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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Make Or Break For Chelsea and Di Matteo

It's been quite a season for Chelsea Football Club.  At the start of the campaign, Andre Villas-Boas was named manager after Roman Abramovich paid out a record £13.3 million compensation to Porto after the manager tendered his resignation with the Portuguese League Champions.

Many believed a new era would be the beginning of successful times ahead for the club. Villas- Boas brought in the likes of Raul Meireles from Liverpool, Juan Mata from Valencia and Barcelona youth prospect Oriol Romeu in a bid to mount a challenge for the title.

SUCCESS AND FAILURE: Mata and Villas-Boas
However, things didn't work out, a string of poor results led to speculation of ruthless owner Abramovich parting company with the Portuguese and, at the beginning of March his fate was sealed and his assistant, former Chelsea midfielder Roberto Di Matteo took over.

So here Di Matteo was with the same group of players as what his predecessor had before winning the next four games including two wins in the FA Cup, a league win against Stoke before a 4-1 hammering against in form Napoli after trailing 3-1 in the first leg in Naples before suffering defeat at Manchester City.

CHEERS: Di Matteo has turned their season around
After drawing against Tottenham, the blues went on another four game winning run with two of the four being two Champions League games home and away to Benfica.

It has to be said, the best week of Di Matteo's Chelsea reign was last week when his side thrashed Tottenham in an FA Cup semi-final 5-1 before snatching a 1-0 win at home to Barcelona thanks to a Didier Drogba goal on the stroke of half time.

If the west London side can win tonight's second leg against Barca at the Nou Camp and stop the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta from finding a way through the defence it will show a fantastic achievement for a club that was, just a couple of months ago written off to win anything.

THE THREE AMIGOS: Messi, Xavi and Iniesta
An FA Cup and Champions League double is the potential prize for the Blues and in the end, it could mean that a potentially dreadful season turns into a great one, especially if they win the biggest prize of all; The Champions League, the dream that Abramovich craves about.

EYES ON THE PRIZE: Champions League is what Roman wants
As for Di Matteo's future, well, a few more wins and the man that was sacked from West Bromwich Albion not so long ago could be managing the Champions League holders come August.

Football's a funny old game don't you think?!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Reds Brew Up A Comeback To Sting The Bees

Manager-less Crawley scored two second half goals to complete a turnaround and win at Barnet in Craig Brewster’s first game in temporary charge of the club.
Brewster is the boss
Late on Sunday night, rumours circulated of the club losing manager Steve Evans to Rotherham United where he would take the same position – rumours that were confirmed just before the coaches pulled away from the stadium at 11.45.
Arriving in Barnet at around 13.45, we joined the four coach loads and independent travellers in The Red Lion pub before making the short walk to Underhill around 45 minutes later where we were greeted with “Craig Brewster’s red and white army” bellowing out from the 500 strong away support.
The game began well for us; the ball was being played on the floor and we had scored. It’s just a shame it was ruled out for a push.
An in swinging corner from the recalled Billy Clarke found defender John Dempster at the back post who headed past Dean Brill and into the top corner, however the referee, Andy Haines, adjudged the former Kettering player had pushed his marker before hand. I wasn’t so sure!
Crawley were having the majority of possession without really doing a lot with the ball in the final third.
Against the run of play, Barnet scored; a through ball from Sam Deering found Izale McLeod. The former Crawley target’s left footed drive was pushed away by Michel Kuipers straight into the path of winger Ricky Holmes who pounced with precision to put the Bees 1-0 up.
From here on in until half time it was all Barnet with a host of chances falling to McLeod, Deering, Mark Byrne and Clovis Kamdjo who either hit high or wide or were kept out by Kuipers who made at least two top class saves within these attempts.

