First of all I would like to say a big thank you to the absolute gentleman that is Richard Swallow for acting as chauffeur for the long journey to Crawley and refusing to take a penny off yours truly. Richard (alongside the ever pleasant Jon Smart) were excellent company on the long journey to and from Crawley, and I also liked Richard’s musical tastes which bear a startling similarity to mine!
I would also like to pay tribute to the other travelling 134 Silkmen fans who joined yours truly in getting behind the lads so magnificently at the curiously named People’s Pension Stadium on Saturday afternoon, where we completely out-sang the predominantly passive fans of the Red Devils of Crawley for the whole of the game. The chant of the day for yours truly had to be ‘Car park at Gatwick. You’re just a car park at Gatwick!!’ whilst the incomparable Ollie Bateman made me and those around around me laugh heartily during the frustrations of the second half. As we defended a dead ball situation from within our penalty area, Ollie shouted out ‘Ffs, it’s like expecting Andy Worth to mark Jon Smart’ as the powerfully built Ollie Palmer was shepherded by the much slighter Miles Welch-Hayes. As a caveat to this; Jon Smart is 6 foot 4 inches as opposed to yours truly who is 5 foot 9 inches tall, and Jon has a much more powerful frame to boot!
The players, Danny, and even Sol clearly appreciated the support of the Silkmen faithful coming right over to us and one of our young fans even got a selfie with his namesake Harry Smith which clearly made the young Junior Smith’s day which was really nice to see.
Now to the game itself, and after a fairly slow start the Silkmen steadily grew into the game. Reece Cole hit a post, and Harry Smith drew a decent save from the Crawley ‘keeper Morris before we deservedly took the lead just before the half-time break. Koby Arthur delivered a tempting cross into the box, and Harry Smith rose magnificently to head the ball into the far corner to the huge delight of the vocal Silkmen following behind the goal where Harry scored.
As we sipped our half-time brews, many of us expressed our satisfaction with a very decent first half performance and sincerely hoped that we could replicate that sort of performance in the second half. Many of us expected that Crawley would come out in a more determined mood after surely having had their collective derriere’s well and truly kicked by their Italian head coach Gabrielle Cioffi, but that after surviving the expected onslaught early in the second half, we could then push on and secure a priceless three points.
Unfortunately the game turned out to be a repeat of last week with a very disappointing second half performance following a very encouraging first half performance. We simply appeared to be comfortable in sitting back and allowing Crawley to come at us in what almost become an attack versus defence scenario, much to the increasing frustration of the Silkmen faithful.
Our frustration was compounded by the fact that we all recognised that Crawley were simply not very good at all and most definitely there for the taking had we showed the positivity that we had so clearly displayed in the first half. As we entered the final few minutes, there was almost a grudging acceptance that the inevitable equaliser would soon arrive and it duly did with six minutes to go of normal time. The Red Devils wing-back Lewis Young fired a shot towards the Silkmen goal, and whilst it took a wicked deflection off the unlucky Fiacre Kelleher and ended up in the Silkmen net and leaving Kieran O’Hara with no chance whatsoever; it was thoroughly deserved for Crawley based upon their second half dominance. The goal did appear to wake the Silkmen up from their slumbers and they pressed forward with more urgency but it really was a case of too little too late, and after six minutes of stoppage time, the referee blew his whistle and the game ended all square.
A hard earned point away from home when considering our current position in the league would normally be something to be praised, so why were so many of the Silkmen faithful so disappointed at this outcome? I would suggest that there are several factors to this. Crawley are a very ordinary side and had we maintained the level of performance from the first half, we would have come out as very comfortable winners, and with other results going for us (with the exception of Yeovil) we would be only a point away from the likes of Vale who do appear to be in absolute free-fall and the Glovers of Yeovil themselves. As it is we are three points adrift with an inferior goal difference to most of those around us when it could have looked so much more rosy come the end of Saturday’s game. We could then have gone to Gigg Lane next Saturday with what would effectively be a free hit against one of the form sides in our division in the Shakers of Bury and still be comfortably in the mix with our relegation threatened rivals even if we were defeated.
Of the players in the shirts of our beloved Silkmen, it was Harry Smith who was yours truly’s Man of the Match as he led the line very well throughout, and scored an excellent goal. I would also like to give an honourable mention to Miles Welch-Hayes who looks so much better at right back (and would probably be a very effective wing back with his pace) and he even did very well when having to move to centre half when the unfortunate Zak Jules picked up what looked to be a hamstring type of injury. Stellios Demetriou who came on to take the right back berth after Zak’s injury had a pretty decent start to his Silkmen career despite playing on the right whilst clearly a left sided player.
This coming Saturday we really do face a very difficult trip to Bury. I would suggest that even the most optimistic of Silkmen fans would be hard pressed to advocate for a positive result against an impressive Shakers outfit who haven’t tasted defeat since Boxing Day 2018, and in addition Gigg Lane is also a ground where we historically have had very little success. I would therefore urge us to adopt an adventurous approach to the game and start with Ryan Lloyd and Elliott Durrell on the wings, whilst restoring the majestic Danny Whitaker to the centre of midfield. I accept that it would be a risk for the three of our stars of last season’s miracle starting against Bury after lengthy lay offs but what do we have to lose ffs? We are expected to get nothing from the game so why not play three of our best players in a game where nothing is expected of us? If nothing else, it would at least allow them to get valuable game time as we start the run in to our date with Football League destiny come the end of the season. I am Silkmen till I die!