Tag Archives: Steve Evans

Creepy Crawley And The Nature Of Rivalry

One of the side effects of writing a blog that’s read by slightly more people than my wife and mum (my dad reads too…) is that every so often someone gets in touch and asks for a contribution to their own site. Often the questions asked come from a different angle and make me consider the club in a manner I wouldn’t normally, and one of those came last month in a piece I did for a website called Best of the Bets.

The question referred to our return to the Football League, and whether we’d be looking forward to renewing any old rivalries. Of course, no one really leapt out as a rival on promotion to League Two, I wrote a few lines about looking forward to finally facing Aldershot, some short-term excitement at reprising a couple of Premier League fixtures at Bradford and Swindon, two new London derbies (albeit ones that don’t exactly get the heart pumping).

Yet no one that really makes you sit up and relish facing off against hated local scum. Maybe one day that void will be filled by Aldershot once we’ve got a few years of mutual back slapping out of the way they’ll tire of being reminded certain clubs only took nine years to navigate their way through the non-league pyramid. Perhaps a club currently higher in the pecking order will drop down (or we’ll move up?) and fill that void… a Brentford, maybe even a Millwall (and I’m convinced when Fulham’s bubble eventually bursts they’ll end up making Bradford look a financial success story…).

The problem being that our rise, fall, and second coming has seen us never end up in the same division long enough to develop significant rivalries with clubs of equivalent size… Which has led to a series of almost manufactured rivalries developed almost to fill a void. The first was the almost comical Merton derbies with Raynes Park Vale, laughable in that as far as I can make Dons fans seem to make up the majority of Vale’s home crowds anyway.

Moving up the divisions, we missed out on a few local clubs such as Kingstonian and Sutton, long memories saw us briefly face off against historical rivals, the likes of Dulwich and Tooting, but mostly the keenest of contests came against those sides who somehow found an extra few hundred thousand pounds down the back of the sofa (or by not paying their tax bill for a few years), or welcomed in a rich benefactor for a few years until they eventually got bored and wandered off. Yet while the likes of Withdean and Bromley have now been left long behind, we do still have one thorn left sticking in our sides after scrabbling out of the non-league game, the team that came up with us last year…

Its unlikely Dons fans would be giving Crawley a second thought right now if it hadn’t been for a combination of two factors… their convicted criminal manager, and one of the few people in a game that tends to close its eyes and pull the blanket over its head when faced with potential scandal who has actually managed to have been conclusively proved to be a cheat. Then of course are the huge piles of cash that allowed themselves to buy their way into the League to begin with.

That Crawley are disliked by Dons fans is no great surprise… they didn’t exactly romp to victory in the popularity stakes last year in the Conference, and their presence in League Two has already ensured they aren’t exactly being welcomed with open arms up and down the country – hell, they even managed to turn Manchester United into popular favourites for a game last year…

The Dons selling out our allocation for Saturdays game probably isn’t too much of a surprise, what with the size of Kingsmeadow meaning pretty much every game has been a full house so far, what did surprise me was Crawley selling out their section, meaning they’ll actually have more in the ground than they did at their own stadium for an evening game against Wrexham a couple of years ago.

It seems this game has been elevated to rivalry status by the sheer number of times the two sides have faced off over the past couple of years, this being the eighth meeting in that time, and its no surprise the two sets of supporters are getting sick of each other… I’m not exactly salivating at the prospect of Saturdays game, it’s one to get out of the way more than anything, yet victory will be celebrated by all of us in the same manner last seasons comeback win was (Kedwell free this time).

And as for defeat… well it’s not exactly going to be like last week where the result was pretty much forgotten about five minutes after final whistle – it has the potential to be an evening-wrecker, much as losing to Hampton or Bromley was. You see, knowing we’ll probably have left Crawley spluttering in our dusty trail in two or three years time counts for nothing right now, especially if a large group of noisy visitors are left celebrating in the corner as we file away into the evening.

Lets face it, Crawley have done nothing wrong in spunking vast amounts of dubiously acquired cash at quick-fire promotions, they haven’t broken any wage caps, they are paying their bills up front, and as long as the Fat Eyelinered one hasn’t been up to his old manila envelope tricks they deserve to be where they are on merit (unlike certain other new towns we could mention). And yet the nation still seems to be captivated with the side that went up with them via the playoffs… Crawley were almost the forgotten champions.

Football fans love a good news story, and the Dons progress with Brown assembling a young talented side within budget, playing good football, will ensure Crawley remain in our shadow for a while yet. And that must really stick in their throats, you’ll hear it in the songs they sing, the desperation… they know what’s coming in the years to follow and are looking for cheap victories while they can, like Withdean, like Bromley, like Hampton… hate us now, so you’ll remember us when we’re gone…

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Crawley Town 3 AFC Wimbledon 2 29/7/11 – A Match Report

So the Dons find themselves in the rare position of being eliminated from a Cup competition before the season has even begun, before its even August… I suppose we were more than half expecting the result, in my preview I mentioned I would be happy with a battling performance in defeat, and I was more than impressed with the Dons last night.

