After a late Crewe equaliser against Torquay last Saturday Reds fans travelled to Accrington Stanley yesterday knowing that victory would secure promotion into N Power League One. Not put off by the early morning rain or the long distance 6 packed Clarkes of London coaches set off from the Broadfield at 7.30am.There is no getting away from the fact that Accrington in Lancashire is a long way but with little traffic on the roads we were soon eating up the miles. Travelling in convoy around the M25, up the M1 and up the M6 we arrived around 1pm.
On coach three I caught up with a couple of ‘sheep’ who were making the journey. James Weeks and Callum Guy from Southampton were wearing a Scott Davies inspired outfit. James explained, “we were tweeting Scott asking for fancy dress suggestions and he tweeting back a photo of him wearing this exact same costume a few years ago.” James and Callum are Broadfield regulars. Callum revealed, “we travelled up on the train this morning from Southampton and got a lot of strange looks!” Well done to the boys for making the effort- I am sure the BBC and press will be featuring them over the next couple of days.
On arrival we were greeted by the BBC Late Kick Off cameras and reporter. A party atmosphere ensued as around 200 lined up for a sing song and interviews. It really got the afternoon off with a bang and the BBC boys stayed with us all afternoon. Steve Coppell arrived in the car park and graciously signed autographs, it was lovely to meet him and he even posed for a photograph with one of our more regular customers.
The Crown Ground is your typical lower league stadium complete with a huge away open terrace, tidy little Grandstand and tumble down stand on the other side. Most of the 630 away fans spilled onto the open terrace and started to make their presence felt. Around 100 choose the tiny covered seating area.
At around 2pm everyone was thrilled when our own Reggie the Red turned up on the pitch. He got a standing ovation. While he was “talking” with some youngsters I managed to get a few “words” from him. He intimated, “this is my first away game of the season and I am looking forward to the action”. As to the journey up he said, “it was a long way but I slept for most of it”. He then cheekily predicted a five nil win for the Reds. Honestly, he was in great form all afternoon hopefully we will see him at away games next season. Oh, and for my next interview- “Sooty- the Wilderness Years”.
It was getting a bit chilly come kick off but fortunately the rain held off. During the first half it is safe to say that we were lucky not to go behind. With Accrington only playing for pride they put in a massive effort creating 4 or 5 excellent chances. Scott Shearer made 2 wonderful saves to keep us in the match.
During the half time interval Steve Leake (indeterminable age), a Reds fan for 55 years wisely said, “they have had a few chances but we all need to relax, get the ball on the floor and start passing, one goal is all that we need.” Steve is available for soothsaying and lottery predictions at a CTFC Academy office near you from Tuesday!
Crawley came out all guns blazing applying intense pressure for 20 mins. Scott Neilson produced the telling moment when he steered a 20 yard shot just inside a post. Even though it was at the other end it sparked immediate delirium on the away terrace. With tails up and encouraged on by the rampant away support the team dug in to secure a famous away victory.
The promotion party got underway as the players and club officials all came out to share some wonderful moments with the fans. With champagne flowing, dancing and community singing it was really lovely to be a part of it. These are the types of occasions that stay with you forever.
All too soon we were back on the coaches heading back to West Sussex, arriving around 10.45. David O’Doherty of West Green is a regular traveller with CTSA and is a Crawley Town fanatic. Summing up his thoughts on the way home, he said, “when Scott scored the winner I was jumping up and down hugging my dad, it seemed like an eternity until the final whistle”. He added, “I really wanted to be here today to see us get promoted, I’m so glad I came.” As to next season David is really looking forward to visiting some of the bigger grounds to come like Fratton Park and the Ricoh Arena. He said, “I hope we get Walsall at home first game and start with a big win”!
The day was far from over as around 200 happy Reds fans packed into Reds bar. The place erupted when all the players emerged through the door at around midnight. A huge party ensued while players and fans discussed the days events.
It was here that Tyler Jones (18) of Pound Hill, a West Stand season ticket holder was rewarded for being one of only 3 Reds fans to have attended every single league game this term. We have him photographed with most of the team and with the Gaffer, Craig.
Well, that is it for another season here at the Broadfield. Its been a real blast following you guys around over the last 9 months. I would like to thank the fans for all their comments, Clarkes of London who have been brilliant but most of all the 11 other CTSA board members who have been fantastic. It has been really lovely to share this dramatic journey with you all.
Enjoy the summer holidays and see you back here in August.
Words and Pictures from Colin Bowman, CTSA Press Officer