Close But No Cigar

Kev Neylon
10 min readApr 20, 2024

It’s a Weird Al Yankovic kind of day and so it’s his song which is used as a title for this piece. The main surprise being it took me this long into the season to shoehorn a Weird Al reference in.

It’s the final away game of the season. The short trip north to take on Sutton United in what could be a pivotal game for both sides. It comes hot on the heels on Tuesday night’s home draw against Barrow, a result which although still leaving us in the playoff places with only two games left to play, means that finishing there is currently no longer in our own hands. Doncaster Rovers are now two points behind us, and they now have a crucial game in hand, and are on a ridiculously long run of games won.

Crawley have sold a lot of tickets for this final away game, with the count nearing 1,200, which would be the largest away EFL crowd in Crawley’s history. As it stands Sutton are in the relegation places, four points behind Colchester United and Six behind Grimsby Town with two games to play. A win for Crawley today would seal Sutton’s fate and send them back down to the National League. Meanwhile Doncaster are away at Barrow, so the team just above us is playing the team just below us, and in an ideal world both teams would lose. In reality I would settle for Doncaster not winning.

We have already played Sutton twice this season. The home league game was an impressive 3–0 win with goals from Adam Campbell, Laurence Maguire, and Danilo Orsi. We also played them ten days later in a drab 0–0 draw in the group stage of the Bristol Street Motors Trophy at Sutton. A repeat of the former result would be much appreciated today.

The usual Saturday stroll to the Broadfield stadium is taking place, an hour or two earlier than usual, so we can get one of the coaches up to the game run by the wonderful GH Coaches.

The club have put up the end of season award polls for fans to vote on. There are three categories for us to choose winners in, Goal Of The Season, Player Of The Season, and Young Player Of The Season. I have voted already and am happy to share that I voted for Harry Forster’s goal against Bristol Rovers in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy as goal of the season. For sheer euphoria it would be a goal not on this list, as the feeling when Klaidi Lolos got the fourth goal away at Bradford City will be hard to beat. (Obviously if we were to make the playoffs and there was a flukey deflection off someone’s arse from a yard out in the last minute of the playoff final, that would be the goal of the season.)

I’ve gone for Klaidi Lolos as the young player of the season, and he would be in the top three for me in player of the season, but I’ve gone for Corey Addai. Yes, he has had the odd brain freeze, but he has made so many important saves during the season, and he will run the length of the pitch to drag other players out of potential fisticuffs, as he has done a couple of times recently. Plus, he went to battle for his teammate after the Gillingham home game when their dick of a coach Doug Livermore punched Ronan Darcy.

Even the short coach journey doesn’t agree with and I’m glad to be off the coach and walking to the ground as others headed to the pub.

I haven’t been to Sutton before, and the stadium is a lot lower slung that I was expecting.

I got a programme, but it was more complicated than it should have been. Apparently, they usually have a little temporary kiosk for the programmes inside the turnstiles, but it wasn’t there today, the programmes were inside the turnstile booth, so it was fun and games trying to get in to get a programme when there was even the slightest break in the steady stream of Crawley fans coming in. But I got one, so all is good.

Sutton are in all yellow and Crawley are in all white as we kick off defending the goal the Crawley fans are behind. We get an early chance and a Danilo Orsi shot is tipped around the post for a corner. There is a long throw from Will Wright into the box and a shot from Klaidi Lolos goes over the bar.

Harry Forster attacks down the right, cuts inside and feeds the ball across to Nick Tsaroulla, who cuts in and has a shot which is over the bar again. A through ball finds Orsi in the box and he takes it down well, but his shot is well saved by the Sutton keeper.

Sutton’s first proper attack sees a shot fly over the bar and only not hit me in the face because I’m next to a metal railing, but it did properly wake me up. At the other end there is decent work up the right and a Lolos thunderbolt is well saved. A follow shot is blocked and the cross that comes in after is put behind for a corner, which is cleared for another corner, only for us to put the ball out of play from that.

Back on the attack, another Sutton shot is well saved by Corey Addai. There is a stoppage for an injury to Lolos, and once play restarts the Sutton attempted cross sails over the stand we are in, and it is ball loss number one of the day. Sutton attack again down the middle of the park and there is a more comfortable save from Addai.

After some time, we manage to get out of our own half. Forster down the right wing again, and he wins a corner which is easily cleared. Sutton come down the other end and work the ball into the box, but it is headed wide. They attack again, another cross, another header, another Addai save.

