Sideways Sammy 2016/17 Season Review

It’s that time of the year again! Strap yourselves in, have someone close with a pipette to moisten your eyeballs, as it’s time for a bit of the old ultra-analysis – the Sideways Sammy Season Review.

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Featuring 74 Pages of:

Club-By-Club Reviews, Squad Reviews, Jack McBean Memories, Manager Reviews, The Player of the Year, The Young Player of the Year, What and an Exhaustive Account Of The Coventry City Season.

Another Manager

There can be no defending of Russell Slade’s record as manager at Coventry City. He was supposed to come in and quickly grind out the results required to keep us in the division, he won one of 13 league games in charge. What’s more, the performances were of a low standard and offered little hope that things could improve to an acceptable enough level to merit entrusting him with rebuilding the club over the summer.

However, we’ve Slade wasn’t really sacked for the results and performances, per se, he was sacked because his replacement had already been sourced. As shambolic as it is to sack a manager after 13 games, having the replacement already lined up at least partially demonstrates the kind of decisiveness behind the scenes that has been lacking over the past 18 months.

It begs the question of why this kind of move couldn’t have been made when there was still a realistic chance of survival? It’s not only looking back in December when Slade was appointed, but also the months beforehand when Mark Venus was in caretaker charge of the club, or even the period at the start of the season where it looked like Tony Mowbray was unable to get results with this team. It was the right decision to sack Slade, but it’s one that had to be made after a series of more meaningful poor decisions.

The upshot of it all is that we’ve appointed a new manager to oversee the rebuilding of the club in a lower division, where there’s the conceivable threat of dropping into non-league. Not only that, but the lack of leadership and a sense of a vision at the club this season has led to acrimony between the club and the fans, which has further put the club’s future in jeopardy. It’s why it’s hard to congratulate the club on bringing back a manager who was statistically our best ever.

It’s also worth considering that we’re not bringing back the Mark Robins who left the club so acrimoniously four years ago. Back in 2013, he was someone who had earned a job at an up-and-coming Championship club on merit. In 2017, after two failed managerial spells at Huddersfield and Scunthorpe, he’s exactly the kind of manager a struggling League One club would appoint.

Not only that, but there were clear signs towards the end of his first spell at the club that a collapse in form was imminent. Robins’ cautious approach tended to work well away from home when we hit teams on the counter-attack, against teams looking to the same against us at the Ricoh Arena, we were starting to run into issues. The sense that Robins is a short-term manager who struggles to maintain consistency over the course of a league season has been backed up by his two previous managerial postings.

That being said, Robins has tended to be a canny operator in the transfer market, having laid the foundations not only for the team that started the season at Sixfields so well but also putting together the team at Scunthorpe that are currently pushing for automatic promotion (save for two or three key players). Given that we’re expecting another big turnover of players over the summer, I have more faith in Robins to build a team than I would any of our previous managers.

In the grander scheme of things, the identity of the manager right now probably counts for very little. It’s not pessimistic to suggest that attendances next season could be around 5,000-6,000, at best, that there’ll be a major exodus of talent over the summer, and that the squad will be strung together via a mixture of raw youngsters, loans and veterans.

At best, Mark Robins may help bring a sense of stability to the club as we head into a really difficult time. However, if we find some form next season, the club is set-up to lose talent without being able to replace it and it feels like any upturn will be short-lived. At worst, if Robins cannot make a reasonable impact at this club, it could really put the club in serious jeopardy.

Being manager of Coventry City is a high stakes game where the rewards are small and the pitfalls of failure are massive. Like in the game of Russian Roulette where you’re reward for surviving not shooting yourself in the head, is another chance to maybe not shoot yourself in the head. As a fan, there’s always a part of you that hopes that the next manager really changes things – maybe winning at Wembley or winning promotion from League Two would achieve that – but at this stage, we really need someone to show us first that they can do that before we believe in them.

What Difference Has Slade Made?

