Wednesday night's visit to Bedfordshire was very much a last minute deal. My original Tuesday night game plan was scuppered by a motorway closure then Wednesday's targeted game at Littleton was called off quite late on. However, a quick Twitter check revealed that Crawley Green's home game with Hoddesdon Town was confirmed as on. Crawley Green play their home games at Barton Rovers' Sharpenhoe Road stadium which I last visited for A rovers v Bedworth early season game in 2014 (http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/greenbacks-return-to-winning-ways).
From memory, it didn't look like many changes had been made to the stadium in the intervening years. The stadium boasts covered standing all along one side, a decent sized seating stand on the other side, a pretty large car park, and a comfortable clubhouse. The pitch itself has quite a pronounced slope from the Luton Road end down towards the Sharpenhoe Road end, which is where the car park and turnstiles are situated.
On this particular evening the pitch, at first glance, looked to be in pretty good condition but it soon became clear that there was plenty of underlying dampness which caused it to cut up quite badly in places. As the game wore on this must have made conditions quite tricky for the players in some areas.
Before getting onto the game, a small mention for the Crawley Green programme which is especially good for this level of the game. It came as part of the £5 admission fee and includes plenty of articles and statistics. A great effort all round.
As the teams entered the arena I wondered if Hoddesdon were deliberately playing mind games with their kit choice. Although there would be no clash between their normal white shirts and black shorts and Crawley Green's maroon outfit, they chose to wear their change kit of all blue. Coincidentally, or not as the case may be, this kit is rather similar to the Green's landlords Barton Rovers, so the whole ground is kitted out in their shade of blue making it look and feel like a Hoddeson home game. However, as The Lilywhites lost the reverse fixture, on their own turf, by 6-2 earlier in the season this may not have been the case.
It was about this point that I noticed home coach Bobby Males doing press-ups in the technical area. Something that he continued to do for a fair amount of the first half. quite impressive press-ups they were too. All the way down and back again with what looked like minimal effort, unlike my own efforts in boot-camp this lunch time.
The game kicked off with the hosts kicking up the slope in the first half and they immediately got into their stride. However, despite having the greater share of possession for the first twenty minutes and creating a couple of half-chances, it was Hoddesdon who almost took the lead when Joss Lillis went on a mazy run before clipping the far post with his shot.
The game remained goal-less but it was still, just about, Crawley Green who were edging it. Once again, however, it was the away side who almost broke the deadlock. From a right-wing corner that looked like it had been miss-hit, the ball reached the visiting centre-half on the edge of the box. He fired the ball home only for the assistant to flag for an infringement. This turned out to be a Lilywhites player in an offside position who the assistant judged was interfering with the goalkeeper's ability to react to the shot. I have to say, it looked like a very harsh decision to me and one which the visiting players disputed for some time afterwards.
To rub salt into the wounds, five minutes later Crawley Green took the lead. A move down the left and then a crossfield pass which found Joe Bradbury unmarked at the far post. He stroked the ball home amidst very vociferous claims of offside from the Hoddesdon defence. From my vantage point I couldn't say if the player was on or off but the Lilywhites players certainly seemed to be aggrieved. 1-0
The game was now really coming to a boil and Hoddesdon tried to hit back immediately. Lillis once again was at the heart of the move, playing a lovely give and go to open up the Crawley Green defence. However, stretching and being pushed slightly wide his shot clipped the near post this time and went for a goal kick.
Then with half-time almost upon us, Hoddesdon were hit by a classic sucker punch. An incisive through ball split their defence allowing Charlie Clayton to time his run perfectly, collect the ball, round the keeper and slide into an empty net for 2-0.
That took us to half-time and, although the home side had been slightly the better side Hoddesdon can feel a little hard done by to go into the break two goals down.
Half-time Crawley Green 2 Hoddesdon Town 0
There must be something about going up the slope at Sharpenhoe Road because when the second half kicked off it was Hoddesdon, playing against the incline, who started the better of the two teams. Once again, Joss Lillis was the man looking the most dangerous with the ball and it was the left-winger who created a goal for The Lillywhites just before the hour mark. Picking the ball up in his own half he jinked past a number of Crawley Green players, took the ball into the box and then cut back for Jordan Watson to fire the ball into the home net. A very good goal. 2-1.
The game was pretty open, with both sides pushing players up at every opportunity despite the worsening conditions in midfield especially. It continued to be a very entertaining game for the neutral. The conditions, however, were causing some 'interesting' challenges at times and one such incident led to the inevitable 'handbags' in front of the dug outs. The referee, with some rather enthusiastic whistle-blowing calmed things down, issued a yellow to a player on each side and we could continue with the game.
Four minutes after the incident Crawley Green looked to have made the game safe. A route one ball was deftly flicked on and, the man on the spot, Charlie Clayton was on his way again. This time, as the keeper advanced, he clipped the ball past him and into the far corner of the bet. A very accomplished finish to make it 3-1. This was Clayton's fifth goal in two games against The Lillywhites this season.
I thought that was game over to be honest, I really couldn't see Hoddesdon getting back into it. They weren't completely dead and buried though. With injury time already ticking onto 4 minutes Tom Cowell grabbed a very late consolation goal. 3-2.
Surely not enough time to equalise? They certainly gave it a go. Throwing caution to the wind, they won the ball back from the kick off and swarmed forward resulting in another shot at goal which was only narrowly wide.
That was the end of proceedings though. Full-time Crawley Green 3 Hoddeson Town 2.
A very entertaining evening of football and a deserved three points for the home
Crawley Green - @crawleygreenfc
Hoddesdon Town - @hoddesdontownfc