With a few minutes to go before half time, we work the ball down the right again through Forster, he cuts in and crosses it. Orsi controls and passes to Tsaroulla, who lays it back to Liam Kelly who curls a shot into the top corner, and we lead 1–0. Which leads to the now rarely seen red smoke flare being thrown onto the pitch. Which is eventually removed by an extra from Lord of the Rings in a high-vis vest.

There are four minutes added time at the end of the half. Another long throw goes into the box, and it bounces around in there for a few seconds before the final header goes just wide and the half time whistle goes with Crawley leading 1–0. And Doncaster losing 2–0. So, all is good.

Two minutes into the second half and Sutton attack, a cross is headed clear, and a follow up shot takes a deflection, bounces up and wrong foots Addai and it’s 1–1. Not so good.

Another long throw into the box sees Dion Conroy dragged down on the edge of the area but claims are waved away. We work the ball out to Tsaroulla who cuts inside and shoots, but it is high enough to clear the stand we are in for ball loss number two of the day. Yet another long throw comes into the box, there is lots of grabbing and wrestling going on, and more penalty claims which are waved away, and the ball goes out for a goal kick.

We get a corner after another Forster run down the right, it is cleared, and then put back in but goes for another goal kick. Sutton are getting more of the ball now, but we break through Forster into the box, but it is blocked away, we keep the ball, and there are three, what look to be fouls by Sutton near the box, but when the whistle goes it is for a free kick to Sutton.

Substitutions start to be made. We win a free kick thirty yards out dead centre. Wright takes and it is just past the left-hand post. After a Sutton attack, we try to break quickly only for Ade Adeyemo to be cynically hacked down near the halfway line. It’s a yellow card, but another ten or fifteen yards up the pitch it could easily have been a red.

Instead, there is another of our well know brain freeze moments at the back, a bit of a mix-up, Jay Williams seems to gift the ball to a Sutton striker, and they make no mistake in putting it in the net and we are now losing 1–2.

There is another free kick for us thirty yards out, this time on the right. The ball comes in and it looks like Jack Roles is wrestled to the ground, only for the ref to give a free kick to Sutton for a handball. And then the Sutton keeper goes down with a spurious timewasting injury.

We are trying to get some sustained pressure, but time after time the final ball is just off. Too many times it is in the air and their seven feet four inch tall number four just keeps heading it away. Then a cross beats him and Lolos’s header loops to the keeper.

Five added minutes are shown on the board. We get the ball out to Lolos on the left and he jinks inside, beats three players, and has a shot which takes a slight deflection and goes in to level it back up at 2–2.

Another break follows and Adam Campbell sees his shot cleared off the line and Liam Kelly’s follow up is saved. We break again, work the ball through to Campbell who crosses it along the ground and Orsi is there to put it in off the post. Cue absolute scenes. But the flag is up for an offside. It wasn’t possible for it to have been Orsi, so it must have been when it was played through to Campbell. (If it had have counted there was another instead goal of the season contender.)

The full-time whistle goes, and it finishes 2–2. And then there is a full-on punch up in the middle of the pitch with both benches clearing to join in. It’s suggested Lolos was in the middle of it, and a few people end up on the floor before it disperses, and there were no obvious cards shown by the ref.

The crowd was announced as being 4,675, with a massive 1,152 Crawley fans in attendance. It’s just a shame the result didn’t go the right way either. And to top it off, Doncaster came back and ended up beating Barrow 4–2. We are still in the playoff places, but on goal difference only now, and Doncaster have a game in hand against Colchester on Tuesday night. Barrow also have a game in hand to be played Tuesday night, so all we can do now is to beat Grimsby at home next Saturday and hope that results go in our favour elsewhere. Sutton aren’t quite down. Their goal difference means that they need a big win and for Colchester to get thumped in both of their games to stay up, but stranger things have happened.

The coaches on the way back voted Liam Kelly as their man of the match, which was fair enough. Not sure what game some of those on the coach were watching when they were nominating some of our defenders for the award.

A week to go before the final game of the season. One spent watching through fingers watching the scores on Tuesday night, and then the Grimsby Town game on Saturday. They made themselves safe today, and so hopefully will play like a side with nothing to play for.

Come on you reds.

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Kev Neylon

Writing fiction, travel, history, sport, & music blogs. Monthly e-zine with all kinds of writing at www.onetruekev.co.uk. All pictures used are my own.