Three weeks before the new season starts everything seems to be on track for Crawley Town and new manager Harry Kewell.
The Reds scampered their way through two friendlies against Non-League opposition before taking on a much bigger task as they entertained Chelsea.
The Premier League champions sent a youthful, but experienced, squad which led to some high quality football.
Harry Kewell would have been very keen to see how his team would stand up against opposition that would not be playing kick and rush and he wouldn’t have been disappointed.
The standards were high for a non-competitive fixture which wanted only for more goalmouth action.
In the first half a new look Crawley side played positively and had the better of the openings.
Ironically, given Chelsea’s success in this formation, it was Crawley who started with three at the back whilst the visitors lined up with the more traditional four.
Newcomer Mark Randall was assured in the middle of the defence and Josh Lelan looked more like the defender Crawley hoped for when they signed him last season.
Cedric Evina settled readily into the left wing back role and all in all the defence looked tight.
The central midfield pairing saw Josh Payne playing a more expansive game whilst nothing seemed to faze Dannie Bulman.
Crawley showed their quality against a side whose pedigree was evident and possibly we won’t see another clash like this once the League Two season gets underway.
During the second half numerous substitutions took place with Chelsea ending up with a completely changed line up that numbered from 12 to 22. Unsurprisingly the game lost its rhythm but the visitors showed renewed zest that put the Reds under more pressure than they had experienced in the first hour.
When Chelsea took the lead through Charlie Brown with a quarter of an hour to go the biggest disappointment was that they scored against last season’s regular back four as the new arrivals had all been substituted.
Crawley more than deserved some return from the game so their stoppage time equaliser as Joe McNerney headed Mark Connolly’s neat cross past our former loanee keeper Mitchell Beeney was greeted with relief as well as appreciation by nearly 3000 home supporters.
For the fans the message is that the good ship Crawley Town is on course.
Pre-season friendlies can be indicative of how things might pan out but the real test comes on 5th August with the visit of Port Vale.
I am encouraged by the improvement shown in passing and the willingness to take a pot shot on occasions.
These were aspects that caused frustration on the terraces last season and the changes will help to fire up the sometimes lacklustre home support.
Next Saturday’s game against Brighton & Hove Albion will be a bigger challenge as they will definitely want to win.