10 league games in to Russell Slade’s reign and we’ve finally managed a league victory, and although survival seems like a long distance away, it seems worth asking the question now whether Slade has actually improved the team and ultimately, whether we can expect further improvements between now and the end of the season.

10 league games is a good point to assess Russell Slade’s reign, as it’s more-or-less, the same amount as Tony Mowbray and Mark Venus had in charge – well, exactly the same amount as Mowbray, Venus had 12 games in charge. It allows us to take a look at how did the best with the squad, and who might be most accountable when relegation happens (aside from the owners, but this article isn’t about that).

The concisest way to look at this is to count how many points we’ve earned under each manager. Mowbray and Slade both took six points from the ten games they had in charge, while Mark Venus’ spell saw us take 13 points from 12 games. In that regard, Venus has been our best manager this season by some distance.

However, that doesn’t take into account underlying performances. There have been several occasions this season where it’s felt like we haven’t taken what we’ve deserved from games, while we’ve also helped ourselves to a few wins that we didn’t really have a right to, such is football. So the question then is which of our managers got performances that deserved to win games.

To calculate this I’ve taken the difference between the shots on target we’ve had in games versus the shots on target we’ve conceded. The games in which we’ve had more than one shot on target compared to our opponents is deemed a game we should have won, any game where it’s been even or one either way is deemed to have been a game we should have drawn.

It’s not a perfect metric to calculate whether a team deserved to win a game, considering that an effort that trickles into a keeper’s arms is considered a shot on target while a sitter smashed onto the post is considered not to have been on target. However, over a period of several games, it goes some way to representing how well a team has played.

Shot Difference Under Each Manager

Shot Difference Under Each Manager

During Mowbray’s ten games in charge, we should have taken eleven points. In particular, the Northampton and Shrewsbury home games both deserved wins, considering we took four and three extra shots on target than our opponents. We over-performed under Mark Venus, taking 13 points when we deserved 11. We’ve also over-performed under Slade, taking six points when we’ve only deserved three.

That stat should be particularly concerning regarding our chances for survival. We’ve consistently been out-shot by our opponents, and, by metric, we haven’t actually deserved to win a game under Slade. If we are to find the eight or nine wins we realistically need to survive under Slade, we’re going to have to improve by a significant amount.

Those stats also show how costly our inability to convert chances into goals under Tony Mowbray have been for our survival prospects. Overall, we should be on 35 points, which isn’t great, but would have meant we would currently be outside the relegation zone.

It’s a philosophical question more than anything. Is it better to be consistently unlucky in football, or is it better to nick points that you don’t deserve?

Over the short-term, it is probably good to be able to scrape results from bad performances, which is maybe a reason to be somewhat encouraged by Slade’s football. However, luck tends to even out over a longer period and you need to make sure you’re putting the odds in your favour.

Some other interesting shots stats to point out in comparing our three managers this season is looking at the individual attacking and defensive performances. Mowbray managed 0.6 goals per game, Venus 1.1 and Slade a round 1 goal per game. Not getting a goalscorer in early in the season seems to have been one of the biggest reasons why we didn’t get the points we deserved under Mowbray and thus, why we’re struggling now.

Attacking and Defensive Performances Under Our Three Managers

Attacking and Defensive Performances Under Our Three Managers

In terms of the amount of shots overall we’ve had per game, Mowbray managed 12.5, Venus 13.5 and Slade sticking out with just 7.2. However, we’ve been far more clinical under Slade than Mowbray or Venus, nearly 40% of the shots we’ve taken under Slade have been on target, which is nearly 10% better than both Mowbray and Venus, and 36% of the shots on target we’ve had under Slade have gone in, more than double what it was under Mowbray. This is probably why we took more points than we’ve deserved under Slade and why we didn’t under Mowbray, by creating better quality chances and then going on to take them.

Defensively though, we’ve gotten worse with each manager. Mowbray’s team conceded 1.2 goals per game, while Slade has us conceding a costly 1.9 per game – which is significant considering we’re only averaging one goal per game. For a defensive manager, that should have been where Slade made a real difference and if he’d been better able to tighten our defence. On the other hand, if we can quickly improve defensively, we have a formula for survival given our clinical nature in front of goal since Slade’s arrival.

