Crawley Town match preview

I’m going to try to go through this whole preview without mentioning you-know-who, because to constantly reference the one player who played for us does a big disservice to the Red Devils.

Crawley are currently 16th in League Two, having won two and lost three of their opening six games. It is almost a case of ‘as you were’ from last season, although at one stage they looked like cracking the top seven. They faded a little, if anything due to the reliance on one game plan and a lack of plan B.

That game plan was more than effective over two games against us though, with a dour 0-0 draw at Sincil Bank disappointing us in October. They came to the bank with just four wins all season, but looked compact and organised as we dropped points.

When we went there in February they’d won 10 of their previous 15 matches and by the time we left, they’d won 11 of 16. To be fair, they brushed us aside in an easy 3-1 victory where Matt Green’s equaliser was far more than we deserved. Will they be the same this time around?

I’m not sure we under estimated them as such, not behind the scenes anyway and this season I suspect the fans won’t wither. Their first ever trip to the Bank was expected to bring a win for us though and most pundits would predict the same again this time out. That could be a huge mistake.

Away at Crawley last season (courtesy of Graham Burrell)

They’re thought to be lining up in a 4-4-2, but it could be the last time as new Head Coach Gabriele Ciffi will be watching over and looking to take over on Monday. Filipe Morais and Jimmy Smith will take the reigns and that could be a good thing for City as Morais might not play. He’s played in six matches so far and was something of a marquee signing, although he averages two shots per game and has yet to score or provide an assist.

Ashley Nathaniel-George has appeared four times this season, but has caught the eye and it could be him running at Neal Eardley, with on-loan Luke Gambin facing Harry Toffolo. Expect to see lots of play out wide tomorrow as Crawley love a raid down the flank, although if the ball gets pushed into the middle of the park we could win the battle there. They have Josh Payne and Jimmy Smith usually operating in the centre of the park which could give whichever combination we go with an advantage. They could choose to go with veteran Dannie Bulman, he’s 39 and makes Lee Frecklington look like a spring chicken.

At the back, former Bradford man Romain Vincelot is a key man, but will need to be assessed after picking up an injury at Oldham. the other possibility at the back is Bondz N’Gala, he joined recently as a free agent and could start at centre-back instead.

Crawley have won just once in the last seven games, that coming courtesy of two goals in the last ten minutes against Bury. They were lucky to draw at home to Swindon, a late penalty eventually beat Phil Brown’s side who played forty minutes with nine men. Defeats against Oldham, Stevenage and Port Vale suggest it could be a tough afternoon for our visitors, but football rarely follows a form book.

Getting right into the numbers, our average height is likely to be more than Crawley’s marginally, and we have the advantage of knowing exactly what makes you-know-who tick, as well as understanding his weaknesses.

Crawley last season, courtesy of Graham Burrell

Without wanting to be cocky, this should be a Lincoln City win. We’ve proven we can beat the struggling teams (Notts County), the high-flyers (Exeter) and the midtable sides (Swindon) already. Whereas some sides have the capability of hurting us, we should be able to nullify their threat without too much trouble and if Vincelot is missing, it could be a fun afternoon for John Akinde facing his old club.

Now, onto the rather failed betting tips section. If you’d followed me last week there would be nothing left in the kitty to go with this week! I did get two of the games spot on, Derby beat Hull and Charlton beat Southend. Typically, Notts County let me down, not just for £170 but also in letting FGR win again.

This weekend I’m certain there’s value in a four-way accumulator than would net you £110 from a £5 stake. Forest Green broke my bet last week, but they should beat Port Vale at home, so that is game one. I like Swindon at Morecambe too, the latter are awful and I fancy Swindon to creep up the table. Then pick up Portsmouth and Oxford in League One to beat Shrewsbury and Coventry respectively. Be warned; this bet will run over to Sunday.

If you’re really ambitious, you might even throw Lincoln City to beat Crawley, although I don’t like to bet on the Imps myself.

(I did it, not once in the whole article did I mention his name.)