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Friday, 30 March 2012

"Fight Night" at Valley Parade!

Crawley came out victors and returned to the automatic promotion place in a feisty encounter at Bradford City’s Valley Parade.
A 1pm departure time for a 7.45pm kick-off sounded daunting, especially when you knew it would be a 10 hour round trip to an ex-Premier League side.

As soon as we arrived we decided to take a look at the memorial for those who lost their lives in the 1985 fire where 56 people died during a game against Lincoln City.

Once inside, the large ground seemed echoed but was very impressive; opposite us was a huge stand that seemed to go on forever, it’s just a shame that it doesn't get filled to capacity these days.

Crawley took a while to get going with both teams looking to see who would make the first move. The first real chance fell to the home side as Kyle McFadzean’s slip allowed Barnsley loanee Chris Dagnall to strike a left footed effort just over the bar, but City fans claimed that goalkeeper Michel Kuipers got a touch on the shot.
The Bantams had another chance to score soon after on 14 minutes when Craig Fagan’s shot took a deflection off of Pablo Mills, who slid in to block and the ball almost looped into the net; Kuipers had to be alert to flick it round the post.
The visitors had their first chance of the game as Sergio Torres leaped highest to meet a cross, but saw his header fall into the grateful arms of keeper Jon McLoughlin. The Reds had another effort on McLoughlin’s goal as Torres tried a curling effort but could only find the goalkeeper’s hands again.
Minutes before half time, midfielder Scott Davies raced clear of Matt Fry but his ball in failed to find either Gary Aexander or Leon Clarke who were lurking in the box. The sides went in at half-time level at 0-0.
As the teams reappeared for the second half, Crawley looked to take the game to their opponents. Clarke broke the offside trap and went clean through on goal, but defender Andrew Davies raced across to tackle the former QPR man excellently.
Minutes later the goal did come as Scott Davies’ pinpoint free kick found the head of Clarke, whose clean downward header went inbetween McLoughlin’s legs and into the back of the net.

OPENER: Leon Clarke opens the scoring and celebrates below

Steve Evans’ side went close again as Davies got the better of Fry and picked out Torres in the area but his shot was once again held by McLoughlin – anywhere else and it would have been 2-0.
Bradford looked to rally and soon grabbed an equaliser as winger Kyle Reid whipped in a free-kick and Dagnall gave Kuipers no chance with a powerful header.
It didn’t take the Red Devils long to get their second, and eventually winning, goal as Davies earned his second assist of the game. The marauding midfielder beat Fry once more to get to the byline and played a floating ball to Alexander at the back post to slightly stoop and head past McLoughlin, sending the away stand into raptures.

Alexander can't stop scoring!
From here on in, Crawley had to withstand heavy Bantams pressure as Phil Parkinson brought on energetic attacker Nahki Wells. However, blocks from substitute Claude Davis, Mills and McFadzean kept the score as it was and, despite referee Iain Williamson adding on five minutes at the end of the game, Reds hung on for another win; their fourth in a row as they moved up to third place.
Moments after the whistle blew all hell broke loose, as a melee ensued between the two teams.  Unconfirmed reports suggest that it began on the touchline before escalating on the pitch. Punches were thrown and after a few minutes the teams were separated.

It later emerged five players had been sent off in the changing rooms by the referee – three from Bradford (Andrew Davies, Jon McLoughlin and Luke Oliver) and two from Crawley (Claude Davis and Pablo Mills).
All in all, it was a very accomplished performance, a gritty win and the three points that Crawley crucially needed.

This Saturday sees us head to manager-less Burton Albion, who, before Tuesday night hadn't won in 18 league games.  It will be trickier than expected with bans to Mills, Davis and now McFadzean.