Kuipers then hit a host of goal kicks, admittedly helped on by a strong wind go sailing off the pitch and behind with the away fans becoming restless and showing their discontent as the referee blew for half time.
Brewster made two brave calls at half time bringing off on loan Colchester right back Lloyd James replacing him with Josh Simpson and Scott Davies entered the fray for a player that knows Underhill well; Sanchez Watt (Arsenal Reserves play their home games at Barnet).
The change instantly paid off as seven minutes after coming on, Davies’ corner found the towering Dempster, who, again was lurking at the back post, his header looping over Brill into the net, this time the goal stood.
Dempster heads in and celebrates below

It wasn't long later until the visitors made it 2; Dannie Bulman picked up the ball before passing to Davies who touched the ball forward and rifled a right footed effort straight past Brill; the powerful strike taking the slightest deflection off home defender Michael Hector to send the visiting supporters wild!
Davies lets fly and celebrates with a twist!

Lawrie Sanchez's side again had a host of chances to get the equaliser; firstly, McLeod’s angled strike was pushed clear by Kuipers and centre back Michael Hector broke out from his defensive duties to let fly straight at Kuipers.
The Bees upped the tempo and McLeod had a number of efforts to get the second goal for his side but Kuipers came in-between the striker adding to his 18 goal haul in League 2.
Late on, Torres saw red for a soft challenge on Kamdjo and, after numerous more chance falling to the home side, notably a scrambled effort from substitute Scott McGleish being hacked off the line twice by Dempster and Warren Cummings, the Reds held on for a big win in their efforts to earn an automatic promotion place.
OFF: Torres saw red
Onto the next one as we have a game against rivals AFC Wimbledon coming up on Saturday at a surely packed out Broadfield Stadium.

Photos courtesy of and

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Record Attendance Sees Reds Share Spoils

Crawley snatched a point as the opening of the club’s new East Stand oversaw a 1-1 draw with play off chasers Crewe Alexandra.
The new East Stand basking in Sussex sunshine
Crewe, famed for their conveyor belt of young talent that brought through “names”  such as Robbie Savage, Danny Murphy, Nicky Maynard, Dean Ashton and Luke Varney, included their latest prodege, 17 year old winger/striker and England under 18 international Nick Powell in the starting XI.  In fact, 7 of the Crewe starting XI came through the ranks of the club.

The game began and Crawley had the first chance, Scott Davies’ early floated corner kick was headed just wide at the near post by loanee Leon Clarke.
That was all the home side really had to offer for the next twenty minutes as the front pairing of Powell and Ajay Leitch-Smith looked menacing against the makeshift centre back pairing of John Dempster and Warren Cummings.
Winger Byron Moore was another player causing problems and, after receiving a neat ball from loan winger Billy Bodin who had cut in from the left; two touches later and the ball was curled into the bottom corner of the net only for the linesman to adjudge the wide man offside.
It wasn’t long until he scored another, and a goal that did count.  A long ball was punted up for Leitch-Smith to chase, Warren Cummings had time to clear, however, Leitch-Smith nipped the ball off of the defender before passing to Powell who, in turn set up Moore to curl the ball right into the bottom corner of Michel Kuipers’ net for 1-0 Crewe.
Moore opened the scoring for the visitors
Crawley rallied a little; a Sergio Torres pass found Hope Akpan, who cut onto his right foot only to blaze over the bar from about 20 yards.
Crewe had another couple of chances as a quick corner found Powell who’s dangerous, low ball in was beaten away from Kuipers and out for a corner.  The out-swinging corner came in from Ashley Westwood but centre back and captain David Artell headed wide of Kuipers’ back post.
The two sides went in at half time with the score 1-0 to Crewe.
The second half began and it was almost 2-0 instantly to the visitors as Kuipers pushed away a strike from Leitch-Smith only to see Moore following up but the ‘keeper superbly flung himself over the other side of his goal to keep the score intact.
Kuipers keeps the score intact
Moore then let fly from 25 yards as Steve Davis’ side looked to grab the second goal to perhaps kill the game off, however, the strike swerved well wide of the target.
Reds boss Steve Evans, who was strongly linked to the Rotherham managerial vacancy this week brought on the attacking duo of Sanchez Watt and Scott Neilson in a bid to change the game in the home side’s favour.

