Stevenage Borough v Crawley Town 10th September 2016

I’ve got a couple of bits I’d like to cover this week so I’ll dive straight in to the match review first.

Sadly I fear that we got out of the game what we deserved on Saturday. Stevenage weren’t world-beaters, but they knew how to put pressure on us. They flooded the centre midfield and quite simply their midfield seemed to want to ball more than ours did.

I thought that Beeney had a good game between the sticks and I can’t really fault him for either goal. The first was perfectly placed just inside his left post and he was at full stretch to try and get there. The move came from a failure by our midfield to protect the back four and the finish was pin-point. The timing of the goal was hard to take as we’d ridden our luck well throughout the first half. An outstanding finger-tip save by Beeney followed by a typical, full-blooded Mark Connelly block had kept us in the game and I honestly thought we would get to half time unscathed. Sadly, this wasn’t to be.

The second half saw no changes from the reds in either personnel or midfield commitment and the second goal in the 55th minute after King was gifted the freedom of midfield to place his shot in the bottom corner. From that point on we were well and truly chasing the game.

Some late substitutions that baffled a few of us made little difference until Collins managed to outjump the outstretched Jones in the Stevenage goal and give us a glimmer of hope for the final four minutes. Sadly though we were not able to muster anything of significance and we walked away empty handed.

As I say, Beeney had a good game, as did the central defensive pairing of Connelly and McNerney. I genuinely hope now that they get given the time to form a long-standing partnership. Young at right back had another solid game, as did Payne. At left back Arthur wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t great. As someone said, if you could take the best bits of Arthur and Blackman and put them together we’d have a good left back. Unfortunately though neither appears consistent enough to provide for us in that role at present and it’s looking increasingly like an area of weakness. I do wonder if Davey is capable of playing a little wider. Dermot clearly rates him and is keen to find a place in the squad for him, maybe this is the answer.

Our two wingers Boldewijn and Banton did well when they got the ball, but here we start to hit on the issues. Our central midfielders of Clifford and Smith seem to be missing in action. They both lost the ball too easily, they both failed to track back and close down, neither seemed able to bring the wide players in to the game with any consistency and they certainly didn’t give Collins anywhere near the support that a lone striker needs. Two shots on target all game is a poor statistic, but for me it tells more of a story about service than it does about the striker’s accuracy. When the midfield did finally get forwards they seemed reluctant to take ownership of their actions and rather than deliver the ball or shoot from distance they seemed content to simply pass the ball backwards and forwards across the opposition box until they lost it.

The signing of Dean Cox this week (although we’ll have to wait until January to see him in action) looks like a masterstroke. With Roberts to come back from injury, hopefully soon and the recent addition of Kaby Djalo you have to hope and trust that we’re soon going to have the personnel to carry out the plan that Dermot Drummy has put in place. We are tantalisingly close to getting this right. Dermot has come in with a plan and whilst it hasn’t fully come to fruition yet, Saturday showed that there’s only really one piece of the puzzle that’s missing.

All of which brings me reasonably neatly on to the subject of positivity. Dermot made changes to the starting line-up on Saturday that clearly demonstrated he is not shy to learn from his experience. Neither Dermot nor the team are the finished article, both are growing and learning, but you have to see that they are moving in the right direction. We have 8 points on the board right now and I would seriously question whether we would have those points with last season’s squad. I would question even further if we would have the same atmosphere in the ground if we still had our previous owner or Chief Exec.

It would appear though that there are some amongst us who still hanker back to the dire days of last season, choosing instead to reflect on recent history with rose-tinted binoculars. Rather than skirt around the subject, I’ll come straight to it; and whilst I would respectfully decline the offer of the Crawley News to debunk Stephen North in their publication, I’ll happily do it here.

Stephen’s column this week was written many miles away from the UK while Stephen was on holiday. There’s nothing wrong with having an opinion from afar, but I take issue with his classification of Stevenage as “run of the mill”. To be very clear about this: Stephen was not at the game on Saturday. Nor has he seen Stevenage play this season, but he still felt fit to draw this conclusion with no first-hand experience. He then went on to talk about the CTFC.Net forum and reference to posts about “rumblings on forums that Dermot Drummy is being exposed for what he is”. My issue with this is that for the large part these are Stephen’s posts whish he is using to back up his own opinion. Something about self-praise being no recommendation…!

Nobody is under any obligation to be positive about Crawley Town FC, everybody has a right to their opinion. One of the greatest things about football is the fact that it is indeed a game of opinions. Stephen has a reputation for being extremely negative about the club this season, regardless of any improvements on or off the pitch and has to a fair degree made a bit of a laughing stock of himself. Now I’m sure he won’t have sleepless night about any criticism I pass his way and I genuinely hope he won’t, but the Crawley News need to take a long hard look at themselves for allowing such unbalanced, poorly researched, negative writing to be published at a time when the club is working harder than ever to attempt to increase both attendance and performance.

We got beaten by Portsmouth last week, a team with average gates in excess of 15,000. We simply can’t compete with their revenue driven by their fan-base. The very same revenue that allows them to recruit such a broad, deep, talented squad. We need to increase our numbers and we need to increase our revenue if we want to compete successfully at this level and beyond. Publishing articles with comments like “I would not recommend anyone come to watch us at the moment” is extremely unlikely to do this.

If Stephen is to continue writing for the Crawley News then I hope that he makes the effort to attend games he’s going to pass judgement on and that the Crawley News will accept that whilst they don’t have to blindly follow the direction set by the club, they do at least have a responsibility to ensure that the articles they publish are written responsibly and fairly.

Finally, I’d like to touch on the statement from our owner, Ziya Eren last week. Not solely because I got a namecheck, but it was definitely appreciated (at least I think it was a positive mention…!). It’s great to see updates like this and they speak volumes for the work that the club is doing and attempting to do. I am sure there are some that expected Mr Eren to just throw money at the club and solve all our problems overnight but I’m actually glad that he hasn’t. What he and his management team have done is start to put in place the solid building blocks to enable our club to have a future. The financial position of our club in the past was untenable and couldn’t be allowed to continue. Kelly, Selim and the rest of the non-playing staff are working incredibly hard behind the scenes to give us both the team and the match day experience that we crave. They can’t simply wave their magic wand and give us everything immediately, but they are clearly doing everything they can. The recent appointment of Graham Wright and his tireless work on the Loyalty Card scheme is another great move by the club. The current emphasis really does seem to be on the community and this is borne out even further by the work that our Community Foundation do.

We all have a right to be critical of the club, but we all have a collective responsibility as fans and supporters to acknowledge when the club get it right. I genuinely hope that as we move forwards more of us will be able to give that acknowledgement.

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