Yet I was expecting us to be a bit stronger defensively, and still finding our feet going forward… if anything the reverse looked true. While brave and determined at the back individually, we seemed to lack organisation… less a defensive line than a defensive squiggle. This was probably the consequence of a lack of preparation caused by our truncated preseason, I’m prepared to accept we will improve defensively.

What was a bonus was how dangerous we looked going forward, especially on the break. We came up against a team who will be challenging for promotion, the bookmakers preseason favourites for the title, and at times we caused them all sorts of problems. Yes, this was one performance, and we will have to put in the same high work rate we did last night in each and every one of the forty-six league fixtures ahead of us. But if we do, and we put right some of the defensive problems we saw last night, we might find the Dons will exceed the expectations of all but the wildest of optimists among us.

But, for those of you who weren’t there, what of the game? Well it had everything you would ask of a cup tie… goals, a sending off, a comedy villain… It was nice to see a huge contingent of Dons fans, presumably starved of competitive football despite the short summer break, making up around a third of the total attendance and making a lot of noise. It’s fair to say the Dons were particularly shaky to begin with, although both sides looked seriously rusty… passes were going astray left, right and centre; shots found the car park…

Dons fans, half an hour before kick off

The Dons took the lead out of nothing, and I literally mean out of nothing. When Luke Moore received the ball just inside the Crawley half, the hope was this could kickstart a Wimbledon move, but there didn’t seem to be any immediate danger. However, after beating a couple of men and heading diagonally across the Crawley half, a shooting opportunity opened and Moore made no mistake with a fierce drive across Kuipers into the bottom left corner.

As far as season opening goals go, they don’t come much better than this, and I can’t remember a better one. Someone is going to have to do something outrageous to top that this season… I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll go into more detail more when I get to my squad preview of the strikers, but if really feel Luke Moore could take a step up this season, he really could turn out to be an important player for us next term if he keeps clear of injury and gets the sort of run in the side he had at the end of our last campaign.

Toks went close to giving us a 2-0 lead shortly after, although being situated at the opposite end of the ground I won’t know how good a chance it was until (if?) I see the video. Crawley were doing a good job of stopping the Dons playing football from the back, Sam Hatton in particular suffering, a red shirt closing him down almost as soon as he received the ball, although to be fair he could have been a bit quicker releasing on a couple of occasions. The problem for Sam, and the back four in general, is there is no secret that we like to play out from the back, so every manager in the division will assign someone to chase the Dons down, our first few games could be a tricky transition phase for a few of our younger players.

You knew the hosts would come again, and come again strong, and it took some serious defending to keep them out, to the point I started to feel if Wimbledon could hold the lead going into half time we might stand a chance. The problem was, due to a combination of commitment to playing football and sheer desperate defending, Wimbledon kept handing the ball back to Crawley still deep within our own half. Eventually an error would come, and when it did it proved very costly. A cross form the left evaded a clutch of players and fell to Hope Akdan, all alone at the far post, who dug the ball out from under his feet and gave Seb Brown no chance.

In fact Crawley should have had the lead before the break, only a bit of miraculous defending (and to be honest, some not exactly positive forward play from Crawley)keeping the ball out of the Dons goal. Half time came with the scores level, Dons fans a little frustrated the game had swung against us during the last ten minutes of the half.

The Dons line up for another season

It took less than thirty seconds for the Dons to regain the lead, much to the surprise of those returning from epic queues for toilets and snacks. While we are on the subject of the snack bar – and this is an unusual criticism not normally levelled at football clubs – but Crawley sell bottles of drink in 600ml bottles, then confiscate the cap, meaning you have no option but to down over a pint of cold fizzy drink, in confined quarters… But back to the goal. It was all down to Christian Jolley, closing down Crawley defender McFadzean, forcing him into a slip, then nipping in to pick up the pieces and lay the ball perfectly for Midson to tap home from close range.

My first thought was how long we could hold the lead this time, and the answer was… not very long. Crawleys equalise five minutes later came in slightly similar circumstances to their first, this time Torres left all alone beyond the far post, slotting across Seb Brown into the right corner. The hosts really stepped up the pressure from that point on, and it was no surprise they finally sneaked ahead just after the hour mark.

Although he scores so many goals, Matt Tubbs is a danger to anyone thanks to the nine other guys in red shirts supplying him the ball in the box. When several other guys in blue shirts give him the space to do as he wish, there’s only going to be one outcome. I thought we stood a chance of at least forcing extra time as long as we didn’t go behind, but if anything the Dons had their best spell of the game during the final quarter-hour.

Neither Dons fullback had really crossed the half way line, but that all changed when Gareth Gwillim made way for Chris Bush, who immediately played a big attacking role. Christian Jolley was also sacrificed for Charlie Ademeno, who had been promised a poor reception from his old club… there were a few boos but it was all pretty muted, you got the impression the vast majority of home fans didn’t have a clue who he was.

