Retro Red Devils 19 – TOWIE, Cumbria & Town Meadow Disappearing Stand

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12th April 2024

Who cares about the Wrexham result! Well, lots of us, I guess, but I am still basking in the superb wins at Newport and Mansfield! I also really liked the Mansfield local paper headline about Mansfield being humiliated by ‘classy’ Crawley, which showed considerably more class than the Mansfield manager, who it seems still hasn’t got over that other humiliation at our hands when he was Derby County manager.

To change tack, while researching articles (which translates to getting led astray by other fascinating facts I find in programmes and press reports) I often find answers to questions I have been asked earlier but hadn’t known where to find the answer. One such was in a 1978 programme I recently picked up on eBay, an away game against Hounslow on 7th January. I wanted to check the score from this match (we won 4-0, Wayne Peacock, 2, Brian Roberts and Andy Edwards) so pulled out the next match programme I had, which was for Tuesday 17th January at home to Bognor (drew 2-2, Peacock and Andy MacDonald). Any older fans who remember our programmes from the 1970s will know there wasn’t much content, but in that particular one there was a safety warning for fans (all 200 or so of us) to keep away from the bottom covered terrace as it had partially blown down in the “Great Storm of 78”. This occurred on 11/12th of January and caused considerable damage, including destroying Margate Pier. As an aside we were due to play Margate in a Southern League game a couple of weeks later but the game was postponed.

Town Meadow Bottom Stand Mid 1970s Ali West Scoring


I had been trying to find out for some time when this stand (see photo) disappeared, having been at the ground so after it was damaged but have been unable to pin down exactly when. Fellow older fans were no help as our memories start to go! I stood under its cover on many occasions in the 1960s and 70s as, during the winter months at Town Meadow (basically October to April), it was the safer alternative to changing ends during a match which would have involved chancing the wet and muddy grass banks down the other side and bottom end.

Grass Bank mid-late 1970s

Other Side minus Covered Terrace

Anyone interested in Town Meadow memories, as well as mine and other people’s photos (amongst much other information, statistics, etc.) of the old ground, should head to Ian Mulcahy’s excellent Crawley Town History website .

This week’s first opponents, Colchester United, are relatively recent Essex opponents, with our EFL clashes only starting when we were promoted to League One in 2012 with us drawing 1-1 away (Kyle McFadzean) and then winning the home game on New Years Day 2013 by 3-0 (Mark Connolly, Billy Clarke & Nicky Adams) in front of 3160 fans.

However, our matches against Colchester actually began when we were still at Town Meadow when we both competed in the Capital League. As far as I can ascertain, we joined this league (which had started in around 1984) in the season of 1994/95 when still playing at Town Meadow as a Southern League Premier Division club. I don’t have a programme for games against Colchester that season but did find one for another Capital League game that season, away to West Ham United (pictured) at Upton Park on 5th April 1995. 

1995 WHU Capital League

1995 Capital League League Table


I think the EFL teams were probably using the league as experience for their young players (check out some of the names in the WHU line-up), and it seems from our line-up that day that it was very much a reserve fixture (aside from Alan Lester) for us. There was not a great deal of information regarding results for these games, but I know we drew 2-2 at Colchester that season in what would, I believe, be our first game against them.

Unless somebody suddenly tells me of some other obscure friendlies we might have played, our matches against Essex clubs would have started on 10th May 1958 with a so-called “New Town Challenge” match against fellow new towners Basildon Town, who played in the London League. The match ended in a 0-0 draw in front of 453 fans and dignitaries, including Mrs Hepzibah Carman, Chairman (sic) of the Crawley Urban District Council who kicked off to start the match! 

Thanks to Club Historian Tony Pope for the match details and a few players known to play in the match (Pat Dowling, Bill Morris, Geoff Chilvers and Ernie Randall).

Rainham Town 1961 won 7-0


Our competitive debut against Essex sides was, I believe, in the 1961/62 season when we played now defunct Rainham Town (then in the County of Essex, now part of a London Borough) in the Metropolitan League. We met first at Town Meadow on Saturday 16th December 1961 when we ran out comfortable 7-0 victors (Dave Laffar, Brian Bennett, Peter Conroy (pen), Roy Drake, 2, Robin Kent and Dave Robertson). However, a couple of months later on 17th February, we would lose the away game at Deri Park 2-0. This same season we would come up against our second Essex side in competitive games with a 7-3 home victory over Woodford Town on 10th March 1962 (Laffar, 3, Kent, 2, Robertson and Benny Hampton). We would follow this up with a convincing 4-1 win in the away game on 23rd April 1962 (Hampton, 2, Kent and Danny O’Shea). Woodford Town played at the exotically named Snakes Lane, and after relocating just prior to their demise, would play their last season at the brilliantly named Old Spotted Dog ground in Clapton, East London.

Over the years we would come up against several Essex sides, from Brentwood, Clacton Town, Chelmsford City and Romford in the 1960s through Aveley in the 1970s to more modern times and clubs such as Canvey Island (the coldest I have ever been at a football match), Heybridge Swifts, Braintree, Grays, Southend United and no doubt a few others. All those mentions of Essex and I haven’t mentioned Mark Wright once!

Our second opponents, Barrow, bring us to more modern opposition as, prior to the early 2000s, we would get a nosebleed going much further north than Birmingham or Burton. Barrow and Carlisle are the only opponents we have had from Cumbria (although I believe Barrow was once part of Lancashire), with Carlisle being the first we would meet, in our first Conference season, 2004/05. We went to Brunton Park for the first time on 2nd October 2004 only to come away unlucky 1-0 losers, although we would gain our revenge with a 1-0 home win on 8th January 2005, although Carlisle would go on to gain promotion to the EFL via the play-offs.

We would meet Barrow for the first time on their promotion to the Conference National in 2008/09 (the previous season, in National North, they had gone from 20th position in December to promotion via the play-offs at the end of the season). The match took place at Broadfield on 11th October 2008 and saw a resounding 4-0 win for us in front of 1,601 fans (Glenn Wilson, Jon Paul Pittman and Jamie Cook, 2, with Steve Evans suggesting we could have won 15-0). Unfortunately we had let slip a 2-0 lead against Forest Green the previous match to draw 2-2, and following Barrow we would lose 1-0 at Histon – Steve “The Special One” Evans was not best pleased!

2008/09 Barrow at home 4-0

2008/09 Barrow away with Rankin scoring our third

I would imagine Evans was even less pleased in the return fixture at Barrow on 18th April 2009 when, after having our 2-0 half-time lead (Cook, 2) slip, we regained the lead through Isaiah Rankin in the 76th minute (see picture and Red Devils fans) only to concede an equaliser in the 92nd minute. Having said that, we would still finish a creditable ninth in the table, above Wrexham, who we did the double over, and they only brought 121 fans to the game at the Broadfield – so there!

Mick Fox –



Mick Fox

Mick Fox

Mick has been a lifelong fan since being taken to games as a young boy by his Dad (an ex Crawley keeper) in the 1950s and today is a season ticket holder in the East Stand. Over that time Mick have been involved in the Supporters Club, Social Clubs (including the Broken Flag Club) and also sat on the Football Club board. He has seen many regimes and fans come and go but never been able to shake the bug. Big fan of "proper" football - definitely not the Premier League!