Ultimately, Slade’s arrival has seen us become a worse team – we create fewer chances and we’re incredibly leaky defensively. We would do well not to read too much into the win over Gillingham, a game that could easily have lost given the number of chances we conceded. We’ve been a team that’s pretty much deserved to be around the relegation zone all season and we’ve gotten worse.

If we do survive, it would be truly remarkable, and not just because of our position in the division. On the bright side, there is a formula for survival, it just depends on our defence being able to consistently hold firm.

Half-Way Review

Overview

The season felt like it was starting several weeks too early for us with our opening game against Swindon Town feeling more like a pre-season friendly than a competitive fixture, given how many key spots in the starting XI needed to be filled. That lack of preparedness in time for the opening day was compounded by a grueling run of fixtures in August, as well as a series of transfer targets appearing to slip through our fingers.

Tony Mowbray almost seemed content to declare the first month of the season as a false-start, but the problem was that when this supposed actual start to the season came round in September, we still didn’t seem anywhere near ready. It quickly became apparent that we had an inexperienced team lack in a presence in every area of the pitch. Despite some fairly decent performances at times, that determination and nous to ensure the ball went into the opposing net rather than ours was clearly missing.

It was apparent long before Tony Mowbray resigned after the 2-2 draw with AFC Wimbledon that he had no idea how to mould the set of players he had assembled into a winning team. His refrain upon his resignation of ‘you can’t build a club off loans’ felt a dire warning about the state that the club was in, but was, at least partially, also an indictment of his his over-reliance on loan players during his 18-month spell at the club.

With no process seemingly in place to appoint a new manager, Mark Venus shuffled awkwardly into the fray as caretaker manager. His position on the board and lack of prior managerial experience meant that a sizeable number of fans were going to struggle to warm to him, but a convincing win away at Port Vale was a promising early sign.

Despite an improvement in results, it was only the performances away at Port Vale and at home to Oxford that truly merited victories. The home wins against Rochdale and Chesterfield were particularly unconvincing, with the opposition spurning some excellent chances before we managed to snatch a few chances on the break. Nevertheless, Venus’ decision to stick with a settled line-up looked to have allowed the team to build the understanding required to win narrow games.

However, that improved form was emphatically proven to be something of a mirage. A narrow loss at home to league leaders Scunthorpe saw Venus begin to tinker unnecessarily with the starting line-up, leading to a heavy defeat away at Oxford, before narrow, but dispiriting, defeats against Bolton and MK ‘Dons’ to end any sense of optimism that we might avoid a relegation battle this season.

An utterly embarrassing 4-0 to Cambridge United in the FA Cup was probably the end of Mark Venus’ prospects of landing the job on a permanent basis and December played out with a series of lacklustre and lifeless performances with the team devoid of confidence and in the knowledge that their manager didn’t want to be there.

The appointment of Russell Slade as Tony Mowbray’s replacement looks to have provided a lift, with the losing streak ended at Peterborough and 2-2 draw against Bolton in our last game that we were unfortunate not to win. Time will tell whether the improved performances will augur to a run to survival, but things are already looking more optimistic than they were a couple of weeks ago.

Who’s Played Well?

The only player who stands out as having played consistently well this season is Ben Stevenson. I remember watching him in in pre-season, the technical ability was clearly there but he struggled to cope with the physical side of the game and I thought he probably wasn’t quite ready for the first-team. Every game he’s played since then has defied that initial impression I had of him. It’s not just that he’s so technically adept, but it’s that he’s been able to screen the defence so well with his reading of the game in a physical division that has been especially remarkable. It’s been apparent that he’s simply a class above, and sadly it seems he’ll almost certainly leave this month with barely 20 first-team appearances to his name.