One person obviously not happy with Ademeno’s arrival was the referee, who immediately resolved to blow his whistle whenever the ball went anywhere near him. We had some shocking referees in the Conference and below, some ridiculously weighted decisions in favour of either ourselves (if we were lucky) or our opponents… it seems Football League referees consider they have had a good game not if they get the majority of decisions correct, but if both sides are equally unhappy with their performance. Ademeno’s crime was, not being the biggest guy on the planet, he needs to get his body between the ball and man, and was therefore consistently penalised for ‘backing in’, an offense only called when a smaller guy outmuscles a bigger guy…

To be fair, Crawley were equally miffed, it seemed, although after a couple of early dramatic falls in the penalty area the referee had obviously decided to avoid all incidents in the penalty area. These were accompanied by more and more exaggerated shocked actions from Steve Evans on the side of the pitch… at one stage I really thought he was going to throw himself to the ground and start kicking his legs about like a toddler. All of this just drew the attention of Dons fans, who by the end of the game had a repertoire of half a dozen or so chants and songs to aim at him… including one previously only reserved for Charles Koppell.

You get the impression League Two fans are going to have fun coming to Crawley, even though the majority of them are going to lose there you always find yourself leaving with that sense of superiority. Evans (and from speaking to a couple of Crawley fans, who seemed normal enough, it seems the majority of them actually believe most of what he says, which reduces the sympathy you may feel for them subjected to his management), the guy with the bell (!), images in the programme of kids at the training ground wearing Chelsea shirts, with no sign of any Crawley merchandise… it all gives the impression you’re at the sort of place that might melt if left out in the hot sun. There truly is no substance here, maybe there never will be… when times go bad just how many of them will still bother turning up? Its less than two years since they had a crowd of less than 700 for Wrexham. I see whats happened to Rushden this summer and can’t help but see parallels…

It might sound snobbish, but we really aren’t like them… we might have a few regulars who actually support other clubs, maybe because the circumstances surrounding our ownership, maybe because we are cheap and convenient and play some decent football, and very welcome they are too – but either way if football ever gets its house in order and these people can go back and support their own clubs on a regular basis, we’re going to lose what? 100, 150 off our average? A small minority, as opposed to the vast overnight fanbase that will abandon Crawley, which is why I don’t think any of us of us are that bothered about Crawley’s sudden wealth driven rise.

I mentioned comedy villains earlier, and it was Kuipers, a goalkeeper who could well prove to be Crawley’s Achilles heel, who provoked the ire of Dons fans. Although not the referee confusingly, as Ademeno chased down a long ball, the Crawley goalkeeper seemed to delay his clearance in order to catch the Dons frontman. Ademeno wasn’t hurt, he got up pretty much straight away, and if Kuipers intention was to draw the freekick it worked, and somehow managed to earn Ademeno a yellow card as well. The Dons fans were close enough to the referee to notice the look of impatience that ran over his face, as he realised he might just have made a mistake. To be fair, he did make a point of adding on every minute the Crawley keeper spent on the floor,as eventually the goalkeeper made a miraculous recovery.

As for the sending off, well it came shortly after, as holding on became the name of the game for the home team. It was one of those brain-dead moments you see sometimes from so-called professionals, Akpan already being on a yellow when he decided to blast the ball into orbit after the Dons were awarded a freekick. It could have been costly had the Dons forced extra time, but to be honest they had already spurned their two best opportunities, Ademeno getting the ball caught under his feet six yards out scrambled clear by the hosts, and a Chris Bush volleyed cross that hit Toks in front of goal and could have gone anywhere… but went wide.

That extra long period of stoppages was supplemented by an additional two minutes when Evans decided to make his three substitutions separately after ninety minutes were up, but the Dons were getting desperate by then, and I think every Dons fan knew when Seb Brown rushed to take a free kick by his own corner flag it was going to end up in the stand.

So no Carling Cup run for the Dons this season, but no huge loss. Judging by that performance you wonder just what the Dons would be capable of if Brown can get one of the experienced strikers he is chasing… although all three starters and Ademeno impressed me, you can’t beat a bit of experience, as well as depth. We should find out who that will be early next week, as we start to build up to Bristol Rovers, and on last nights performance there is no reason why we shouldn’t at very least add another year to our long opening day unbeaten record.

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AFC Wimbledon 3 Crawley Town 1 – A Match Report

Are you in the mood for a laugh? Check out Steve Evans comments below (taken from the Surrey Comet match report).

evans

If you want an even bigger laugh, then I suggest you take a quick look at this webpage… http://crawleytownfc.com/newsdetails.php?ID=1320

But if you want the last laugh, this is taken from the front page from the O/S…

millwall

Well I have to say after all that, I’m glad I’m not part of the mainstream media, if I was I’d probably still be in hospital having my sides stitched. Either Evans was on the biggest wind-up ever, or he really is that bad a loser! My money is very firmly on the latter. But I can hear one of you piping up at the back… ‘Why are Evans comments so comical, Anonymous Don?’… ‘Why did Crawley Town feel the need, at their managers suggestion, to put up pictures of what looks like Callum Willock backing into Jamie Pullen?’… Well rest assured, both those answers and more feature in the famous AD match report, which follows after this series of dots!……….

