
30. Ryan Shotton 17. Ryan Shawcross (c) 20. Matt Upson 5. Danny Collins
6. Glenn Whelan
24. Rory Delap 18. Dean Whitehead 19. Jon Walters
25. Peter Crouch 33. Cameron Jerome
|AWKWARD: Crouch started the game|
It wasn't long until the packed stadium, basking in the Sussex sun found it's voice as the teams found their way onto the pitch led by captains Pablo Mills and Ryan Shawcross.
The game began and we had the first real half chance when Watt tried to slip a ball into Barnett however the Stoke rearguard just showed the ball out for a goal kick.
It was all Crawley in the opening stages and after a number of attacks were hacked away for corners from the nervous-looking full backs Ryan Shotton and Danny Collins it was Crouch who nearly handed the lead to the home side; David Hunt's whipped, out-swinging corner was flicked on at the near post from Collins before hitting the gangly striker on the thigh and crack the crossbar in an almost slow-motion action from where I was behind Asmir Begovic's goal.
Soon, Stoke's physicality got the better of them as long throw maestro Rory Delap was shown red from referee Mike Jones as he dived in horrendously (Can you tell I'm slightly biased here?) okay, his 50/50 challenge with Hunt had studs raised and, after Evans was on his feet and on the pitch by the dugout, the card was raised leaving Potters' boss Tony Pulis pacing up the touchline to remonstrate with probably steam coming out of his ears. (To be fair to the referee, word tonight is that Hunt left the ground on crutches so it must be pretty bad).
|HIGH: Delap goes in hard on Hunt|
The man reduction seemed to galvanise the visitors as they seemed to up the tempo; an impressive counter attack saw Crouch's exquisite volleyed pass (with backspin) found the pacy Cameron Jerome but the former Birmingham City man saw his effort find the side netting.
A period in the home half lasted until Reds made another foray upfield with McFadzean probably suffering a nose bleed being so far in the opponents half as he tried to curl an effort past Begovic that saw the Bosnian 'keeper easily claim.
Crawley felt they should have had a penalty as a high ball in the box saw Barnett rise, get caught in a Shotton-Shawcross sandwich and despite what looked like a stonewall Crawley penalty for a barge in the back, the official saw it differently and (wrongly) gave a free kick to Stoke to the disgust of the home faithful.
The deadlock was soon broken against the run of play as, minutes after the Barnett stonewaller wasn't given the visitors got their own spot kick; Jones adjudging McFadzean of clipping Shawcross before Jon Walters dispatched the penalty to the bottom left of Rene Gilmartin's goal for 1-0 Stoke and the honour of being the first man to find away past the Crawley side in this year's FA Cup.
|O-PEN-ER: Walters fires home|
Five minutes later and the referee blew for half time as the Red Devils' fans applauded their team off and Potters' supporters booed the man in the middle off the field of play.
After the refreshments of oranges and Lucozade were finished both sets of players were back out and it didn't take Pulis' side long to find a second goal as Glenn Whelan's free kick saw Crouch tower above Claude Davis at the back post to loop his header past Gilmartin and into the top corner of the net. Unfortunately he failed to bring his famed "Robot" dance out to play once again which was a bit of a disappointment
|Crouch celebrates scoring his side's second goal|
As the old saying goes "2-0 is always a dangerous score" and many believed that we still had a chance to get back into the game and, as Stoke seemed to take their foot off the gas, Watt saw his left footed drive swerve just over Begovic's goal as Crawley looked for an instant reply.
Wave after wave of attack came from the hosts as Watt in particular was finding more space, left back Howell was pushing forward and substitute Scott Neilson who came on for the injured Hunt using his electric pace and causing Danny Collins problems as Josh Simpson slotted into Hunt's available right back spot.
|Josh Simpson gets stuck into Glenn Whelan|
It was Neilson himself who saw his lofted cross deflect onto the bar and out for the corner as Begovic was left hanging onto his cross piece and his clean sheet.
The next chance fell to McFadzean who somehow found himself lurking in the box but, although he should of shot decided to pass across the six yard box but Barnett failed to get on the end of it and the ball was cleared towards the head of Crouch.
The in-affective Jerome was replaced by defender Andy Wilkinson in a move that Pulis used to withstand the heavy Crawley pressure.
A long ball from Stoke (Yes you did read this right) found Crouch who superbly plucked the ball from out of the air with the end of his size thirteen's before sending the ball over the Bruce Winfield Stand and into orbit to chants of "He's tall, he's s**t, he doesn't fit his kit Peter Crouch Peter Crouch!" - I'm going to admit, I found this strangely enjoyable!
One more chance fell to Crawley as Tyrone Barnett saw his acrobatic bicycle kick hand-balled off the line from visiting left back Collins but somehow ref Jones didn't give another penalty and that was that.
|AIRBORNE: Barnett tries his luck|
To conclude, it was another proud day to be a Red and well worth coming home to see the game.
To be honest I felt we were the better side throughout and the statistics prove that however, the only important stat is the scoreline.
Onto the league though and, I'm confident that if we play as we did today every week we will be in the automatic promotion mix come May.
There's always next year!
Now lets win promotion.
Photos courtesy of www.crawleytownfc.com
Photos courtesy of www.crawleytownfc.com