As for the others, no-one’s been anywhere near as convincing as Stevenson has been. Gael Bigirimana looked like a completely different player to the one he was last season when he came back in August, but he has reverted to type somewhat over the past few months and is now out of the team under Russell Slade. The since-departed Marvin Sordell was better than the modest pre-season expectations most had of him, but not to the degree that his departure is that much of a blow to the team.

Elsewhere, Andy Rose did really well when he returned from injury but hasn’t replicated that impact over the past month or so. He seems to be at his best when given licence to make late runs into the box, but Russell Slade appears to be playing him as the deeper-lying midfielder in a central two, which may limit his effectiveness. Jordan Willis seems to have gotten a lot of praise this season for a few decent performances, but I find it hard to believe many Championship clubs would be as keen on signing him as many seem to believe.

Who’s Been Rubbish?

If we do go down, the single biggest on-field decision to have contributed to it will have been Tony Mowbray’s call to replace Aaron Martin with Jordan Turnbull. He doesn’t dominate physically and he’s nervous on the ball, Turnbull has consistently cost us points with a series of basic errors. Mowbray let a solid and reliable League One centre-back go to bring in someone who, and this is being nice to him, still has a lot to learn.

The three key players that I identified in my season preview as being key for us heading into this season have all disappointed in different ways. Reice Charles-Cook was dropped from the side by Mark Venus having failed to build on some excellent performances towards the end of last season, and appears to be second-choice under Slade too. Jodi Jones looks a threatening player but makes poor decisions in the final third and is going to have to work hard to get back into the side. Then there’s Vladimir Gadzhev, a Bulgarian international who’s played in the Champions League, who just hasn’t looked up to the pace of English football.

What Do We Need To Survive?

It would be dangerous to read too much into a single performance, but the showing against Bolton, just one day after Russell Slade had made his first few moves in the transfer market, was highly encouraging. There seemed to have been an increase in intensity and the work-rate of the team, with Stuart Beavon in particular seeming to demonstrate the qualities Slade wants to bring to the side. That being said, Bolton’s two goals came from sloppy pieces of defending, which signals that there is still plenty of work still to be done by Slade.

With only one point, with a game in hand, separating us from safety, the improvements Slade needs to make shouldn’t have to be too drastic to ensure survival. If Nathan Clarke and Kevin Foley’s experience help tighten up the defence, that will go a long way to making the task ahead for us more straightforward. In attack, Stuart Beavon’s work-rate looks like it’s going to be a major asset, especially if he can sustain 90 minutes on a consistent basis, but we probably need a few reliable players in front of goal to benefit from Beavon’s selflessness.

With Ben Stevenson and Cian Harries looking likely to be sold, as well as the loan players returning to their parent clubs, we’re witnessing a very quick transformation in the identity of this team. We’re going from a very young team that, had Mowbray got his summer transfer business right, would have attacked this division with style and panache, to a more experienced and cautious set-up. Mowbray’s set-up had a thinner margin between success and failure, while Slade’s should at least ensure survival for a year or two, but not much better.

Slade’s appointment and machinations in the transfer market thus far seems to be an acceptance that we’re going to, hopefully, be a League One team for several years to come. It’s encouraging in the short-term of this survival battle and depressing for the longer-term that we’re selling our most talented youngsters at the earliest possible opportunity to bring in older players who’ll be of use for a season or two.

The focus right now at this football club is clearly not on the long-term, there is no plan to get out of this division, we don’t know where we’ll be playing after next season, and there’s a realistic prospect that there won’t be a club to support in a few years’ time. We should survive, and hopefully there’ll be some memories of good performances to be made along the way, but there’s this feeling in the pit of most Sky Blues fans’ stomachs that this might be some kind of last hurrah.

Preview: Sheffield United

We’re properly crap at the moment. We lost 3-1 to Southend at the weekend and it wasn’t even suprising. We’re heading into a game against one of the most in-form sides in the division, who also happen to be Sheffield United, it’s also going to be on a Thursday night for some reason, so no-one’s going to be there and we have a manager who doesn’t want to be there either.