The game started in similar manner to the first game at Broadfield Stadium, in that Crawley started fast and Wimbledon didn’t start at all. Less that two minutes were on the clock before a left-wing cross caused the Dons defence a few problems, Brett Johnson’s header clearance only bounced up invitingly for Jefferson Louis. Fortunately the big hitman got it all wrong, hitting his volley into the ground then seeing it bounce wide of the left post.

At least it didn’t take the home side forty-three minutes to get an effort on goal, in fact Saturdays goalscoring hero Sam Hatton lined up a free kick from all of thirty yards that the Dons midfielder/fullback drilled low but straight at Rayner, the ball skipping up kindly off the turf and into the keepers grateful arms. However Crawley still looked the side most likely, and the nervousness in the stands was in danger of spilling onto the pitch to further hinder the home side.

Around the quarter hour the Dons launched a couple of attacking moves that broke down, but the visitors couldn’t clear beyond their half. Eventually Derek Duncan picked up the ball and threaded a lovely pass through to Jon Main, the hitman breaking clear of the back four down the left channel before striking beautifully past Rayner with his left foot, the ball entering the net via the base of the right post.

The visitors came back, and then some. Five minutes later a Crawley attack seemed to have been thwarted after Johnson’s excellent challenge, only for Sam Hatton to flick a clearance only as far as Louis. The Crawley hitman hit a superb effort that made Pullen work to the point he was unable to gather the ball, instead parrying into no-mans land. Danny Forrest was clear favourite to beat two onrushing Dons men to the ball ten yards out, but panicked and could only stab his effort wide of the right hand post.

The visitors eventually managed to equalise thanks to a questionable call as Louis raced after a ball knocked forward. He appeared to have started his run slightly ahead of the last man, but it all happened so quickly it was tough to tell. Louis had such a head start on any Wimbledon player he had time to slow down and pick his spot, sending Jamie Pullen the wrong way by rolling the ball in the bottom let hand corner.

As I said, I didn’t really see enough of where Louis was in relation to the last man in a blue shirt when the ball was played, but the Dons bench including the normally calm Terry Brown were furious the officials allowed the game to continue. Brown was to effectively win the cup tie for Wimbledon thanks to his decision-making later in the game, but I can’t be sure even he saw it properly. As a fan you want to see the benefit of any doubt go to the attacking side, and as Dons fans we will see those sort of calls go our way more often than not, but at this particular moment it was tought to take.

The Dons fought back. Ricky Wellard slammed a shot wide of the left post from the edge of the box after good work by Kedwell, but Crawley immediately went up the other end and almost scored. A hopeful punt into the Dons box was beautifully lobbed over Pullen by Ben Smith, volleying the dropping ball sidefooted just wide of the left post.

Then just before half time Danny Kedwell flicked a left-wing cross wide , Lewis Taylor kept the ball in on the right feeding the ball back to Hatton, whose beautiful ball only needed a touch from Kedwell to take it in. Raynor knew he was about to be beaten and almost tried to shy away from the effort only yards in front of him, but the ball somehow bounced off part of his body and stayed out.

As if to rub in the general feeling that this wasn’t going to be Wimbledon’s day, Duncan then overran the ball, diving into a Crawley player and seeing a second yellow card for his trouble. It was hard not to imagine that the way Crawley had played with equal numbers they would go on to take the game with a mans advantage. Wimbledon were lacking all over the pitch. It needed positive action from Brown and the Dons fans got it.

The supporters around me seemed to be united that Ricky Wellard needed to be replaced, with Paul Lorraine preparing to come on. However Jon Main was the unlucky man, in retrospect a sensible decision. Keeping two up front would have meant the remaining three midfielders would have to stay deep, effectively meaning we would spend the rest of the game pumping long hopeful balls to Kedwell and Main. Instead the move to bring off Main effectively released Moore and Taylor to use their pace to get forward and support Kedwell, knowing six players would be behind the ball most of the time.

The fact that Wellard stayed on the field, seemingly at Mains expense, angered a small minority of the crowd. Wellard had a dire game in the original tie, and hadn’t exactly stood out during the first half, but with Adjei injured and Godfrey coming back from injury and probably only having a half hour run-out left in him, Brown had to stick with his man, especially considering the possibility of extra time…

I think the problem is, a lot of our supporters see the likes of Wellard, Hatton, even Gregory who has been a revelation this season in my opinion, giving the ball away. What they don’t realise is our opponents are giving it back to us just as quickly on most occasions. We probably use the ball better than any team in our division, I would imagine if there was a statistics service for the Conference our pass completion rate would prove that. The problem being, if you like to pass the ball around, you are playing a lot more passes. It’s only natural that the number of errors would rise too, and I’m sure Terry and the players themselves are making the effort to cut them out. It will be the difference between a team of play-off contenders and a team that’s looking for automatic promotion.  

