Away wins have been a massive feature of the Reds rise through the football pyramid and FA Cup runs but Wednesday’s stunning win at Portsmouth could be one of the most important. The associated 3 points has put us back in play off contention and instilled renewed confidence in our ability to tackle 2013. A massive thank you from every travelling Reds fan to the team, management and back room staff for a memorable late Christmas present.
Four packed coaches left base at 11.30am heading south to Fratton Park, Portsmouth. There were probably a few jitters around with fans recalling the horror story of Sunday 9th September. It was the day when League One football turned nasty and left the Broadfield faithful bemused and thoroughly disappointed. Portsmouth walked away with a three nil victory watched by the nation- though they did have the advantage of twelve men whilst we ended with nine!
Our 2 hour transfer took us up the M23 round the M25 and down the A3 into Portsmouth. During the journey I caught up with Josh Biggs and Ryan Scopes on coach 3. Both watch their football at home on the Bruce Winfield terrace. Josh said, “We are playing some really excellent football this season, full of passion and effort, but we do not seem to have that cutting edge up front which has cost us on occasions. That said, we are in a really positive place in the league and our win at Stevenage really helped, it’s been a really enjoyable season so far.” Of the future Ryan said, “the excitement of getting into the play off’s would be unreal, and it is not beyond us to slip into that last spot.” He wisely added, “to be realistic I don’t think the club is ready for Championship football just yet, we need to gain further experience here in League One, build up our fan base and then press on in the future”. Both lads were excited by the prospect of visiting Fratton Park for the first time and Josh had some nice things to say about CTSA. He remarked, “I am very impressed with the service and love the hot drinks”.
Fratton Park is a traditional old ground full of memories and set in a residential area. The old girl has has been upgraded of late, a fact that might have bypassed some of your younger fans yesterday. Where we were housed, that stand has had seats and a roof added in the least 5 years. Back in the day standing on the Milton End in those conditions would have been very miserable indeed! That said, being housed right behind the goal gave us a perfect view of the action.In monsoon and gusty conditions (what is happening to our weather?) a wonderfully entertaining match unfolded. We started with purpose but caught a cold on 10 mins when Claude unluckily headed into his own net- not that most of the reporters present noticed his decisive touch, as they gave the goal to Benson. I’m sure Claude wont mind that! Not deterred Reds rolled up their sleeves and scored a deserved equaliser late in the 1st half. Sadler managed to squeeze home a long free kick past about 10 players and just inside the far post for his first CTFC goal.
Neither team seemed prepared to settle for a point leading to an end to end 2nd period. However it was the Reds who held their nerve and on 72 mins BILLY CLARKE lit up Christmas when he stabbed home the winner. It brought joyous celebration to the hordes of Town fans both in Hampshire and probably back in West Sussex. That’s 6 League One aways wins this season and its form like that which could easily take us into the play offs come May.
By 5.30pm the four coaches were heading back up the A3 in driving rain. Bruce Winfield stand regulars Baz Probert and Anthony Hodgson were basking in the glory. We asked them about our exciting upcoming FA Cup tie at home. Baz suggested, “it’s an afternoon that every Reds fan should be looking forward to. After losing to three premiership teams already the Reading game could be our best ever chance to win one. Hopefully there will be a full house in attendance leading to an intense atmosphere”. Anthony added, “Reading are struggling at the wrong end of the table and are fighting for league points, and it could mean that they might rest a few of their top players which could give us an advantage. I am really looking forward to the match”. Both were in agreement that they wanted Arsenal or Spurs away in the 4th round. That confidence is starting to spread across the Crawley fan base, it seems as though people can see something very positive happening on 5th Jan. Crawley bound for the 4th round again? WHY NOT!
By 7.30pm an exciting and memorable day was complete when the coaches returned to base. Many thanks to Clarkes coaches drivers Barry, Ray, Gary and Neil for an excellent and safe service service in dire weather. In 24 hours it’s all go again as we make our way to Dean Court, Bournemouth. A quick peek at the League One table will tell you this is a real six pointer. Another win come 5pm on Saturday could see us back in a play off place.
CTSA will be looking forward to welcoming you on board!
Words and pictures from Colin Bowman