Sunday, 28 August 2011

Lots of money but no class

After a 5-1 defeat at Hull a few seasons ago, Steve Cotterill memorably came out with the quote that he would not swap any of his players for any of the Hull side.
That was the feeling I had after yesterday's fantastic 3-1 win over Crawley Town, a side who arrived at Whaddon with a spring in their step and left with their tails firmly between their legs.
It is hard to think of a victory in our league history that has left me with such a feeling of smug satisfaction - it was almost a Kevin Keegan moment before the game as 'I would love it' if we beat them - and I did love it.
Steve Evans has a very chequered history in the game, but yesterday he lived up to his boorish reputation with a totally classless display both on the sideline, at the final whistle and then afterwards.
Apparently Crawley lost to a poor side. If we are a poor side, then I struggle to think what that makes Crawley, and Mr Evans, apart from a team and manager who does not know how to lose with grace and accept when they were outplayed.
The gulf in class was shown in the second half apparently, according to Mr Evans. That was the second half when they lumped long balls into our box and failed to test our goalkeeper at all, as we hit them on the break a few times and soaked up their aerial bombardment.
I will agree with Mr Evans' first half assessment of his side, lazy and disgraceful - especially that last word.
First we had Scott Shearer falling on the floor to try and get Darryl Duffy into trouble, then rising like Lazarus when his little ploy failed.
Then we had Kyle McFadzean also falling over when Duffy breathed in his vicinty. The linesman told him to get up, then as he lay there for three or four minutes, the referee stopped the game.
Then, when David Hunt sent the ball back to Scott Brown to restart the game, Wes Thomas ridiculously tried to play on - and any good feelings towards our former top scorer had gone in an instant.
Justice was done when the ball ended up in Shearer's net for the third time a few seconds later, and Evans said afterwards he took Thomas off at half-time because of that incident, and if he had scored, he would have let us run through and score another goal. Anyone believe that?? I am at best sceptical.
After a 10-minute sighter when we realised that they were just to lump long diagonal balls into our box and hope for the best, we were superb.
Committed, skilful, creative, incisive. Our attitude was absolutely spot on and we refused to allow ourselves to be bullied by Crawley and their direct, uncompromising style, which reminded me of Stevenage's visit here last season.
The opening goal summed up our display perfectly. Darryl Duffy absolutely ran himself ragged all afternoon, and chased a lost cause into the corner. He fed Josh Low, who gave Duffy the ball back and he cut it back for Kaid Mohamed to sweep home.
It was a great moment for Kaid, and will do wonders for his confidence.
He too had his best game for us, with non-stop running and one of his runs set up the second goal. He fed Jeff Goulding out wide and his cross was finished off by Marlon Pack at the far post.
After the Thomas incident, the third goal was a long ball, and Duffy challenged Charlie Wassmer and the ball ran free for Goulding to finish well.
It was the least we deserved, and the game was as good as over at that point.
Evans made three substitutes and one of them, Matt Tubbs, was impressive and got a goal back from a penalty - maybe slightly dubious, but Alan Bennett let Tyrone Barnett ran across him.
Ridiculously Evans was yelling for a red card as apparently 'Barnett had a tap-in'. Funny looking tap-in to me - keep clutching the straws.
Their second half tactic was to see Barnett drop off 25 yards from goal and try to flick on the diagonal balls from the full-backs in the hope of drawing one of our centre-halves out. It didn't work as we stayed solid and despite a few shots going wide and over, we held on.
We could have had one or two more on the break - Shearer made a couple of good saves from Duffy, and Kaid and Low could have done better in a couple of situations, but that is just nit-picking.
Three goals and first defeat in 35 games against the title favourites is not to be sneezed at, and to see Mr Evans doing his best Augustus Gloop impressions on the sideline as he threatened to spontaneously combust was even sweeter.
This will send out a message to the rest of League Two that we are not to be taken lightly, but it will also send a message out that Crawley are nothing to be scared of. Play the team in front of you and not the reputation.
They will probably still go up as there are plenty of teams who will be bullied by them and will be unsettled by the antics of their team and manager, but they shouldn't be.