And Wellard was straight into the action in the second half, lining a free-kick up wide left. Sam Hatton was lurking next to him, but jogged away, for Wellard to knock a short ball to him. Hatton allowed the ball to run across his body before striking fiercely with the outside of his right boot. Rayner was just a spectator as the ball curled away just past the top right corner.

The Dons were working hard to make up for their lack of numbers, but you got the impression that Crawley could cause problems catching the Dons up field and using their man advantage. You just wondered how much they wanted it. The initial answer was, not much. They didn’t seem like they were that bothered about winning the game. Did Evans tell them to sit back and bide their time? If so, against ten men and in a game they had the upper hand in even when it was eleven against eleven, this was a critical error.

Evans was in the stand for this one thanks to his touch-line ban, apparently communicating with his bulldog assistant via mobile phone. According to a local Crawley paper this was an inconsistent method, as the bench repeatedly failed to hear the phone ringing. Could a lack of communication have been the answer, leaving confused players to go through the motions? Either way, perhaps if Mr Evans had been on the bench to start with, his team wouldn’t have ended up losing this game. But saying that, am I not giving Terry Brown, and the Wimbledon players, enough credit?

The Dons defence were alert throughout the second half, well marshalled by the returning Lorraine. While Inns and Johnson had been a more than competent partnership, Lorraine stopped Jefferson Louis being the dominant aerial force in the Dons half of the field. The whole back four seemed to take strength from his arrival, which perhaps eased the pressure on the midfield, allowing them to break forward more and more often in the half.

Crawley’s best chance of the half occurred without any of their forwards realising about it until it was too late. A deep cross from the right searched out Louis lurking at the far post. Under pressure from Lorraine, he seemed to take his eye off the ball which ended up bouncing off his shoulder. A couple of lurking Crawley players didn’t spot the ball until it was too late, a desperate challenge sending the ball out of the danger zone.

With just over twenty minutes to go, Wimbledon grew enough confidence to create a clear opportunity once more. A long ball aimed wide right was just kept in by Kedwell, who played a ball into the advancing Taylor. Probably the unsung hero of the night, Taylor allowed the ball to run on to Luke Moore, twenty yards out. Moore guided a shot towards the bottom right hand corner, that Raynor didn’t sem to pick up until it was too late, the ball squirming into the corner sending the Dons fans into raptures.

The Crawley fans had other ideas however. Probably imagining their side was going to go on and win, it must have been frustrating to find themselves now a goal behind. Yet perhaps a few of them remembered how the battle of items thrown at goalkeepers ended level, the Dons cup of baked beans being levelled up in the last-minute by what looked like half a toilet pan spilling over the barrier towards Jamie Pullen.

In no mood to lose another contest to the Dons on the night, Crawley fans gained a huge advantage by aiming a good half a dozen plastic bottles, a number of coins and various other items at Jamie Pullen, causing the game to be held up for several minutes while stewards cleared the objects from the field and the referee handed a number of them to his assessor in the stand. Well done, Crawley fans! You murdered us in that particular contest! Now, lets remind everyone who IS playing Millwall a week on Monday?

Crawley hit straight back. A cross hoisted in from the right saw Louis get up unchallenged, only to plant his header straight into Pullen’s arms. Then with fifteen minutes to go, Louis was at it again, barging Hatton away before cutting inside and slamming a right foot effort just wide of the left post with Pullen rooted. In fact Jefferson Louis seemed to be the only Crawley player on the field capable of causing the home team problems. Sadly he was getting little support from Willock, who so nearly became a Dons player back in the summer. For those of you worried that Ross Montague might not be up to our high standards, hey, it could have been worse!

I believe it was around this point that those photos shown on the Crawley website as ‘conclusive proof’ they should have had a penalty were taken. I failed to even make a note of the incident, it didn’t seem relevant at the time. In fact it still doesnt seem relevant. In my mind I can see it though, I believe it was Willock who picked the ball up in the Dons box with his back to goal, chosing to lean back into Pullen eventually giving the ball away. Many have mentioned the lack of class involved in putting this on your official website, especially when it mentions they have seen the DVD, and to return to the website later for more details… now I’m guessing by the lack of updates that someone at Crawley has had the chance to view the DVD and found, erm, nothing. Secretly, I’m hoping it shows Pullen bodyslamming several red shirted players, as this will more than make up for the Main penalty incident…

With around ten minutes to go the Dons had four quick-fire chances to put the game beyond the visitors reach. Firstly some good work involving the much castigated Wellard and Taylor set Moore free in the box, but the ball seemed to take an age to come down by which point a Crawley player was able to stick a foot in to deflect it away for a corner. Then Inns beat Raynor to a free kick from the right guided in by Wellard, only to get too much of a connection on it sending the ball flying into the Tempest.

Sam Hatton then played in a ball for Kedwell to attack from an angle to the right of goal. Rayner did well on this occasion to close the angle, the ball bouncing off him for a corner from Kedwell’s shot. With the Crawley players now visibly tiring a long corner from the left was nodded down by Lorraine into the path of legendary goalscorer Alan Inns (in that when he scores everyone remembers, so rare an occasion it is…), only for the Dons most improved player to lean back and strike over the bar.