The attempt to appoint Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink this week has signalled that we are actively looking for a new manager, which is something. How much we should be concerned that the talks ultimately fell through is probably something we’ll only really know when we finally know the identity of our next manager and how long it takes to get to that point.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

This upcoming game against Sheffield United feels more like an obligation than it is an opportunity to give our season a shot in the arm. With the focus having shifted from Mark Venus salvaging his managerial hopes to ensnaring the next chump, the excuse for the players mentally not turning up for this game is already there. Something crazy would have to happen for Sheffield United not to win this game.

As for what team we’ll play, that continues to be anyone’s guess. If James Sterry is unavailable at right-back, Dion Kelly-Evans will continue in the side and will inevitably be targeted by a physical and experienced Sheffield United side. Dan Agyei’s consolation goal against Southend will probably see him continue in the side with Marvin Sordell out wide. Jodi Jones’ assist for Agyei’s goal seems like it will be enough for him to start this game. Lee Burge’s injury on Saturday could well see Reice Charles-Cook return in goal.

Last Time We Met

Following a sloppy away performance at Doncaster towards the end of last season, we headed into our previous meeting with Sheffield United knowing that the unlikely prospect of salvaging a play-off spot was past us. Against a Sheffield United side still harbouring their own faint play-off hopes we played an experimental 3-4-3 system featuring a front three of Fortuné, Lameiras and George Thomas with Stephen Hunt at wing-back, which somehow saw us fly out of the blocks to take an early 2-0 lead. A cumbersome Blades side laboured to get a goal back in the second-half, only for a swift counter-attacking move involving Jodi Jones and Aaron Phillips, finished by Ruben Lameiras, see us take a decisive 3-1 lead in the final minutes.

How Are They Doing?

As always seems to be the case at Bramall Lane, a disappointing season at this level saw a summer change in manager and most of the squad with the promise that this would be the year that they sorted it all out. Unlike the past five seasons though, this iteration of Sheffield United actually looks they’ve sorted it all out.

After a difficult start to the season, former Northampton manager and ex-Blades player Chris Wilder has turned Sheffield United into a ruthlessly efficient team-unit. It hasn’t been that they’ve just lost one of their past 17 games and scored 37 goals in the process, it’s that they’ve absolutely dominated almost every game they’ve played during that period.

The early season jitters Sheffield United suffered came from a series of sloppy defensive errors which saw Chris Wilder act decisively in jettisoning left-back Chris Hussey and keeper George Long for the squad, bringing in the towering centre-back Ethan Ebanks-Landell from Wolves and keeper Simon Moore from Cardiff City and switching to a 3-4-1-2 formation. Not only have the changes seem to have eradicated the defensive weaknesses but they have made the Blades a more effective, dominant and attacking team overall.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

Kieron Freeman and Danny Lafferty in the two wing-back positions have supplied energy, width and excellent delivery from wide areas. John Fleck and Paul Coutts have offered composure and penetration on the ball from the centre of the park to allow Mark Duffy, who has played almost his entire career as a winger, to flourish as a roving, in-your-face number 10.

Up front, Sheffield United have an array of options but have generally stuck with the energy of Matt Done alongside the pure finishing instincts of Billy Sharp. However, with Leon Clarke’s physicality and link-up play and the pace of Caolan Lavery to bring on from the bench, Chris Wilder has several ways in which he can change the game up should Plan A somehow fail to work.

Prediction

I cannot envision which circumstances would lead to victory for us in this fixture. Sheffield United are by far a better team than us in every area of the pitch and they are in excellent form. This game has a 4-0 loss written all over it.

Preview: Southend United

After one of the least convincing wins possible over a team in the division below us on Wednesday night, we head into this upcoming league match against Southend not quite in a full nosedive towards oblivion but at a 179-degree angle.

There’s probably not much that can be seriously read into from Wednesday night’s win over Crawley. Mark Venus named a random assortment of players into a rough 4-4-2 shape and we, as a crappy League One team, beat Crawley, a crappy League Two team. If this is the start of another good run of form, it certainly was an inauspicious one.

