A (Red)Bridge Too Far

FA Cup, 2nd Round Proper – Crawley Town FC v Redbridge FC
Saturday, 3rd December 2011, 3pm
Broadfield Stadium
Distance 32 miles, Attendance 2494

“It was a no win situation for us.” exclaimed a Crawley fan to me after the final whistle, and he was probably right. Not for the first time in recent history Crawley Town were expected to win, and easily, and not for the first time they faced a more popular opponent. Last season the Conference title race was between them and AFC Wimbledon. Crawley had the nice shiny ground and all the money, but Wimbledon (thanks, in May 2002, to the worst footballing decision of all time*) had the footballing community behind them. Today Crawley faced a similar proposition when they took on the lowest placed team left in The FA Cup. Faced with such odds it may be hard not to sympathise with the Crawley fan.
Redbridge played their first FA Cup in the Preliminary Round at the start of September. Forgetting those that went out in the Extra Preliminary Round, between then and today, 475 teams were knocked out. That’s a cull of 84% of the teams. To survive this is little short of a miracle. Naturally Redbridge probably had no plans to get this far but, step by step, they’ve navigated six rounds. If a premier league team were to win six rounds they would be, like Man City last season, lifting the trophy at Wembley. The Motormen have given their fans a marvellous cup run, to match that of City’s champions, and that should be the measure of their achievement. It was a cup run we all wanted to continue.
There, tucked away in the corner of Broadfield Stadium 264 of us stood, shoulder to shoulder, no colours or merchandise, just passionate Redbridge faithful, their friends, their families, and a good smattering of well wishing ground hoppers. Each one was hoping that the dream could, and would, continue. As the teams were announced there were wonderful pockets of cheers for individual players, followed by good-humoured booing in unison at Crawley’s entire team. All the Crawley match day staff I’d met to be fair had been friendly and helpful, but in that corner of the KR-L Stand (no, no idea) there was the warmth of camaraderie, and of optimism, and of gallows humour.

As the game kicked off it was clear though that getting through this tie would be a push for any non-league team, but for one from Step 4… Redbridge really would need something sensational to happen. Interestingly Crawley by no means overawed the NE London side, but The Motormen were, for most of the first period, second best. To top it all the game was to battle against a very whistle-happy ref. Still both sides had chances and, when the ball came down, some even hit the target. At the interval The Reds were two goals to the good, both scored by Matt Tubbs, the first a fortunate penalty and the second an absolute peach from twenty yards. Most then would’ve thought that it was game over, but still optimism remained in the away end that an early second half goal could keep the dream alive. Despite some great chances as the game opened up sadly this was not to be. Crawley eventually ran away with a rather undeserved 5-0 win. Yes they’d certainly been better but not five goals. And that was where my conversation with the fan at the top had begun. He was right of course, but then, so was I.

That Crawley fan might rightfully have celebrated being “just happy” to be in the hat for the 3rd Round Proper (only the third time in their history), but most football fans just wouldn’t have cared that much. Whilst every fan might want the best for their team, the romance of The Cup means that when their team has been knocked out, or maybe isn’t playing, well, we all love the underdog don’t we? And this was how Redbridge went into the tie, with the popular vote. All fans need to realise that how rich or successful you are means little in knock-out competitions; and “Big” teams endlessly face this no win situation. This isn’t about Crawley, or their fans. The FA Cup isn’t about being happy; it’s about dreams, the dreams of all fans that they can overcome a bigger foe, that they can win The Cup. Until this round Redbridge against the odds had overcome, but today that challenge was unfortunately just a bit too far.
 (*not just my opinion)
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9 Responses to A (Red)Bridge Too Far

  1. CrawleyFan says:

    Good read, and I like your view ahead of this game. Although I’d like to touch on one point, you say 5-0 wasn’t what the result should have been, hinting should have been less. Well statistics show… Crawley had 10% more possession, 22 shots in total (11 of which being on target) 14 corners. Meanwhile Redbridge had 1 shot on target, 2 off. Anyway – from my view of the game Crawley deserved to give them the beating, however from some spells of play I’d actually say Redbridge were unlucky to not get a goal or two themselves.

    (Also the KR-L Stand is one of our sponsership names)

    Thanks for that write up.

    • putajumperon says:

      The thing I love about football is that you can have so many views of the same thing. If you see my blog page “the long way” you’ll appreciate I’m just enjoying as much of the cup as possible this season. For this game I went with the underdog, just as I did when you played Man Utd last season… Good luck in the next round (unless you’re playing Watford).

      • CrawleyFan says:

        Oh, sorry – excuse my ignorance. I just assumed that it was slightly bias; my bad. Take it you are a Watford fan? Wouldn’t mind having them in the third round, would be a test!

  2. Damon says:

    Your shot of the Winfield stand reminds me that at half time of our first visit to Crawley, when they lost 3-0- to Havant & Waterlooville in the FA Cup, I booted a ball back into the ground over that stand. It was half time, no idea how the ball came to be there, presumably a very errant warm up shot by a sub.

    Anyway, a shame Redbridge couldn’t carry on the run but the scoreline was always likely, if not perhaps justified, as you say.

  3. alpineblond says:

    Crawley Town fan who lives in the London Borough of Redbridge here: good to read your note and see your photos. I was surprised you didn’t mention the contribution of your ‘keeper to keep it all in single figures. The point blank save from Torres’s blast belonged in a higher sphere.

    Good luck for the rest of the season. We just need to beat Bristol City now.

  4. drbillyo says:

    At the risk of being flamed by the Crawley commenters, the footballing community didn’t just want AFCW to win the league because of Wimbledon’s History, but also that of Crawley. Your comparison of Redbridge to Man City is nice, but it is Crawley who are a better fit to this label. They bought the conference title last season, with at least two 6-figure transfer fees that would make a League 1 side blush. The club also have a dodgy financial history (punishments taken) and the less said about the thoroughly unlikable Steve Evans the better, but how he’s not been banned from football for life is beyond me. Every step Crawley take up the league is another nail in the coffin of proper football.

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