Crawley’s final big chance fell to Louis with four minutes on the clock. A long cross from the left saw Pullen back pedalling, only for Louis to head onto the top of the bar under pressure from Johnson and his own team-mate Willock. Of course, the referee decided to give a corner…

Not that it came to anything. Dons fans were starting to relax, as were the players, as on ninety minutes Lewis Taylor found space down the right, beating his man before firing a cross over that seemed too close to Rayner. The Crawley keeper only succeeded in tipping the ball into the air, for the man of the moment Danny Kedwell to tap in at the far post from a narrow angle. It was no more than Keds, and the team deserved. The vast majority of the 2467 crowd erupted minutes later at the final whistle, as Brown pointed his men towards to Tempest. However he pushed a tracksuited Jon Main to the front to receive the acclaim, the huge smile on his face revealed his personal delight at the teams victory despite his personal disappointment. What a great display of team spirit to cap a fantastic performance.

How the players will get their feet on the ground before an important league game at Chester I don’t know, and at this point I don’t care. The Chester game should take care of itself. For all the hot air coming from the Crawley camp, lets remind ourselves once more – which of our clubs is going to Millwall?

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AFC Wimbledon v Crawley Town – A Match Preview

crawleyThe visit of Crawley Town marks the first ‘normal’ home game we have had this season, not counting all ticket games against fellow ex-League clubs or the Salisbury game, which was our first game that wasn’t all ticket. Tomorrow (and Saturdays game against Histon) will give us a benchmark of what the attendance and atmosphere is going to be like for the rest of the season.

Despite the short distance, how many Crawley fans are going to make the journey? Will we really give them the entire KRE as we did for Salibury? I only ask because I don’t know whether the moveable barriers are sufficient in the BSP even if its only a temporary measure to split the end in two. If anyone knows, please leave a comment to clarify all this (and while your there let us know whether the new away pen in the JSS will have two barriers to cater for large and small away followings…).

Enough babbling. I’m sure you all want me to reveal what I know about our visitors. Well, I can’t legally write my first article of the season concerning Crawley without first mentioning their manager, Convicted Fraudster Steve Evans. Evans as we all remember, was responsible for not only cheating every team that Boston faced during their victorious Conference campaign but stealing from all of us by lying about how much money certain players were paid, allowing him to use money that should have gone to the taxman to be channelled back into the playing fund.

‘Hang on Anony Don’, I may hear one or two of you say (if you happen to be sitting in the same room as me when you read this), ‘All of this happened a while ago now, shouldn’t he be given another chance?’ Well he has been, and has managed to add to his reputation thanks to a shocking disciplinary record that has seen him sent from the dugout on numerous occasions. Perhaps the most memorable being the occasion at Grimsby where Evans had to be dragged out of the stadium by the police mid-match.

Evans last trip to the FA, only last week, has seen him sentenced to a three game ban from contacting his players during matchdays, plus an extra ten game touch-line suspension. Amazingly, the Crawley board have sprung to his defence. Apparently as Evans hasn’t been charged for any offence over the last fifteen months, this shows some signs of improvement. Of course a large proportion of those fifteen months were taken up by two close seasons, but why let that get in the way of a big number?

Crawley chairman Vic Marley described the ban as ‘…more to do with his reputation from the past…’, a comment that makes me think ‘quite right too’. The difference between a club like Crawley and ourselves is clarified further when you consider Terry Brown’s comment last season, when he told reporters that Erik Samuelson would probably sack him if he tried to tap up a player (in other words speak to or otherwise influence a player prior to an official approach being made). This goes on in the game all over the place, but I have no doubt that if a club made a serious complaint, no matter who the manager was, it would be investigated seriously.

Maybe that is why AFC Wimbledon have been consistently attracting decent crowds season after season, whereas Crawley have great difficulty bringing in a four figure crowd when things are going against them. It’s no insult intended against the Crawley fans themselves, but my question to them must be ‘Do you think your manager, and to a lesser extent chairman and board of directors, put off the casual fan from turning up on a matchday?’

Thats five paragraphs off my chest. Oh, and Evans has the opportunity to appeal, so his ban doesn’t kick in just yet. So those in the JSS have the opportunity to direct their views to the man himself. I’m sure he will appreciate any advice given. Especially regarding his weight…

Crawley had to rebuild their squad over the summer amid rumours of financial difficulties, although their situation seemed nowhere as chaotic as Ebbsfleets. They managed to sign a half decent albeit journeyman striker in Jefferson Louis, who managed his most stable season for years by hitting fifteen goals for Wrexham last season, yet has only managed one goal from his ten appearances for Crawley so far.