Managers' Views
Mark Yates: "We won every first ball, every second ball, scored three and could have had a couple more. Crawley are everybody's favourites for the title so we knew we had to work, battle and perform - and to a man we did it. We've beaten a good side well, but we've got to go again."

Steve Evans: "In the first half we were lazy and disgraceful. When we win and when we lose it comes down to the players, and they didn't perform. The gulf in class was evident in the second half, but at the end of the day class never beats effort."


Player by Player
Scott Brown: Handling superb and much more decisive and commanding in his box. Didn't have many direct saves to make but claimed some difficult crosses well.
Keith Lowe: Usual, steady, dependable performance. Did his defensive duties with usual lack of fuss and got forward occasionally to good effect.
Danny Andrew: Usual mix of some good and some not so good for Danny. Made some good runs and interceptions, but nearly gave a goal away with a mistake but Josh Simpson shot wide.
Alan Bennett: Gave penalty away with a slightly clumsy challenge, but was solid and secure most of the game with Tyrone Barnett a handful.
Steve Elliott: Another dominating game with Crawley's long ball tactics playing into his hands all afternoon. Dealt well with Barnett and Thomas first half, then Tubbs.
Josh Low: Another good display on the back of last week's cameo. Had a hand in first goal and could have set a couple more up in the second half.
Marlon Pack: Dominant midfield display. Committed in the tackle and looked to get us moving at every opportunity. Good finish for his goal.
Russ Penn: Slightly overshadowed by Marlon but still played a big part in the win with some tackles and interceptions to break the play up.
Kaid Mohamed: Great finish for his goal, and good work to set up the second. But needs to work on first touch and also learn to lift his head and see what options are on occasionally as he can run down blind alleys.
Jeff Goulding: Considering he was ill this week, put in a good 50-minute shift. In the right place to score his goal after setting up Marlon's with a good cross.
Darryl Duffy: Magnificent, and fully deserved his standing ovation. Led the line superbly well, never stopped running of chasing lost causes, which led to the first goal. All that was missing for him was a goal. Send a video of that display to Wes Thomas and Justin Richards to tell them this is how hard a striker should work...


Substitutes
Junior Smikle (for Goulding 52): Helped to shore us up in the second half with some good defensive work, and got forward to support Duffy on occasions.
Luke Summerfield (for Duffy 82): Several important interceptions - but his cameo was epitomised by a 40-yard run down the touchline in injury time to keep the ball in the corner. 
Harry Hooman (for Mohamed 90+2): Interesting league debut for Harry, as he came on up front and just did a bit of chasing down in the dying minutes.


Positives: All over the pitch! Dominant first half display and great resilience in the second to withstand the aerial bombardment. Duffy, Low, Kaid and Pack the pick of the bunch - and this sets a big marker down. Hopefully a message has been sent to the rest of the division that we are not a team to be rolled over, but also I hope it sends a message to the stayaway supporters that they missed something special. Goals from all round the team - Now means only Russ Penn of the front 6 has not scored this season, plus Steve Elliott as well, so it seems we won't rely on one or two people for the bulk of the goals.


Negatives: Very few, if any really. Alan Bennett's slightly clumsy challenge for the penalty maybe, but I am left clutching for anything to detract from a superb win.


Summary: A great afternoon. We played some superb stuff in the first half and it was great to see the whole ground roaring the team home at the end, urged on by Yatesy from the dug out. Crawley are nothing to be afraid of, and the result seems to have made us very popular around the rest of the division and the Football League, judging by some of the tweets I had after the game. Wonder why that is... Money may buy you a lot of things in the football world, but it does not buy you class and grace as Crawley, led by their disgrace of a manager, displayed absolutely none  from minute one to minute 95, and I don't think a win has given me more satisfaction for a very long time. Now all Yatesy and the team have to do is keep it up...


Facts
The last team to beat Crawley Town on a Saturday was Manchester United.


The last player to score a winning goal in a league game against Crawley was ex-Cheltenham striker Craig Reid, for Newport County.


Seven different players have scored for Cheltenham already this season - Summerfield, Elliott, Goulding, Duffy, Low, Mohamed and Pack.


It is the first time for a year that Cheltenham have scored 3 times in successive games. We beat Crewe 3-2 at home on August 14 2010, and a week later lost 6-4 at Rotherham.