Report by Steve Innes
Crawley started the game against Gillingham with real purpose, pace and intent. Creating the first chances of the game and putting the Gillingham defence under real pressure.
Within 5 minutes Crawley got the break through their fine start deserved when after a few quick passes from defence through the midfield found Jonny Reigate on the right wing to fizz a ball across the area, Man of the Match Carl Wright had the pace to arrive in the area and although sliding, having to finish first time and all on the reverse, he managed to rifle the ball into the top of the net, already the top contender for CHC goal of the season.
Gillingham defenders stunned must have thought about getting back in the car if this was how the day was going to go. Crawley continued with some fine play and created numerous good chances but could not find the second goal.
Gillingham found it hard to get into the game but managed to create a breakaway and only some good recovering from the defence of James Innes, Adrian Bettesworth and Mark Brightwell stopped Gillingham getting a clean shot away.
Just a few minutes before half time Crawley would come to rue their missed chances in the first quarter of the game. Gillingham after managing to get the ball to their centre forward got a shot off and a cruel deflection from a Crawley stick took the ball past Luke Murphy in the Crawley goal. An unfortunate end to what had been a great first half for Crawley.
Crawley regrouped at half time and after some positive words during the break came out firing again. A short corner won, and a retro move back to Bettesworth ended in a goal and Crawley had regained the lead.
Crawley fired up by taking the lead then had a quick counter attack which saw Seb Watson pick the ball up and take on one of the Gillingham centre backs leaving the defender for dead and whilst trying to play the ball across the area to a free Jonny Reigate another of the Gillingham defenders had managed to get back but his efforts only resulted in deflecting Watson’s pass past his own goalkeeper. 3-1 to Crawley and playing with confidence and composure seem to be going exactly as planned for the Crawley side. Gillingham had other ideas and after converting two short corners in a row in very clinical fashion pulled the game back to 3-3.
After the second of the short corners had been converted one of the oddest yellow cards the game of hockey has ever seen occurred; described as a freak accident by many after the game. Mark Brightwell disappointed at conceding a second short corner so soon after the first went in decided to take his frustration out on his face mask by throwing it in disgust, instead of finding the fence behind the goal with the face mask he managed to find the forehead of a Gillingham attacker who was celebrating the goal.
It was clearly an accident as Brightwell had found the forehead of the attacker with an accuracy never produced by him on the pitch before. Luckily for the game Gillingham responded with the same composure as the forward who was hit, and the incident was dealt with in a calm way, with Brightwell sent for a 5 minute rest in the sin-bin.
Crawley now down to 10 and having just conceded a goal to level the game were on the back foot, but held out and out whilst still down to 10 Crawley came back into the game and won a short corner which was expertly dispatched by Jonny Reigate - 4-3.
Gillingham, now knowing that only a short time remained pushed for another equaliser, they won another short corner and again their well-practiced routine was converted, to level the game again 4-4
Crawley had the best chances of the last few minutes which saw them hit the post twice and could have easily come away with a victory.
Although Crawley can feel aggrieved not to have won, it was a fine game with plenty of action and was enjoyed by the support that had come to watch, their presence appreciated as always by the Crawley team.
On to the next one, Eastbourne away in another tough league encounter and the Lewes 2nd team in the England Hockey Tier 3 Championship Cup, also likely to be a cracking game.
Murphy, Brightwell, Bettesworth, J. Innes, Yousef, Banton, Evans, Wright, Reigate, S. Innes, Watson
Subs – Carter, Hooley-Jones, Hillman
Scorers – Wright, Bettesworth, Reigate, Watson
MOM- Carl Wright
DOD – Mark Brightwell