Marvin Sordell, Jack McBean, Jodi Jones and George Thomas played as a front four against Wednesday and there’s maybe some promise there. Thomas is a very hardworking player who we could probably do with right now, McBean tends to do a decent job bringing others into play, Sordell’s our one proper ‘number 9’ and Jodi Jones is potentially someone who can create something out of nothing. However, a lack of experience and physicality in the front-line will probably see someone like Kyel Reid or Marcus Tudgay come into the team for this game.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

Elsewhere, the return of Chris McCann to fitness on Wednesday night is a huge boost for a side lacking presence and experience. There is a conundrum of how you play him in the same midfield as Andy Rose, but with Jamie Sterry currently injured and the alternative at right-back being the energetic but short and defensively-suspect Dion Kelly-Evans, it might be worth sticking with Rose at right-back for his height against a physical Southend side. However, Ben Stevenson’s suspension may make the need for Rose greater in midfield.

Reice Charles-Cook played in goal against Crawley on Wednesday, as he did in the previous EFL Trophy game under Mark Venus. My own opinion is Charles-Cook is the better all-round goalkeeper than Lee Burge, but it seems like the latter is Venus’ number one and I would expect Burge to return in goal for this game.

Last Time We Met

We headed into our last meeting with Southend fresh off the back of a 2-0 loss to Burton, but still hopeful we could overcome a slight speed-bump along our path to promotion. Speed-bump it was not, Southend completely outplayed us at Roots Hall, taking a 2-0 lead before half-time and then mocking us even further by spending much of the rest of the second-half with ten-men but still managing to be the better side and going on to score a third goal. Also, Stephen Hunt played in this game.

How Are They Doing?

When Southend lost their two star players from last season – Jack Payne and Daniel Bentley – in the summer and manager Phil Brown desperately tried to jump ship to Bolton, it looked like the Shrimpers were set for a season of struggle. However, Brown failed to land the job at Bolton and has done an effective job at rebuilding the squad to probably make them a better team this time around.

Brown’s best summer signings were Simon Cox and Nile Ranger in attack, both players presenting different kinds of risks. Cox was on a downwards career trajectory and hadn’t really had a decent season in six or seven years, but had a high enough reputation still to demand a significant salary. Ranger’s off-the-field problems are well-documented and probably obscure the fact that he’s a very good striker at League One level, having proven it with Swindon a few years ago. Neither have been particularly prolific this season but Ranger has been an excellent focal point in attack, while Cox has provided energy and creativity.

Stephen McLaughlin is Southend’s current top-scorer, although he plays as a winger. McLaughlin is an inconsistent performer but has scored some absolute screamers this season and can be a great player on his day. Anthony Wordsworth has also been a strong contributor of goals this season from midfield, he offers drive and excellent set-piece delivery. Finally, Will Atkinson is of a similar ilk to McLaughlin in that he can be anonymous at times but then all-of-a-sudden pop up with a goal or an assist.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

Southend probably possess the best full-back pairing in the division in the form of Jason Demetriou and Ben Coker. Both are very attacking full-backs with great delivery, Demetriou also has a great long-range shot on him and should really have gotten a move to a bigger club than Southend after his exploits for Walsall last season.

With Phil Brown in charge, Southend are a difficult team to predict just who they’re going to play and in what formation with their manager preferring to chop and change depending on the opposition. Just like last season though, Southend are going to be a very physical, tenacious and hard-working team and thus well set-up to punish us if we’re not up for the challenge.

Prediction

Southend are in great form, we are not. Southend have experience and physicality in their side, we do not. Throw our awful away form into the mix and it’s a no-contest really. Southend to win 3-0.

Preview: Crawley Town

You think that there are no depths that Coventry City has yet to plumb, that you’re ready for any possible kind of embarrassment, then a result like Sunday’s comes along to show that things can still get far worse.

