As the voting in our poll might have suggested, the AFC fans were up for this, their end packed to the rafters 10 minutes before kick off. The home stands were more sparse in comparison but Crawley had handed out some subtle air horns, replete with red and white patchwork Croatia colours, presumably to engender atmosphere. If atmosphere is several dozen kids annoying the world with the sound of sheep being tortured then there was indeed some atmosphere.
The game kicked off in a slight but miserable drizzle, the ground resplendent in red and with one more stand than Championship Blackpool. Of the 2,204 fans in the mostly covered ground, nearly half must have been AFC and they made the early noise.
Their team, however, didn’t. It took them about 20 minutes to really get in to the game, by which point Crawley had already had a few half chances. The best of these was a lovely move of quick, incisive passing and lay offs that carved open AFC but Pinault shot weakly past the post.
Then, Crawley deservedly took the lead after some scrappy play around the penalty box, the ball dropped to Forrest who took it almost to the byline before smiting the ball (left) with such force that Pullen’s hand could only deflect it further up into the net. Still, he shouldn’t have been beaten from there.
Crawley Town 1-0 AFC Wimbledon
The first real AFC penetration saw Kedwell slip past the full back down AFC’s left, the cross was too near the keeper but at least some questions were being asked of the at last. AFC’s touch was letting them down, they struggled to cope with the wet slippery pitch.
The game was very quiet around the middle part of the half, only Louis’ turn inside the right excited but Conroy recovered with a great tackle on the edge of the box before the follow up was blocked. This action was right in front of the sleeping AFC fans and a few songs started up again and the sun properly came out. This, ironically, brought a fairly audible “We forgot that you were here” from the Crawley end, to which the predictable “Who the fuckin’ hell are you” was batted back. This was more like it, a bit of banter tennis and the game was livening a little.
AFC had been building up a nice head of steam without really creating much of a chance until a corner and then cross were half cleared to the edge of the box where Sam Hatton picked as perfect a spot inside the post (left and below right) as you are likely to see. Simon Rayner in the Crawley goal appeared unsighted by the red statues parked in front of him.
Crawley Town 1-1 AFC Wimbledon
There was just about enough time left of the half for Ben Smith to exquisitely chip Rayner, after the whistle had gone. This earned him a predictable yellow card and a slightly harsh round of “Who are ya?” from the AFC fans stood but yards away.
Half time saw a keepy uppy competition featuring a fan from each side. The AFC youth was probably about 18 and ungainly but effective. The Crawley lad was about 10 but with eyebrow raising technique. He won, he was always going to but probably deserved it.
It’s very difficult for therealfacup to contextualise these games and performances, we’ve not seen most of these teams play and if we have it’s not often. That said, this Crawley side was much better than the one we saw capitulate here 12 months ago to Havant & Waterlooville. And, similarly, AFC were playing much worse than they did when we saw them at around the same time against Wycombe, even if the scoreline was a little unflattering back then.
The second half was largely about James Pullen in the AFC goal. In the opening exchanges of the half he kicked too long for his forwards to chase and berated himself heavily. That glimpse of honesty was picked up by the Crawley fans who spent a while teasing him with a slow chorus of “You’re shit, you’re shit”. A minute or two later, Forrest was played through the middle of AFC’s defence, shot low to Pullen’s left and the ‘keeper reacted brilliantly, arcing low to his left and tipping past the post. As good a save as you’ll see this season.
In the 54th minute everyone was caught on the hop when Louis held the ball up 30 yards out and surprisingly unleashed a rasping drive that missed Pullen’s right post by no more than a foot, with the keeper nowhere.
The Crawley fans now upped the banter ante with “Pullen takes it up the arse” but this coincided with a good period for AFC. Main hit the outside of the post after robbing the fullback while Luke Moore jinked past a few players without really threatening the goal with a shot of note.
On 67 a punt upfield was held up well by Louis, who touched square to Ben Smith. Smith took a weighted touch that shoved him knife-like through the AFC midfield and pushed a pass through to Forrest, who curled a perfectly weighted shot (left) first time but narrowly wide of Pullen’s left post.
It was really starting to look like someone would win this with 12 minutes to go. Sadly, almost nothing happened between then, the 72nd minute, and the 87th minute. The only attack of note in that time was when Main flicked the ball past Crawley skipper Quinn and Kedwell raced clear before firing disappointing high into the side netting.
However, James Pullen then decided to liven up the final 5 minutes by sparking a large melee. Pullen was clearly clattered (above right) claiming a cross but took exception with a downward push to the side of Forrest’s head. The usual bout of push/separate/shove/shrug/pointy finger action ensued but the only place it threatened to boil (left) over was the stand behind Pullen’s goal. Pullen’s goal received several of the airhorns that Crawley had been giving out prior to the game. Poor show from the Crawley fans, although fairly innocuous and slightly comedic, as can be seen from the photo below right. WTF? Nice rack though.
As this all happened down the end housing the Crawley fans and the AFC chaps couldn’t really see what was going on, except a rush of stewards forming a line behind Pullen’s goal. “Pikeys, Pikeys, Pikeys, Pikeys” was the first response, swiftly followed by “Crawley is a shit hole”. Pullen could not have complained if he’d got red but he was unfortunate to be the only player carded.
Crawley Town 1 AFC Wimbledon 1. MOM Forrest (Celebrating below).
A good bit of banter, a fair result and a half decent, if patchy, game, although the Crawley fans on the way out seemed to think they were the better side. A slightly rose tinted view if you ask us, it was more akin to their meeting a few weeks ago where the result was the same. AFC can obviously play better and are likely to win the replay to seal an away game against fellow Londoners Millwall. That should be fun, maybe we’ll go?