It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s Field Win (But It Wouldn’t Be Nothing Without The Ref To Lend A Hand)

Kev Neylon
7 min readDec 16, 2023

I’m sure James Brown would not be happy, but life (or in his case, death) goes on.

Back to home league action following on from the good victory away to Colchester United last weekend. A win that moved us back up the table to eleventh place, four places outside the playoff places, but only a point behind the Wombles in seventh (plus the small matter of thirteen goal difference behind as well). We have a game in hand on the two teams above us who we are level on points with as well.

The visitors are Mansfield Town, who are in fourth, a point outside the automatic playoff spots, and six ahead of us, with a game in hand as well. They have lost only the once in the league this season and were the last team to lose a league game in any division this year, making it to game eighteen before losing. Their game last weekend was called off due to a waterlogged pitch, so some might say they will be well rested. I’m hoping they are well rusty instead.

Their visit means the return of Nigel Clough, who when he was manager of Burton Albion a few years ago when they were promoted from League 2, infamously said, “at least I won’t have to go to places like Crawley again.” So welcome back Nigel, while you’re here, why don’t you pop into the museum and check out the CTFC exhibition. Or just have a look around, it has to be better than Burton or Mansfield, I’ve been to both several times and they were, on the whole, shut. (May be a misprint.) It won’t bite you, it’s not our fault you start to get hives if you get more than thirty miles away from Nottingham.

I’m a bit later to the ground than I usually am for a Saturday afternoon kick-off. This is a combination of having to work on a project most of Saturday, and that I’m feeling like shit. I have tested negative for Covid twice this week, but I can’t have much of my lungs left as I’ve been coughing them up most of the week.

When arriving we can see there are quite a few away fans, two coaches and three minibuses parked up outside. So, they wouldn’t appear to be as reticent about coming to Crawley as their manager is. (although they were chanting the ‘Crawley is a shithole, I wanna go home’ bit in the first half, which is a bit rich coming from Mansfield.)

Had a quick word with Al while queuing up to get in, looks like he’s going to have to do at least some stewarding this afternoon as he’s got the south terrace to patrol. Bag check was non-existent, the woman just laughed at me holding the open bag with my teeth for her to check. But bizarrely, once in through the turnstiles, there were more goons not letting us get to our seats until we had to fish our season tickets out again. How the fuck do you think we got in you clowns.

Mansfield were in their standard home kit of yellow shirts and socks and blue shorts, and HGH packs inside them. For some reason, the goal mouth in front of the south terrace has been heavily sanded, but not the other goal mouth, so what have they been doing at that end to wreck the grass?

The game starts and it is pretty even early on. Will Wright picks up a booking for two innocuous challenges in the first five minutes. The ref then gives another free kick against him, supposedly for a high boot, when he’d kicked the ball and it had hit the Mansfield player in the face and he’d gone down like a sack of spuds. It was never a free kick, and of course from it Mansfield scored to make it 0–1.

Straight from the restart we get a free kick from the edge of their area, but Wright’s shot hits the side netting. A few minutes later a Liam Kelly shot from about twenty-five yards out keeps rising and disappears out over the KRL Logistics stand for ball loss number one of the day.

Crawley are getting into the game more and are applying pressure. But due to the anti-cold and flu drugs I’m dosing up on, I do what I never do and have to go to the toilet during the match. I just get out in time to see Danilo Orsi smash home a penalty (won by Adam Campbell) to put us back on level terms at 1–1.

And by the time I’m back at my seat Kelly has put another chance just over the bar. The time rattles by and it is soon half time with the scores level.

The second half starts evenly, with attacks from both sides not quite amounting to much, there is a lack of end product. This is nearly changed when there is another thunderbolt shot from Wright which skims the top of the bar and flies over the Eden Utilities Stand for ball loss number two.

But straight from this, another innocuous free kick from halfway ends up with Mansfield putting the ball in the box. There are appeals for a penalty, but the ball falls to one of their players anyway and they tuck it away and Mansfield have the lead again 1–2.

And it is nearly three, Dion Conroy plays a Mansfield striker in on goal, but a mix up between their two strikers means they end up being offside. It’s a big let off for the lucky bastard.

But it was only a brief respite. Another Mansfield attack sees a shot blocked, but the balls bounces out to another Mansfield player on the edge of the area and they smack the ball in to make it 1–3.

Kelly gets a booking for dissent after another crap decision from the ref, and a few minutes we are down to ten men. Jay Williams is penalised for a foul, shouts at the diving Mansfield player who’s gone down like an extra from Platoon, and then at the ref, who promptly books him twice, I’m assuming once for the non-foul, and once for dissent, and the red follows. A three-card trick in five seconds.

The crowd is announced as being 2,817 with 452 away fans. It did look like there were less home fans than for some recent league games. And the usual crowd who sit behind and to either side of us were absent today.

Kelly then goes down from a high boot challenge. The ref stops the game, but only because it might be a head injury. This is a more blatant high boot than the one he gave to Mansfield in the first half from which they scored their opening goal, and yet he just gives the ball back to Mansfield once Kelly is back on his feet. Absolute joker.

Once back on his feet the announcement comes over that the sponsor’s man of the match is Liam Kelly, although I’m sure the Mansfield fans would have the ref down for theirs.

There are four added minutes, during which the ref manages to find time for another spurious booking for a Crawley player before he blows the final whistle and sprints for the tunnel. It is a 1–3 loss. We didn’t play that badly, but got screwed over by a bunch of timewasting, diving, cheating twats, aided by the referee. In the last ten minutes, Mansfield kicked the ball away six times after free kicks or throw ins being blown for. Not once did they get a booking for kicking the ball away or timewasting. It is just sickening when the sides aren’t treated equally.

The loss sees us slip two places back to thirteenth. And we go again Friday night at home against the Wombles.

Come on you Reds.

For other Crawley Town articles check out the list below

CTFC Match Reports

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Kev Neylon

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