GONE FOR A BURTON: The Brewers are next
Photos courtesy of and Crawley Town Supporters Alliance

Monday, 26 March 2012

Rampant Reds Continue Their Fine Form

Crawley made it three wins on the trot as they comfortably beat managerless Rotherham.
Reds’ boss Steve Evans made one change from the win at Gillingham on Tuesday by bringing in Billy Clarke to replace his injured namesake Leon.
Rotherham had Darren Patterson in charge for the first time after Andy Scott’s midweek sacking.  The surprise was seeing Lewis Grabban, a Crawley transfer target in January, being left on the bench.
The game began poorly, and Crawley displayed a lump-ball technique as the Millers tried to find a way past the home side’s midfield battlers of Sergio Torres, Dannie Bulman and the impressive Hope Akpan.
The first real chance of the game came midway through the first half as Clarke tried his luck from distance after shaking off the presence of Michael Raynes and, after his strike was headed out to his strike partner Gary Alexander, the new signing from Brentford saw his curling effort beaten away from goalkeeper Rhys Taylor.
Rotherham mustered an effort of their own soon after as Mark Bradley’s dangerous cross found Gareth Evans at the back post, his downward header beat keeper Michel Kuipers but not midfielder Scott Davies who flicked the ball out for a corner.
The visitors went close again minutes later when Kieron Cadogan, on loan from Crystal Palace, picked out Alex Revell with a pinpoint ball which the former Brighton frontman volleyed onto the top of the crossbar and out for a goal kick.
Again, Evans tested Kuipers as his bouncing free-kick went through the wall before the Crawley keeper flicked it round his left hand post.
Crawley finally got the opening goal of the game against the run of play; Clarke and Alexander played a 1-2-3-4 with each other, the final move saw the latter play a low cross into the on-rushing Clarke to poke past Taylor just four minutes before the interval – a good time to score for the home side.
TOP BILL-ING: Clarke slides home and celebrates with Alexander below
Reds grabbed their second minutes after half time as Alexander’s shot was parried out by Taylor and, with Bulman showing more desire to get to the ball than Jason Taylor, he was brought down by the Millers player. That allowed Alexander the chance to add to his Crawley goal tally and the big man confidently stepped up to sidefoot the ball past the keeper.
Gary Alexander celebrates putting his side 2-0 up
It was almost three later on when Torres saw his left footed effort flicked into the air by Rhys Taylor and Kyle McFadzean’s header was tipped over from the follow-up, as Crawley looked to make it game over.
Kyle McFadzean goes close
Grabban’s appearance from the bench appeared to galvanise Patterson’s side and it was his cross which crept along the box, with Revell just not having the pace to catch up with the ball.
The game was effectively over as the home side added a third. Davies’ in-swinging corner ended up at the back post where former Millers player and captain Pablo Mills was lurking to simply head the ball into the corner of the net.
Mills completed the scoring against his former club
Rotherham tried to hit back instantly as another dangerous Bradley ball in reached substitute Sam Hoskins, who blazed the ball well over the bar. Grabban put another testing ball into the box minutes later but Revell’s stretched effort trickled tamely into the arms of Kuipers.
In fairness to Rotherham they continued to press and late on Johnny Mullins' looping header was turned around the post by Kuipers – a chance that was ultimately the last in a comfortable win for the home side.
Another win for Crawley as we look to make a push into the automatic promotion places. I think Rotherham will be wondering how they weren’t winning at half-time but football is a game where you need to take your chances. Billy scoring at the time he did obviously helped Steve Evans’ team talk and in the end we ran out worthy winners… just.
Away to Bradford on Tuesday will be a tough game but one that, with recent form as it is, a winnable one.
NEXT UP: Valley Parade, Bradford
Photos courtesy of

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Separating the men from the boys

It's that time of year again.  The business end of the season or, as some call it, "squeeky bum time".  It won't be long until teams will embrace the joy of a promotion or a league win and those teams not so lucky having the heartbreak of goal difference away from success or relegation.

Here, I am going to do a series of the ups and the downs in the four tiers of the English game.  Who's winning things and who's crying on the pitch at the end of the campaign.

I'll begin with the Premier League.


The big ongoing battle at the top has been, for a long time Manchester United v Manchester City.  Roberto Mancini's side seemed to have had the upper hand for the majority of the season, but, after the away defeat at Swansea, United capitalised and, at this moment in time are 4 points clear of their neighbours.

