Football League Trophy First Round
Broadfield Stadium, Crawley
Match Rating: 4
I have been wanting to revisit the Bradfield Stadium for the first time since it became a Football League venue for some time, and tickets priced at just £5.00 was motivation enough to pay that visit this evening. It would also be the first time I would watch a game in the Football League Trophy.
The Broadfield Stadium is located about a half hour walk south from Crawley train station, and is very accessible by car, taking the dual carriageway north from the bottom end of the M23 at Pease Pottage services, and two free of charge car parks are available close to the ground for spectators. Three sides of the ground have not changed since Crawley's non league days. The main stand offers excellent elevated and unobstructed views, whilst behind both goals is covered terracing, which extend around the corners to the main stand length on both sides. The remaining length used to be just hard standing but now a temporary looking all-seater structure stretching the entire length is now in place. Whilst quite attractive and having a cosy, protected look inside, it does have lots of narrow obstructing pillars along the front. The programme this evening was a smaller version than usual, but was excellent value at £1.50, 24 glossy pages in full colour with all of the essentials and little of the clutter that plagues many Football League programmes.
This evening's game would be between two clubs with identical records in the league this season, albeit with a division separating them. Both teams have won four, drawn four and lost two from their opening ten games, with Crawley in eighth place in League One, with 16 points from ten games, whilst Newport, newly promoted into the Football League this season, in ninth place in League Two. League form may nonetheless best indicator of form for this game though, with both sides making the maximum permissible number of changes to their starting line-ups from their last league games.
On a relatively mild evening, this certainly was a game full of drama, with seemingly a bit of everything taking place. Although Newport started quite well, Crawley expectedly took the lead on 13 minutes when Emile Sinclair stabbed the ball towards goal from a low cross, which went into net via a deflection off a defender. On 22 minutes Crawley doubled their lead, and what a goal it was. The Newport keeper came way out of his area to clear the ball, but it fell at the feet of Mike Jones who struck the ball from just inside the Crawley half high and eventually dropping into the net for a quite sensational goal, the first time I have witnessed a goal scored from beyond the halfway line. Soon afterwards, the referee had to be replaced because of injury. Newport gradually came more into the game and quite deservedly pulled a goal back on 43 minutes after Chris Zebroski tapped in from close range after Mike Flynn ran to the byline and passed the ball across goal.
The game changing moment came just three minutes after the break, when James Hurst made a hash of heading back to his keeper and pulled back the Newport striker as he latched onto the ball. The red card was shown and a penalty awarded, and Andy Chapman scored low to the left with the keeper diving the other way. On 61 minutes, Newport turned the game on its head by taking the lead, Robbie Wilmott driving a powerful shot across goal which retreating Crawley defender Connor Essam diverted into his own net when diving to intercept the ball. By this time, Newport's lead was well deserved as Crawley's play seemed lethargic and error strewn. They did apply some pressure in the closing minutes, having a couple of decent chances, but Newport held on for a good cup shock win.