This single goal makes Louis joint top scorer amongst the current squad which probably explains a lot from a team that has only managed one goal away from home so far (although Oxford’s recent signing Jamie Cook notched three for Crawley before his move last month). In replacing Cook, Crawley have turned to a familiar name to Dons fans in Callum Willock…

Willock looked the real deal in his two trial appearances, and only missed out on getting a deal thanks to his apparently large wage demands and requirement of a long term contract in order to ‘look after his family’. So either Willock has decided his family can make do with shopping at Lidl or Crawley have taken the money they received for Cook and found a large sum down the back of the sofa. Desperation on both sides may have played a part, after all it is September and most players and clubs are pretty settled by now. Besides, apparently Willock has accepted a one month deal… which is what TB offered him at the Meadow. Never mind, we have Monty now…

Willock’s introduction to the Crawley fans was dramatic, scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory over Kettering. The scorer of Crawley’s first goal, Charlie Ademeno, faces a fitness test before this game although the source of this information was the BBC website so it could turn out to be an entertainment story about the cast of Charlies Angels fitting in a trip to Loch Ness or something…

Another possible returnee, again according to BBC Sport, is Glenn Wilson. Wilson played a couple of games on loan under DA at around the same time Jay Conroy had his first spell at the club, the pair joining on loan from Crystal Palace for a month. I personally cannot remember Wilson at all. I think he played a couple of games but was never going to shine as bright as Conroy’s twinkley blue eyes!

The Dons are guaranteed to move up at least one place with a win this evening, but maybe will move up a few places judging by the congestion from the play-off places downwards. With a game in hand things are looking up for the side, the young players are learning lessons with no pressure on them to push for a promotion spot (at least not from most of us…), and look good for a result against transitional Crawley, who have been awful away from home this year (except for beating Cambridge…).

Our O/S has been a bit quiet on the squad front, but I would imagine we will see pretty much the same lineup as we did against Ebbsfleet. Maybe Monty could come in for his first start in place of Main. We know Terry is looking to make changes, but the strength and energy in some of the young players at this early stage suggests they don’t need to be rested. Have you noticed Chris Hussey flagging recently? Gregory and Hatton probably cover more ground than anyone, and do you see them puffing towards the end of games?

Maybe only Lewis Taylor from the younger players looks tired at times, but as he missed virtually an entire season last year I would imagine it may take a few weeks still until he gets properly match fit. Jon Main seems to suffer, but on the whole his form is on the floor at the moment so its hard to tell whether he is tired or just downhearted towards the end of games.

I expect Main to start on the bench tonight. Nothing against him, but it’s about time that we saw how Kedwell and Montague operate together. And its a toss up who will start on the left from Duncan or Adjei. Naturally Im going for Moore in that case. So I’m expecting the following lineup…

Pullen

Hatton

Hussey

Lorraine

Johnson

Gregory

Adjei

Taylor

Moore

Kedwell

Montague

NB – Jay Conroy’s appeal has come through and it has gone against him. I can only express my complete outrage in a self-righteous manner in a way only someone who wasn’t at the game and didn’t see the incident could…

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The Conference Files – Crawley Town

 If Wimbledon FC were the soap opera of the Premier League back in the 90’s, Crawley Town are surely everyone’s favourite drama in the Conference Premier this decade. Sadly as Wimbledon fans know only too well, the phrase ‘soap opera’ and ‘laughing stock’ are probably interchangeable in the opening sentence. From the Majeed brothers and their views on who could hold a directorship of a company whilst still in bankruptcy (which of course differed from the laws interpretation…), through to a serious financial crisis which threatened to sink the club, seemingly never-ending points deductions, and flirtations with relegation, at least you could feel some sympathy for the club (by which I mean the long suffering supporters). A sympathy that has been severely tested due to the arrival of this gentleman…evans

Evans is indeed a convicted fraudster (although whether he is clinically obese is a matter between him and his doctor, although its probably fair comment to say he’s really, really fat…). He received a one year suspended jail sentence back in 2006, due to lying about the actual amount players had been paid, cheating the taxman (and therefore every one of us…) and cheating every club Boston faced during this period. The gritty details behind the case are there for all to see, but the truth is even disregarding this matter Evans seems a deeply unpleasant man, due to the sheer number of times he has found himself in trouble for abusing officials and supporters.

Its hard to see a good side to Evans, however with out wanting to stand up for the guy I suppose it makes all the difference if he actually manages your club. Crawley Town are so much more than Steve Evans though (even if sometimes it no longer seems like it is), so let’s take a closer look at the football club itself…

HISTORY

Crawley Town were formed way back in the nineteenth century, and like many clubs they pottered about in county football remaining amateur until the professional revolution that took place in the sixties saw them start paying their players and joining the Southern League back in 1962, the year a still amateur Wimbledon side were beginning a campaign that resulted in our only amateur cup triumph.

After a brief sojourn into the Premier Division in the late sixties, which lasted all of a year, Crawley remained at the lower level until they were promoted again in 1984. This time they stayed there, right up until Francis Vines guided them to promotion in 2004 (I remember Vines as a prolific goalscorer at Kingstonian during his playing days, and he can currently be found plotting Farnborough’s journey back to the Conference). No one can claim Crawleys progress was spectacular, but it was at least steady to the point they have slowly progressed to where they are today, mirroring the growth of Crawley as a town. Population in the 1961 census stood at approximately 25,000, growing to just shy of 100,000 at the 2001 census, meaning Crawley not only is a large enough town to support a catchment footprint required for supporting football at Conference level, its probably big enough to support league football as well.