City's home form was the real catalyst behind their successful campaign (Recently going a whole calendar year winning EVERY home league match they played).  However, away from home they have looked rather shaky with draws against Fulham and West Brom along with defeats at Sunderland and Everton.

United on the other hand seem to have really pushed on since their 6-1 home mauling by City way back in October 2011 and, as the pundits regularly say "get better during the second half of the season".  By the looks of things, the Red Devils have the easier run in too.

Where City really did cock it up was losing Joleon Lescott and the influential skipper Vincent Kompany due to suspensions and injuries and having to call upon the mistake-prone Stefan Savic at the back, a number of his mistakes have led to opposition goals.

Savic has hasn't had the best of times
The early promise shown by Edin Dzeko seemed to have faded away a while ago and for some reason, Mancini decides that his best forward Sergio Aguero is only good enough for the bench some weeks.

United haven't looked brilliant all season but, as you normally see with Fergie's side they win any way they can, even without the presence of Nemanja Vidic for the majority of the season and relying on the not so good Jonny Evans (How he has the audacity to pick up a wage I don't know).

So, prediction time..... For me, United will be the ones celebrating yet another title success - City, and in the words of Anne Robinson on The Weakest Link, will be left with nothing apart from a runners up spot after bowing out of every other competition.

The other two spots for Champions League places next season I believe will fall to Arsenal and Spurs finishing in 3rd and 4th respectively.

The Harry Redknapp saga has come at just the wrong time for Spurs who were going great guns before the court case and the England job talk came around.  They'll still be top 4 but I reckon Arsenal will pip them to third.

Arsenal to finish third... after their dreadful start you would have been joking if you'd said that back in September time.  Their reliant Robin is obviously the main reason for their "decent" season, weighing in with 37 goals in all competitions and being involved in 67% of Arsenal's goals all season.  He seems to have got over his different range of injuries now which begs the question "Just how many goals would he have got in his Gunners career if he had stayed fit the whole time?!"

VAN THE MAN: Has had a memorable season


It's tight down there! Three of Blackburn, Bolton, QPR, Wigan and Wolves will be Championship sides next season in mine and many's opinion.

Firstly, Blackburn.  They really have come on leaps and bounds recently and, admittedly I was one of the "Kean Out Brigade" despite not even being a Rovers fan!  He's shown he's a tough nut to crack and despite the abuse and hatred coming from the Ewood Park stands he hasn't been broken and has got his team winning now which ultimately stopped the boo boys.  His purchase of 38  28 year old Yakubu in the Summer has been a real masterstroke with the big man weighing in with his fair share of goals helping his side move clear of the bottom 3.  Kean was once an idiot, but now, for me, is an absolute legend!  Blackburn will be SAFE.
Kean has turned Rovers' fortunes around
Next up are Bolton, who similarly to Blackburn began awfully but gradually Owen Coyle has turned their fortunes around.  Due to the events that happened at Whit Hart Lane last week to Fabrice Muamba, Wanderers will be focusing on his health at the moment rather than the next game but I'm sure, with the players they have they will be alright by the end of the season.

Now to who I think will finish in the bottom three; QPR, Wolves and Wigan Athletic.

I'm a huge fan of Roberto Martinez, in fact, many are huge fans of Roberto Martinez; he's just a genuine, nice guy but I feel that the time has come for them to finally, finally get relegated down to the Championship.  Over the last few years they have been very lucky at the tail end of the season - Last season saw Charles N'Zogbia almost single handedly keep them up and if it wasn't for a Hugo Rodallega goal against Stoke on the last day they would have gone down.  Playing well at the moment but I just feel there's not enough in the tank for them.  They'll battle though, that's for sure.

Next is Wolves who, for me made a wrong move in replacing Mick McCarthy as manager.  Plenty of experience in the type of situation they are in at the moment and instead of replacing him with a proven manager they appointed Terry Connor.  They just look like a demoralised team, low on confidence along with having a captain who turns up to training drunk.  Conceding goals for fun and having an in-ability to score goals doesn't bode well for the Molineux club.