Crawley upped the ante as the visitors tired however when in good positions, Watt, Dannie Bulman and Sergio Torres decided to pass to the Crewe backline instead!
Finally the goal did come, some neat, intracate passing set Josh Simpson clear, his low cross looked to go through to Billy Clarke but a bobble saw the ball bounce up and hit Adam Dugdale on the arm; referee Brendan Malone awarding a penalty and Gary Alexander stepped up to slam home the penalty straight down the middle with just 2 minutes of normal time remaining.
ALEX HALTS ALEX: Gary waits for Malone to blow his whistle
Final conclusion, playing poorly and yet not losing is a sign of a decent side, it could be a big point at the end of the season and next up is a trip to Underhill, Barnet on Monday afternoon.  Another positive is finally seeing the attendance record broken for the first time since 2004 with a crowd of just over 4,700 witnessing the game.
Barnet's Underhill "Stadium" is the next venue
Photos courtesy of

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Battling Brewers Halt Reds' Winning Run

Crawley made it eight unbeaten as Burton Albion held them to a goalless draw at The Pirelli Stadium.
The day began with a 9am departure time from The Broadfield Stadium, and, after a 30 minute stop at Newport Pagnell services we arrived at the ground at around 1pm.  A quick walk down the The Beech pub down the road before entering the stadium at around 14:15.
Burton's Pirelli Stadium was opened in 2005
The visitors started the game the brightest; Gary Alexander having the first shot of the game that was comfortably saved by Brewers’ ‘keeper Ross Atkins.
Even Alexander couldn't find the net!
Next up was Scott Davies but his strike sailed well wide of Atkins’ goal.
The shots were raining down on the home side’s netting as Dannie Bulman tried his luck from distance only to see his 25 yard effort slice just wide of goal.
Billy Clarke then had a chance; a wonderful first touch looked to have sent him clear of defender Nathan Stanton but the Red number 7 could only fire inches past Atkins’ left hand post.
Burton finally started to have a couple of shots; firstly, winger Jacques Maghoma’s drive, which was moving in the air was well held onto by Crawley goalkeeper Michel Kuipers and another winger, this time, Jimmy Phillips, who breezed past Josh Simpson and Kyle McFadzean before his tame effort was hit straight at Kuipers.
The closest the away team came to scoring in the first 45 was a Scott Davies free kick;  Dean Howell touched the ball into the stride of the former Reading midfielder who saw his powerful effort flicked over by Atkins.
Both teams went in at half time with nothing to show for their efforts.
Crawley came out for the second half similarly to the Bradford game; pushing to get the goal that could grab them three points. Bulman again tries the spectacular from range but once more saw his strike skew well wide of the target.
Sergio Torres had a great chance to open the scoring after some nice passing play from Clarke, Alexander and Bulman; the ball broke to the Argentine on the left of the box. However, just as he flicked the ball back on his right to take the shot, both Stanton and defensive partner Ryan Austin flung themselves across to brilliantly take the ball and send it out for a corner kick.
ROLLOVER: Torres is superbly halted by the Brewers' defence
Both sides made quick substitutions in a bid to swing the game in their favour; Steve Evans brought on attacking midfielder Sanchez Watt to replace Clarke and Brewers caretaker boss, Gary Rowett brought on Shrewsbury loanee Lionel Aiinsworth in place of the in-effective Greg Pearson.
Another chance fell to the dominant Crawley as a corner was floated in, a scramble ensued before McFadzean fired over the bar from inside the box.
Evans threw on the pacy Scott Neilson in place of Davies as Reds aimed to up the tempo however, apart from a Watt volley, an effort from Hope Akpan and a Josh Simpson effort both going wide, that was that and the resolute Burton defence had foiled the promotion chasers; stopping them from a fifth successive win.
HIT AND HOPE: Akpan has a go as Watt tries the spectacular below...

The draw continued our poor run playing Burton away - In 14 years of following Crawley, I have never seen us win up at Burton... Maybe I'm a jynx?!
Up next is a home game against in form Crewe Alexandra on Friday, a game which is also the opening of our new stand. A big game for both sides with Crewe wanting to grab a seat in the play off pack as we look to cement a place in the automatics.
Photos courtesy of