A last-gasp goal by Charlton loanee Karlan Ahearne-Grant earned Crawley a 1-1 draw against struggling Morecambe, but frustration was the overwhelming feeling which met the final whistle. Here are five things we learnt.
Crawley character earns point
After conceding so late on, even the most optimistic Crawley fan wouldn’t have envisaged an equaliser, but the Reds kept digging away and created a tap in for Ahearne-Grant. It shows the improvement from the start of the season, when Crawley rarely recovered after conceding first and lacked that cutting edge to get something from an almost certain defeat.
In his post match interview, man-of-the-match Lewis Young said that they have had this mentality all season long, but lacked the clinicalness in front of goal. Despite the fact that Crawley did miss an abundance of chances throughout the game, they converted one when it mattered to avoid an underserved defeat.
Missing cutting edge and decision making in final third
This game was reminiscent of the Reds’ early games this season, where the performance wasn’t the worst, but there was a stark lack of cutting edge in front of goal. Karlan Ahearne-Grant, Enzio Boldewijn, Jimmy Smith and Lewis Young all missed golden opportunities to give the hosts the lead and were almost made to pay with a defeat when the visitors struck late after a mistake the back.
As they will know from earlier in the season, you have to take your chances to win football matches and this game was very much for the taking. Even after equalising late on, Karlan Ahearne-Grant epitomised the host’s frustration as he punched the ground as the final whistle blow knowing that they possibly should have been leaving with the three points.
Experimental Kewell switches to flat back four and continues with false nine
Harry Kewell has deployed a back five for much of his first season in charge, but recent weeks have seen him change to a flat back four with just two centre halves. Lewis Young, Josh Yorwerth, Mark Connolly and Josh Doherty have all started at the back, for four of the last six games- a new system which has seen previous regular starters Losh Lelan and Cedric Evina drop to the bench.
One possible explanation for this formation change is to create an extra attacking position, to accommodate for January loan signing Ahearne-Grant, who has made a big impression since his arrival from Charlton. There is no doubt that Kewell has instilled an attacking mentality into his team from the start of the season, despite the seemingly defensive formation, but better form of late could be down to the addition of a new attacker, fitted in by a new system.
In addition to the defence, Kewell has also recently experimented with his front line. The 6-0 Sussex Senior Cup semi-final victory over Saltdean United, saw the versaille Mark Randall play as a false nine- his fourth different position this season. Kewell decided to deploy the former Arsenal man in the same position against Morecambe, and questions were asked whether that is something that will work in the future, due to it taking 93 minutes for the team to score.
Threat coming from out wide- but no target man an issue?
Almost every attack Crawley went on in the first half, saw the ball go out to the wide men whose dangerous crosses posed a threat. However, in the absence of the injured Thomas Verheydt, there was no target man on the end of them. The 6ft 4 Dutchman has his weaknesses, but his defining qualities are his height and hold up play which could have paid dividends in this game.
There is no doubt that the wingers Enzio Boldewijn and Ahearne-Grant have frightening pace, as well as substitutes Panutche Camara and Moussa Sanoh, but a taller, target man can often be the difference in games in need of a goal and something different for the opposition defence to contend with.
Promotion challenge still alive
Seven wins in eight games gave Crawley fans real hope of a late push for the play-offs, and after going 1-0 down with such little time to go, it appeared that these dreams might well be over. However, some hope at the time was given by the fact that few of the teams around them in the table were winning and their eventual draw now seems like a point gained in the race for seventh place.
In the old cliche, Kewell said post-match that all they can do is take one game at a time and see where they end up. Five points is not an insurmountable gap between themselves and the play-offs but now without a win in their last four games, they need to rediscover their previous excellent form, to give themselves the best chance.