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Crawley show broad shoulders at Broadfield

Crawley Town 1 Plymouth Argyle 1

Fenelon (83) Brunt (57)

Footbll League Div 2

Broadfield Stadium 3,522 (Argyle 1,503)

Ground number 91 of 92, the penultimate trip of this magical football ground tour I've been embarking on for the last few years, was Broadfield Stadium, also known as the Stadium after their prime sponsor.

I was in the car for this one and so set off around 9am for the 200 mile trip down the M6, M40, M25 and M23. My mood was slightly subdued as I knew I should really have been at Vicarage Road for the FAC 5th round tie between Watford and Leeds. I'd given my ticket away to a mate who missed out and that made me feel marginally better. The importance of getting Crawley done now was that I'd planned a little celebration for my trip to Southend on March 1st which had always been planned to be the final ground. At least this way it could be a “proper” celebration of completing the 92.

I arrived in Coachman’s Drive and parked up on the roadside about half a mile from the ground – there is plenty of roadside parking around although you trust to luck as everyone this far south drives like a compete nutter! My brief spell on the M25 reminded me why I’ve never hankered to live “darn sarf”.

Walking along Coachman’s Drive you have to go under a gaudy, orange painted underpass to get past a roundabout and then a few yards further on the stadium suddenly appears on your right. It is, much like Wimbledon last week, a very low built stadium so it’s not really visible from afar.

Today the Reds of Crawley were playing the Pilgrims of Plymouth who were flying high in League 2 with only the runaway leaders, Northampton ahead of them in the chase for promotion. Crawley were relatively comfortable in mid-table but still needing a few points to make sure they didn’t get dragged into a relegation battle later in the final weeks of the season.

Plymouth are always well supported away from home and the first thing that struck me on walking up to the stadium was the sheer number of Pilgrims fans already at the ground. I’d seen the support they get last May when I did Wycombe v Plymouth in the League 2 play-off semi-final when the Pilgrims just missed out 5-3 on aggregate, losing 2 – 1 in that game at Wycombe. The Pilgrims had 1,503 here today out of a total crowd of only 3,522!

I collected my ticket and then made way to the far end of the ground where the Redz Bar is located. It was only 1:30pm but the bar was rammed with fans of both sides mixing without problem.

Inside the stadium the first thing you are struck by is how low each of the stands is and, again like Kingsmeadow last week, the surrounding trees tower over them. The ground is relatively new, not yet twenty years old, having been completed in 1997. Town moved here then from their old Town Meadow ground. I watched Crawley as long ago as 1968 when they regularly played my home town team, Worcester City, in the old Southern League; it surprises many to know that Crawley is an old established club dating back to 1894.

The main stand is by far the biggest and stands twice the height of the rest. It runs down two-thirds of the length of the West touchline, is all seated and covered and is raised well above the level of the pitch so can only be reached via steps at the front. The stand opposite looks a very temporary affair as the roof is fabric and could be seen rippling as the wind blew! That one is seated but only about 12 rows deep but runs the length of the pitch. Both ends are covered terraces that look identical and run around opposite corners a few yards as well as the full width of the pitch. Today, the Plymouth Argyle fans completely filled the North Terrace while the South, where I stood, was only a third full at best. The home fans did have a resident drummer though who made up for the lack of numbers! The Red Devils’ mascot was one of the laziest I’ve ever seen and he spent the entire first half stood in the south-east corner, motionless! He or she was a very gentle looking devil though!

It was another decent game, I have been so lucky in that I really cannot remember a single “bad” game in the whole of my 92 portfolio! Predictably, Plymouth started off strong and put Crawley to the sword and the Pilgrims looked a very good side at this level, moving the ball about at pace and getting in the face of the home side on the rare occasions the ball was given up. A combination of good fortune and poor Plymouth finishing somehow meant the game was still nil-nil at half time. I’d been getting regular updates from the game at Vicarage Road from my mates who were there and it sounded a similar game; Watford were dominating there but it got to half time with no score.

The second half was just 12 minutes old when Plymouth finally and deservedly took the lead. A long right wing cross was eventually collected on the left and sent back into the middle where Ryan Brunt was left unchallenged to head home. About the same time and sixty miles north of Broadfield, Scott Wootton was slicing the ball into his own net and Watford would go on to put Leeds out of the cup 1 – 0.

At the ‘Checkatrade’ though, Plymouth didn’t see the game out the same way and gradually the home side got themselves into it. In the second half the Reds were attacking the South End where I was stood and finally the drummer had something to drum about. They left it late but with just under ten minutes to go they got the equaliser. If ever there was any doubt about the Pilgrims seafaring connections this is the description of the Crawley goal from the Pilrims’ website: Shamir Fenelon’s late equaliser from a set-piece not only took the air from the Pilgrims’ figurative sails, but snapped the mast halfway up and left the crew of the good ship shell-shocked below deck.

It was a bit of a scrappy goal; a left wing free kick was floated to the back post where Josh Yorwerth got his head to it. The ball fell in no man’s land in the six yard box and Fenelon was quicker than the Pilgrims’ keeper to poke the ball over the line.

More pressure from the home side followed but it would have been a tad unfair on the visitors had they succumbed again. 1-1 was a fair result overall but Plymouth still look likely to get promoted in one of the three automatic places.

I then journeyed a few miles up the M23 to Reigate where I had a pleasant pub-meal with my elder son and then set off on the long journey home with mixed emotions. I was obviously contemplating a long tail end of the season with Leeds who now had almost nothing to play for in their final 15 games which was a disappointing end to another forgettable season. For me though I now had the prospect of that little party at Southend on March 1st where I would finally complete “the 92”!

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