Its been that type of season for Wolves under Connor (L) and McCarthy (R)
And, finally, to QPR.  It gets on my nerves when people say that a team is too good to go down... We've seen it in the past with Newcastle and West Ham getting relegated over the last two years and I fear QPR could be that type of club.  Mark Hughes hasn't had the impact that everyone was expecting and, if your team have discipline problems then it isn't the best of starts.

Bottom 3 for me:

18. QPR
19. Wigan Athletic
20. Wolves

Friday, 9 March 2012

Days in the Land of the Famous Galacticos

Last week, I joined forces with another 25 University students to go on a trip to the Spanish capital of Madrid,  in this post, I will reveal all of what went on whilst we were there, including my own photos and a snippet on the game we watched whilst we were out there; Real Madrid vs. Espanyol.

DAY 1 - Friday 2nd March 2012

A very early start with a departure time of 3.15am from Uni wasn't helped after a night out at Yates' Bar where every Thursday is a £1-a-pint night - A few were a little worse for wear but after boarding many fell asleep but not me, who was pretty much listening to some music the whole way to my home-town of Crawley, where Gatwick is located.  As those who know me will know, I do like to kick up a fuss about the location of Gatwick Airport;  I get riled every time I hear the words "London Gatwick" considering firstly, Gatwick isn't in London and, secondly, that Gatwick is situated about 30 miles from London! Anyway, rant over!

An hour and a bit later and we had arrived, a few were a little grouchy and complaining about the cold as I was standing there in shorts and they were rummaging for their coats.

As soon as the bags were put on the conveyor-belt thing we decided to hit the Flying Horse/McDonalds situated in the food court bit of the South Terminal.  Due to the drinking antics of the night before my mouth was as dry as a bone and I ended up grabbing and pretty much downing two large cokes.

7.25 we boarded the plane and it wasn't long until a few of the lads started to take advantage of James Hughes' fear of flying and comments such as "Did you see that swan go flying into the turbine", "Did you just see that bolt come off the wing" or "That doesn't sound too good" being passed around (I think deep down he loved it).

We arrived in Madrid a few hours later and jumped on the coach that took us to "Hostal Nuria", smack bang in the city centre.  Dropping the bags off it was soon back out the door as we boarded the Metro (Similar to the London Underground) and headed to the outskirts of Madrid to visit Real Madrid TV.  A 20 minute ride and we were greeted outside by Pablo Foley-Elias, one of the presenters of the TV station and went in.

It was interesting to see how big the set was for the station, when we were there something was being set up that looked similar to a Spanish version of Mock The Week or something like that.

After a 40 minute or so tour around the facilities most of the lads seemed to be infatuated by the female presenter, Kay Murray for around 5 or 10 minutes before we departed for the Metro, bringing Pablo with us as he lived just down the road from where we were staying.

A few hours of doing nothing ensued before a quick nap turned into a full on 13 hour sleep.

DAY 2 - Saturday 3rd March 2012

Day 2 was pencilled in as the stadium tour of the Santiago Bernabeu.  Being someone who has pretty much visited little non-league grounds for the last 14 years of watching Crawley I was expecting a few more of the average 4,000 capacity stadiums that I ave been in over the years so was looking forward to what Real Madrid had to throw at me.

After a quick shower I donned my Crawley shirt (Got to be done hasn't it?!) and headed downstairs to the dining area but, to my disappointment there was no black pudding, eggs, bacon etc and, instead was just two rolls on a plate with a coating of sugar on top along with a few sachets of jam and butter.

We quickly bundled onto the Metro and escaped it as the train stopped at the "Santiago Bernabeu" station.  A flight of stairs later and there it was; an 85,000 all-seater stadium starring back at us.

A few pictures and a queue for tour tickets and we took the winding steps and the odd escalator up to the top of one of the stands to be greeted by a great view of the stadium.

IMPRESSIVE: Santiago Bernabeu
Next was the museum part of the tour where there were old shirts from players of yesteryear such as Pele, Bobby Chalton and Ferenc Puskas, Raul's first ever pair of boots, the players footwear from last season, an abundance of replica trophies that Madrid have won during their long and distinguished history including the "real" Copa del Rey trophy that the team won last season.