Dreams of the future are contrasted sharply by the recent problems mentioned in the introduction. Those points deductions in full were as follows; in 2006 they were deducted 3 points for breaching the salary cap, however they were well clear of relegation by that stage, the beginning of the next season (where the club were within hours of being wound up) saw a 10 point deduction for entering administration – this being the season that Ben Judge spent a spell as co-manager, 07/08 saw six points deducted for financial irregularities, and last season they were deducted a point (reduced on appeal from four) due to playing Isiah Rankin when he hadn’t been correctly registered with the league.

LAST SEASON

Despite the points deduction they looked reasonably comfortable, in fact starting the season very well indeed in Evans second season in charge, topping the table until falling off slightly. Having said that they did manage to remain in the playoff shake-up for most of the season until their appeal against the points deduction seemed to take its toll, and as sides with larger squads strengthened Crawley chose to sell American born striker Jon-Paul Pittman, their top scorers and good enough to earn an England C cap down to his goalscoring prowess (and British citizen status!)

THE CLUB

crawleyJudging by recent history, Crawley just need to catch a few breaks. Its probably fair to say Crawley hadn’t quite yet managed to establish themselves as a Conference club until last season, if only due to the chaos over the few seasons before. However they find themselves on a much firmer footing now than the likes of rivals like Ebbsfleet, and newer arrivals like Eastbourne or Salisbury. Despite talks of budget cuts I can’t see Crawley being in any kind of relegation difficulty next term, although perhaps a playoff place is beyond them unless they have one hell of a season.

Capable of pulling in over 2,000 when doing well, Crawley suffer on cold nights when they are up against the lure of Champions League on the telly. Only 600 hardy individuals made the effort to turn out for a February night game against Lewes, perhaps more criminally they drew only 737 for a much higher profile fixture with Wrexham a week later. Sprinkle in a few sub 1000 home attendances and you start to see a problem.

The reason Burton went up this season has more to do with slowly generating a loyal fan base in excess of 2000, patiently built up over time, than perhaps a first glance would give credit for. This gave them a strong base to perhaps take a few more financial risks in their push for the Football League. The reason Crawley will remain in the Conference is they have built a fan base of several hundred loyal supporters, its only when they can push this figure over the thousand mark that they can realistically plan for the future, and hope its not another twenty years until Crawley make their next progression up the leagues.

Crawley have existing rivalries with Brighton (a proximity thing…), our pacemakers at Aldershot, and Woking. As you’ll all remember Woking were relegated last year… so with our own local games restricted to Hayes and a cross city trip to Grays, the next closest will be… Crawley. Perhaps a decent regional rivalry will develop over the coming years?

I suppose what we really need is a bad tempered first meeting with them, a couple of sendings off, and some serious organisational mistreatment of whichever of us are the visiting supporters are on the day. Otherwise the whole thing could end up feeling a bit contrived, and we could suffer the problems we had with Chelmsford where it all got a little too matey for my liking!

THE GROUND

A few seasons ago I made the foolhardy attempt to attend all our preseason friendlies. After seven games, including trips to places like Bognor, Cobham (3 miles walk from the station for an evening friendly?) and Hanwell, and snooze fests at the Meadow against FC United, Aldershot and Kingstzzzzzzz… I decided enough was enough. I wouldn’t be attending any more fixtures until the season proper, starting from an evening visit to Crawley. So not only did I miss out on nine goals on the night, I also didn’t get the chance to check out the Broadfield Stadium. Obviously I won’t be making the same mistake this time around.

Broadfield is council owned, and looks as though it has plenty of space around it if Crawley continue their slow progress and need to expand. With a large, slightly raised, main stand that seems to dominate the ground, and two fairly spacious end terraces which hold 1600 (one of which is given over to away supporters, so we shouldn’t have any problems getting us all in unless its on a Bank Holiday…), Coupled with a small terrace on the remaining side (presumably the home of their moaning old men?) – a better than decent ground by the look of it.

ADMISSION

Last seasons prices were £16/£12/£6 for seats or £13/£9/£4 for terraces. Ill keep my eyes open for any price rises next season but overall, not that much more expensive than us…

PREVIOUS

AFC Era – The aforementioned 4-5 friendly defeat, but as yet no meaningful action… until now. 

All Time Wimbledon –

 crawley stats

 

 

Our first meeting was a Southern League Division One fixture on 28th November 1964 won by Crawley by 2-0 at their old Town Mead ground.

Wimbledons largest win came at Plough Lane on 13th December 1969, winning 9-0 in the Southern League Premier Division, strangely after our only three cup ties had been played the month before, drawing twice 0-0 before the Dons finally overcame Crawley 2-0 at the third time of asking in the FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round.

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