Rarely Threatening

Match report by ALREET at the Broadfield Stadium

Crawley 0 Pools 0 (League 2) Saturday March 19th 2016

It was a bright day in Crawley and, although the ground is within a reasonable walking distance from the station, I opted to jump on the local No.10 bus. This is a good service and stops right outside the ground so it can’t be faulted.

The single deck bus is rather smart and doesn’t conform to the usual stock having a ramp with corresponding staggered seating rising from its centre rather than the usual steps. Arriving at the ground, I walked through the car park to the visitors' entrance and noted an unusual bicycle stand built into the external base of the away end.

It seemed strange not to be surrounded by a large group of penguins as on my previous visit. On that occasion, I stood behind the goal but decided to ‘go upmarket’ and have a seat in the visitors' section of the adjacent stand. I hadn’t realized that this has the appearance of a temporary stand and the ground below can be seen when looking at the base of the seats.

The red roof allows the light to pass through and is supported by several pillars which mar the view of the pitch and the whole structure gives the impression of being inside a huge marquee. Moving round the ground, I noticed a large number of Herring Gulls wheeling around behind the far end. I don’t know the attraction but it wasn’t quite the Hitchcock re-enactment that occurs over the Millhouse terrace at the final whistle.

Watching the pre-match warm up, I was confused by one of our players until I worked out it had to be Bingham sporting a short haircut. The home team kicked off proceedings attacking the Poolie end and their No.7 soon went on a long run which was put behind for a corner. Carroll was involved in a passing move across the pitch before Gray made a good run down the right but his appeal for a corner was turned down. Crawley did win a corner but the Pools defence hoofed the ball out for a throw-in.

A long cross into our box was caught by Carson at the second attempt before Thomas put in a ball from outside the area which was hacked clear. The Crawley No. 30 made a swift run across our box before laying the ball off but the resulting cross was headed wide. A poor header from Magnay led to a teasing cross which was taken by Carson.

On nineteen minutes, Carroll put a shot just wide of the left post which I believe was the first worthwhile effort of the afternoon. Thomas then had a shot deflected for a corner, Featherstone was tripped in the opposition half and Paynter won a couple of headers. A poor corner taken by Gray fell to Hawkins but his shot was wayward and bore no comparison with his recent spectacular efforts. Pools produced a good probing move down their right but the resulting low cross went behind for a goal kick.

My attention was then caught by several large grey feathers which fluttered down in front of the stand and landed on the pitch. The strident alarm calls of a Magpie from behind me suggested that a Woodpigeon had been taken by a Sparrowhawk.

Featherstone sent a right-foot shot over the bar and Thomas put in a cross which was weakly headed wide of the post. Crawley retaliated with a left-footed effort over the bar. Pools won a free kick but the resulting shot went straight to their keeper. The referee blew his whistle on what had been a drab first half and as he did so, a female Sparrowhawk with its diagnostic “flap, flap, glide” flight worked its way over the opposite corner. Sometimes when watching Pools, it’s handy to have other interests.

During the interval, the announcer introduced a local featherweight boxer (Ben Jones) who has a bout coming up in a couple of weeks. He was there to promote his title defence but, apparently, is a man of few words and was met with a predictable chorus of, “Who are you?” from the Poolie end. The second half began with early pressure from Crawley who forced a corner from a right wing cross but Carson safely gathered the resulting kick.

On 52 minutes, Thomas was pulled down which earned the offender a yellow card. A low left cross to the far post just eluded the advancing Gray who couldn’t untangle the ball from his feet but it found its way back to Thomas who moved inside his marker only to see his right-footed shot rebound off the bar.
"Sometimes when watching Pools, it’s handy to have other interests"

Crawley won a cheap free kick on the edge of our box but it came to nothing. Magnay lost possession inside Crawley’s half of the centre circle and they immediately found themselves in a two-on-one situation and advanced quickly on our goal. Carson, however, had other ideas and made a decent save then managed to turn the ball out for a corner. Crawley made a double substitution, one needing no introduction in the shape of Simon Walton.

Pools built an attack only for Thomas to be crowded out on the edge of the box. We had three chances in quick succession but all proved fruitless. James was robbed while attacking on our right flank but chased half the length of the field to redeem himself. A long ball out of defence from Hawkins reached Thomas who closed in on goal but he was forced wide on to his right foot and his shot went well wide.

James played Gray in only for the keeper to come out and collect. Hawkins, who hadn’t reached his previous dizzy heights, was replaced by Walker. In added time, Thomas was felled by Walton who was booked for this misdemeanour and he received the largest reaction from the Poolies all afternoon although, to be fair, there had been precious little to cheer previously. Walker took the kick and watched the keeper push it out but when it came back to him, his second attempt was well wide of the target and hit the roof.

Pools had a huge let off in the dying seconds when a close range cross was met by one of their marauding central defenders directly in front of our net but, fortunately, he somehow managed to steer his diving header wide of our left post. An enormous let off and who knows how that will affect our final position?

Carson made a great double save but that apart, he spent the majority of the game collecting high lofted punts and redistributing back passes. Magnay had an average game, getting caught out on a couple of occasions but generally sound. Although encouraged to move the ball forward when we attack, he has a tendency to play safe and pass the ball backwards thus slowing down our play.

Bates had another secure afternoon, calling on his experience to read the game and snuffing out possible dangerous situations. Jackson likewise, a good solid display with unhurried authority. Carroll has been a revelation when I’ve seen him recently. His defensive and attacking play have improved in equal measure and he looked comfortable in both roles. He was confident, unhurried on the ball and linked up well in our overall play.

Gray has energy to burn and got into dangerous positions although he did miss our best chance. Featherstone was at the hub of most of our play, bringing the ball out of defence with neat, short passes and making himself available to help others out of awkward situations. Thomas covered most of the pitch when tracking back or, more often, when attacking. He put in a lot of effort and got into good positions but if only he could keep his shots down.

Hawkins put in a determined display but didn’t achieve his exploits of late and was subbed. Paynter did his best with some lay-offs under pressure but was closely marked by a couple of defenders throughout and posed little threat. James can never be questioned over his work rate but he badly needs a goal to open his account. He doesn’t appear to be getting many opportunities to achieve this but his cause wasn’t helped by the constant manhandling he received.

That was a boring affair with very little meaningful activity. Pools controlled large sections of the game and, at times, looked a decent side as they strung several passes together, moving their way out of defence, across the pitch and probing down the flanks. However, they rarely threatened the home goal. Crawley weren’t much better, largely relying on quick forays down our flanks but, again, without causing too many chances.