Crawley Town 0 Portsmouth 3 nPower League 1 Att: 5,058
I hadn’t planned a trip to Crawley as one of my must-do grounds before I hit the magical 100, but this was an opportunity I decided to take advantage of. Here were two teams travelling in totally different directions. As recently as the 2009 – 10 season Pompey were playing in the Premiership and Crawley in the fifth flight of English football. They met here continuing their form with Crawley riding high in the division and Pompey, in administration, relying on loan signings to ensure that they could field a full squad.
This was potentially the biggest match in Crawley’s history to date, pitting themselves against the FA Cup Winners of 2008 and Runners-Up in 2010. A big crowd was expected and it came as no surprise when Crawley’s record attendance was shattered when in excess of 5000 fans turned up.
After experiencing the delights of the Railway Inn and North Sussex’s CAMRA pub of the year, the Swan Inn, we made tracks for the long walk to the ground from the town centre. Police attendance was clearly evident as Pompey’s ever faithful following duly delivered the expected large away support. After all, this was almost a ‘local’ derby (54 miles separate the two clubs).
The Broadfield Stadium has recently seen redevelopment, which was probably required to keep apace with the team’s meteoric rise through the division. The 6000 capacity now consists of seated stands along both lengths and terracing along both widths of the pitch. The club shop hadn’t received an upgrade and consisted of a portacabin in the car park. Although the staff were friendly enough.
All the early running was made by the home team and on 23 minutes, Hope Akpan fired just wide from 35 yards.
Whilst Pompey seemed to be channelling nearly all their forward balls through to Thierry Henry’s former strike partner … ahem, Luke Rodgers (they played together at New York Red Bulls apparently). But the Brummie Rodgers got caught offside far too regularly to make any impact.
Hungarian international Centre Back Gábor Gyepes, formerly of Ferencváros, Wolves and Cardiff was making his debut for Pompey and did nothing wrong until the 40th minute when he twisted awkwardly and lost possession. That was the last we’d see of the Magyar today as soon afterwards he limped off to be substituted.
Controversy struck on 41 minutes when Crawley player Simpson was sent off for his second yellow, the ‘feeling’ of harshness was backed up by replays that apparently showed no contact. Despite the man advantage however the teams went in level at half time, 0-0.
However in the second half the game really opened up as both teams went looking for the win. On 47 minutes, Crawley ‘keeper Paul Jones pulled off a stunning save from a Pompey direct free kick. On 60 minutes Crawley might have taken the lead when a well worked free kick of their own failed to produce a finish, but did result in a goalmouth scramble that included a plethora of chances that failed to be converted.
Things were to take a turn for the worse for the home team though, when Hope Akpan received a second yellow and also saw his marching orders and thus reducing Crawley to 9 men. So much harder to swallow for the home team when a cynical Pompey a few minutes earlier and a professional foul in the box a few minutes later, both went unpunished.
Pompey soon made their 2 man advantage work for them and scored on 83 minutes (a cracking free kick from Rodgers) and 85 minutes. There was still time for Crawley manager Richie Barker to be sent to the stands just before the final whistle. A thoroughly miserable day for Crawley in front of their largest ever crowd.