At 3pm yesterday I was in a rather unusual position of standing on the terrace, relatively inebriated, full of hope and excitement.
Anyone who follows me regularly will know I haven’t had a drink since New Year and that I’m not the most optimistic of fans. I often struggle to enjoy our matches as I fear falling away from the top three. I felt the same in the National League and have spent many an afternoon since January sat trying not to bite my nails, wishing it was 5pm.
It was different yesterday. Since I’ve stated that automatic promotion is secure in all but fact, I’ve felt comfortable. The black dog on my back telling me ‘It’s Lincoln, they’ll bugger it up’, has been silenced. The darkness has lifted and its coincided with the boys doing the business on the pitch.
For a short while I wondered if draws might be out undoing, I cringed through Northampton and Stevenage at home, but that’ in the past. This is our promotion season, just where we finish in the top three is the question to be answered. That isn’t arrogance, it’s belief.
I enjoyed the drive to Newark train station yesterday. I relished the chatter between Pete, Dad and I on the way down. I thoroughly enjoyed picking up Dave meeting my good friend Roy and his crew at the services. No sick feeling in my stomach, no real worry of collapse. I thought we’d draw, but never did I feel I’d be making the same trip next season.
I wouldn’t be upset to travel there in terms of hospitality though. The ground is very nice, perhaps reminiscent of the National League more than anything, but it’s adequate for League Two. The people are friendly, car parking was free, the home bar was good and the food in the ground wasn’t terrible either. In my opinion, we won’t be back at Crawley but it’s not the worst away trip I’ve been on in the last couple of years. Thanks to the result, it might be one of the best.
Anyway, this isn’t a ground guide nor an assessment of my mental state before games. The focus is on the field and the quest for three points. I felt they’d look for a response after the 6-1 defeat last weekend, maybe not play the ball out from the back as much, but that didn’t happen at all.
Instead, for the first ten minutes, we looked excellent. The opening exchanges belonged to us and it quickly became evident why they struggled with conceding goals. The keeper look sloppy, the defenders looked scared and a couple of early corners could have proven to be damaging, had we got into the right positions.
After that, the game tailed off a bit. We weren’t bad, not by a long shot, but one or two passes went astray. They began to find a bit of build up play and in one area of the pitch looked promising. Just in front of our back four they played the ball nicely, left to right, hoping to isolate one of our full backs. Our game plan involves Eardley and Toffolo getting forward, but it can leave them open to attack. The home side tried to get through that way, but it always broke down when they looked for the centre forward.
They offered a bit, a tepid shot from Camara and a ‘mazy’ (read cumbersome and aimless) run from Palmer drew a corner, but aside from that you could tell it was top against lower half. I turned to Pete and said ‘one goal changes this.’
One goal then changed it. Neal Eardley delivered yet another wonderful cross into the box and Bruno, cutting across goal, stroked the ball home with ease to make it 1-0. If this was a boxing match, the underdog had just been floored for the first time and right then you knew this was only going one way.
What baffled me was their lack of answers to the same question. The madness definition, doing the same thing over and over expecting the same result, has a flip side. The definition of stupid is having the same thing done to you time and again and not stopping it. How many times did our quick free kick routine work in the first half? Three I think I counted. Crawley’s defence just didn’t learn and even after the goal, we could have gone 2-0 up using that routine.
Elsewhere the Cods were drawing and Mansfield were drawing too. The half time whistle brought proceedings to a close with us edging ever-closer to the automatic promotion spot I believe we’ve already got in the bag.
Next Page: The Second Half & some excellent Graham Burrell photography
If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to click in the box below and give me a vote in the FBA’s
If you’re feeling especially benevolent, you can go to the official FBA Website and vote for me by typing Stacey West Blog in the Best Club Creator field, as well as Stacey West Podcast in the Best Podcast field.