Crawley preview… It’s not job done yet! 

We travel South to the Broadfield Stadium on Sunday knowing that our League One status isn’t secure yet. You wouldn’t look at Coventry v Crawley and deem it as a big game, but in the current situation, it’s a massive fixture. Both sides are fighting for survival and three of the four relegation places will be decided on the last day; it sure will be a nail-biter. The Red Devils will desperately be looking for the three points which they need to give themselves any chance of staying up, whilst a point would ensure the Sky Blues a finish above the dreaded dotted line.

It’s been a long season for both teams but with all due respect to Crawley Town, the Sky Blues shouldn’t be scrapping for survival with the likes of them. If the home side do manage to stay up then that would be seen as an achievement. On the contary, if we manage to get the point needed I don’t think anyone will be ‘celebrating’ as such. Jim O’Brien and Tony Mowbray have already spoken about the match and they both read off the same hymn sheet… They will not see securing our status in the third tier as an achievement, with both acknowledging the fact we should be competing at the other end of the table.

The last time the two sides met was at the Ricoh Arena back in October. It was one of many games at home where the Sky Blues should have picked up all three points, especially after racing in to a 2-0 lead courtesy of Josh McQuoid and Simeon Jackson. City looked in full control but they characteristically threw it away before half time. Gwion Edwards and Izale McLeod restored parity for the Red Devils before a lacklustre second period saw no goals, the game ending 2-2.

It will be a completely different affair this time around though as it’s judgement day in SkyBet League One. Both teams are in need of a result which could lead to an open game, but it will be a real fight! I will comment on recent form later on in the blog post but that is thrown out of the window at this stage really. It will come down to who wants it more and I hope that’s us. I’ve questioned our bottle all season, and with so many young heads within our squad, can we handle the pressure?

 

This place will be packed as both Crawley and the Sky Blues have sold out for the fixture…it promises to be a daunting atmosphere.

Form…

Crawley Town come in to the game on the back of a disappointing and morale destroying 4-3 loss away to Peterborough, where a late goal from Conor Washington broke Crawley hearts. Overall, in the last six fixtures the Reds have picked up 2 wins, 1 draw and 3 losses which equates to 7 points from a possible 18. This may not be great form but the home supporters will believe they have enough quality to get past a young Coventry side.

Coventry City put in one of their worst performances of the campaign last time out, falling 3-1 to fellow strugglers Crewe Alexandra at the Ricoh Arena. Mowbray’s men will be confident though as they’ve kept four consecutive clean sheets on their travels, bringing home 8 points in the process. If you look at City’s last six fixtures though it shows 1 win, 3 draws and 2 losses, which equates to a fairly poor 6 points from the 18 on offer. I wouldn’t bank on a clean sheet this time around either, especially as Crawley have proven they are more than capable going forward.

Team news…

The Red Devils will still be without Conor Henderson and Dean Leacock for Sunday’s fixture. The previous has been out since January with an ankle injury whilst the latter suffered a reoccurrence of a groin problem a month ago. Player of the year Ryan Dickson will also be unavailable for the game, with manager Dean Saunders revealing today (Friday) that the defender’s hernia problem will keep him out.

Apart from the three mentioned, the home side have a fully fit squad to select from as they look to defeat the Sky Blues.

The Sky Blues could see Marcus Tudgay return to the side after a month out with a hamstring injury. Tony Mowbray said during the week that the striker would train ahead of the game and he could be available for selection.

On the injury front, loanee Matthew Pennington has been ruled out after coming off at half-time versus Crewe. Aaron Martin replaced the young defender and he looks likely to start at Centre Back on Sunday afternoon.

One to watch…

Izale McLeod 

The 30 year old striker has been a shining light during a fairly miserable campaign for the Sussex side. He has weighed in with a very respectable 19 goals which places him fifth in the League One goal scoring charts. When he left MK Dons in the summer I touted him as a player we should sign, and we’ve certainly missed a player like him this season. His pace and awareness of where the net is will certainly cause the Sky Blues some problems on Sunday, along with his physical attributes. Our back four will have to be on form to stop him.

Unfortunately for the City fans they may remember him scoring against us for Portsmouth at the Ricoh Arena a couple of seasons ago, and for MK Dons last season. He does possess a decent scoring record against us, scoring in our last three meetings. In the Reds last fixture, McLeod was unable to find the net but he will certainly be looking to fire Crawley to safety in this fixture.

The view from the dugout…

Tony Mowbray:

“This week it’s just about one game and I’m looking forward to the challenge. We’re going down there to be positive and take the confidence from our recent away form and go and try to win.”

“There’s no anxiety on the training pitch but you can’t recreate what it’s going to be like on Sunday. It’s tense on the last day but hopefully we’ll have enough in the tank to get a result.”

“You have to have a calmness and aggression about you and play the game – go and win your individual battles and not get sucked into a scrap, which is maybe not our strength.

“Crawley have won their last two home games and have found a way of getting results at home so we have to be mindful of that but not fear it.”

Crawley boss, Dean Saunders:

 

“The big plus for us is that it looks like the game will be sold out. 4,000-plus of our own fans can make a huge difference. The players are in good spirits, they are nice and relaxed and looking forward to getting the job done, although we know Coventry will make it very difficult for us.”

My Thoughts…

Well, I’ll certainly be chewing my fingernails on the coach to Crawley and I could imagine every other City fan will be of a nervous disposition too, regardless of where they are. It’s an absolutely huge game for this football club as relegation to the fourth tier is simply unthinkable – it would be the death of us. 

I have wondered whether we’ve got the fight in our squad all season and at times we’ve shown some…I just hope we have enough heart to suck ourselves away from danger on Sunday. The lack of experience within our ranks will certainly make life a little harder but we do have some old heads in there who can hopefully calm the younger lads down. The John Flecks and Aaron Martins of the side may be relatively young but they’ll need to stand up too as they do have a lot of experience for their age. 

We’ve shown in some games that we do possess some quality, you only have to look at the Bristol City game a few weeks back. If we can couple the occasional glimpses of quality we have shown throughout the season with the battling spirit showed versus the champions, we should have enough to get over the line. Of course, if we do end up losing (I bloody hope we don’t), we are the better positioned of the six teams that are still in the fight. Notts County would still have to beat Gillingham and Crewe would need to get a point versus Bradford, but stranger things have happened…

In my opinion we need to go in to the game on Sunday wanting to get the first goal. If we sit deep and invite pressure, well, I could see Crawley turning us over. If we were out of the blocks quickly the home side would know they’re in for a fight, and if we go a goal or two to the good? Happy days! I just can’t settle going in to the fixture, I just pray that the players can control their nerves more than me. With 1600 City fans roaring the lads on, I do fancy us to get the result we need – but that won’t stop me checking for score updates for 90 minutes! 

My prediction…

Crawley Town 2-2 Coventry City

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