Mark Venus doesn’t seem to know who our strongest players are, what formation to play them in and how he wants us to play. As bad as this squad is, the difference an experienced manager should make is that there’s at least a semblance of structure and sense of direction that the team is headed towards. It’s hard to see that with Mark Venus, it almost seems like he wants to get to January and see what happens then.

It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to suggest that most Coventry City fans would genuinely want to see us blow what seems to be our final shot at Wembley this season, but if a defeat tonight led to the appointment of a new manager in the next couple of weeks, it would probably be seen as a reasonable sacrifice – if such deals are on offer.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

Given the truly erratic nature of Mark Venus’ team selections over the past five or six games, there’s no real way to tell what kind of team he’s going to pick. Whether he goes for his strongest team is an interesting debate as on the one hand, this is a chance to make it to Wembley and possibly a final chance for Venus to convince himself to continue to plug away at his career’s ambition of being a manager. On the other, this is a relatively unimportant competition and we’re playing a fairly poor League Two side.

In short, I haven’t got any idea what side we’re going to play, but here’s a nice graphic anyway.

Last Time We Met

Our previous meeting with Crawley was an occasion that now looks like it was yet another false dawn. Heading into the final day of the 2014/15 season, we needed to avoid defeat (and hope that Notts County didn’t score two more goals than us) in order to avoid relegation to League Two.

The unthinkable almost happened when Nick Proschwitz missed a penalty before half-time, Mathias Pogba gave Crawley the lead after the break and our fate rested on scores elsewhere. However, the introductions of James Maddison and Frank Nouble to the scene turned the match on its head. Marcus Tudgay’s goal in the 71st minute had all but secured safety thanks to other results, but a breakaway led by Frank Nouble and finished by James Maddison gave us all three points.

The summer following that game saw Tony Mowbray given the job on a permanent basis, season ticket prices dropped and players like Adam Armstrong and Jacob Murphy arrive on loan. That Crawley game meant the highs of last season could happen, how quickly things fade.

How Are They Doing?

The other side of the story of 3rd May 2015 was Crawley Town ending a three season stay in the highest division they had ever been in. Most Crawley fans would admit that they just weren’t a big enough club to support third-tier football on a sustainable basis and it’s possible that that day was the end of the club’s most successful era ever.

Last season was something of a comedown, although they weren’t overly troubled by a second-successive relegation, they were an uninspiring and dull side under former manager Mark Yates. Former Chelsea youth-team manager Dermot Drummy arrived towards the end of last season following a takeover by a Turkish businessman and things are now slightly better than before.

Crawley started the season in impressive form under Drummy, but there was always the sense that they were flattering to deceive. A 5-0 defeat to Yeovil Town on Saturday extended a run of just one win in nine games with the wheels looking like they’re starting to fall off in West Sussex this season.

Crawley’s success earlier in the season came from Drummy bringing in an array of incredibly fast wingers such as Jason Banton, Jordan Roberts and Enzio Boldewijn while also calling on several former youth-team players he worked with at Chelsea, such as attacking midfielder Billy Clifford and holding midfielder Aliu Djalo.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

The problem for Crawley at the moment seems to be in defence, where the emphasis on pace has seen the athletic duo Lewis (Ashley’s brother) Young and Andre Blackman have been operating at full-back, instead of slower, sturdier alternatives. Crawley have the joint-worst defensive record in League Two this season – if we can’t score against them, we’re even worse than we all thought.

One final notable thing about Crawley at the moment is that they have James Collins (not the West Ham one) in their ranks. A proven goalscorer at League Two level, Collins comes from Coventry and was close to joining us back in 2011 when Andy Thorn was in charge, but the deal fell through due to our transfer embargo. For some reason, Collins seems to be extra-motivated when he comes up against us.

Prediction

The gloom around the club is palpable and a defeat to a fairly poor side in the division below at home and in our last chance to make it to Wembley would really cap it all off. However, I just think Crawley aren’t a great side and are on a poor run of form. With the memory of Sunday’s humiliation still fresh in the memory, I can see us winning this 3-1.