Raul probably scored a few in these
After this, the tour continued towards the dugouts, the tunnel, the changing rooms and the press conference room before finally coming to an end in the club shop.  It was an excellent tour and a real opener to how much history Real Madrid has; for someone of my age, the start of Real Madrid's success earlier in my life was that of the Galacticos era with players such as Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Fernando Hierro, Ronaldo, Raul etc so to look around and notice other players such as Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano.

PUSKAS: Knew Where The Net Was
As soon as this finished then the rest of the day was yours, about 7 of us decided to give TGIs a go with it being just around the corner.  Had a "Cheesy Bacon Cheeseburger" and a beer served by the lovely waitress Maria.

We made it back at about 4pm Spanish time which meant there was enough time to find a bar with Jeff Stelling and wait for Crawley to hammer play Torquay.  Unfortunately for me, despite Jeff leading me on to believe we had scored by saying something like "Crawley... sold all of their goalscorers and without a win in 4..."  I was here expecting him to shout "Have scored!..." or something along those lines but instead told the world about Eunan O'Kane making it 1-0 to the visitors - I wasn't happy but it made good viewing for the rest of the boys around me.

The rest of the night was pretty uneventful apart from me and a mate not bringing ID out with us as we were planning to go to a club with the rest of the group.  On the way back from the club he was pick-pocketed but, after a 15-20 second grapple he got it back as  was making sure the other Spaniard wasn't going to do anything silly - No biggy!

DAY 3 - Sunday 4th March 2012

This was game day but with the kick off time being 21.30 it meant that until the departure time of 19.00 we could do what we liked for a few hours.  Me and a couple of others popped across the road to a Starbucks and pretty much lounged around for a few hours before departing, once more for the Bernabeu.

As we walked up the steps in the Metro you could already feel the atmosphere; the Madrid fans were singing as we saw the Bernabeu at night all lit up - It looked fantastic.

Onto the game and it wasn't long until Madrid scored; 1 minute in Cristiano Ronaldo had the ball in the net just in front of us but was adjudged to be offside.

He didn't have to wait long though as he was sent clear and tucked the ball past their 'keeper for 1-0 to Real.

They got the second about 20 minutes later as Sami Khedira finished off an impressive one touch move by a number of Madridistas before putting his side 2-0 up at half time.

Gonzalo Higuain netted the clincher a minute after half time and grabbed his second soon after with two good finishes.

Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Xabi Alonso all had chances to add to the goal tally before Kaka  went on a mazy run before tucking the ball into the corner of the net for a 5-0 Real win.

Best player on the pitch? Kaka, by a country mile - Assisted 2 and scored 1.  If he has "lost it", as some people say he has then God knows just how good he was when he "had it"!

Back on the Metro we headed straight for a McDonalds before having an early-ish night.

Day 4 - Monday 5th March 2012

The final day in Madrid was a hectic one.  We had to check out of the Hostal at 10am but were allowed to put our bags in a room upstairs.

We then got on the Metro once more for a trip to the well-known Spanish newspaper Marca which took longer than usual because our tour guide, Jessica didn't speak a word on English and we instead had an interpreter which wasn't too bad!

After a 40 minute or so look around Marca we were told to do what we liked as long as we met back at the Hostal at 6pm.

So back on the Metro we went, back to the Bernabeu and back to TGIs, hoping to get one last glimpse of Maria - It wasn't to be but the food was excellent - 13 Euros for a three course meal and unlimited cokes - Can't complain!

MARCA: A good read!
On the way back to the Hostal we had a couple of Desperados in a local bar before heading back and jumping on the coach heading for the airport.

It didn't take long, and after checking in and getting all of that boring stuff out of the way we were on the plane .

I was playing Football Manager 2012 on James' iPad on the flight back to Gatwick and the coach back to Southampton as I was getting sacked at Crawley and taking over the managerial reigns at Hayes and Yeading      

And that was that!  Ended up getting back to Southampton at around 1am!