Crawley Town 2 Harriers 0
Venue: Broadfield Stadium
away fans: 82
No Christmas cheer for Creighton
In the first of the Christmas games package the Harriers came home from Crawley without a present from Santa after Mark Creighton got sent off as early as the seventh minute for a professional foul. He was caught for pace and bought down Jamie Cook just as he was about to enter the penalty area and the referee had no qualms about taking his red card out immediately. This was Marks first game back from suspension for five yellow cards.
He also seemed to have even less qualms about brandishing a card of any form at the Crawley players after they too were equally guilty of making poor challenges on a Harriers player.
The loss of Creighton meant a reshuffle of a side already without left back Lee Baker. Brian Smikle took his place even though a more than capable Andy Ferrell could have done a job there. It became even more crazy when the influential Martin Brittain was sacrificed to allow Luke Jones to come on.
We lost our main playmaker with that decision and ended up with an unbalanced side with a natural frontman at the back and an over saturated defensive midfield.
Amazingly it took Crawley another twenty minutes to take advantage of a depleted Harriers side. They had been in full control of the game up to the sending off and continued to do so afterwards without really troubling Adam Bartlett in the visitors goal.
Their first goal came through Michael Malcolm when a mix up in the Harriers defence allowed him in to slip the ball under the advancing Harriers keeper to open the scoring. Crawley continued to batter the Harriers for the remainder of the half both in their football and their one armed combat. The referee chose to ignore their bullying tactics but then penalised any slight mis-demeanour by one of ours.
The half ended without any further goalmouth action from either side but that was mainly down to the way the Harriers defenders restricted the home side to long distance shots from outside the area.
HT: 1 - 0
The second half was basically the same fare as served up before including the one eyed performance from the ref. Crawley were on the attack straight from the kick off through Malcolm again when he sent a volley just outside the post.
The ref then produced his notebook to book Matt Barnes-Homer for a minor challenge on Chris Giles even though Town had been guilty of worse through-out the game. Four minutes later Andy Ferrell was his next victim but his sliding tackle was probably more deserving even though it was borne out of frustration.
We were doing well to manage the Crawley forward line but something had to give and so it did when Malcolm grabbed his and Crawley's second goal of the day. A free kick was awarded to them some twenty yards out and Malcolm curled it around the Harriers wall and into the top corner of the net beyond the reach of Bartlett.
With that Mark Yates decided to try to be more adventurous by bringing on David McDermott in place of Brian Smikle and then five minutes later bought on Stefan Moore in place of the, again, disappointing Barnes-Homer. Moore himself was booked for a tackle on Lewis Killeen that was more clumsy than intentional.
Crawley started to apply more pressure on the Harriers and try to kill us off - something that we never seem inclined to do ourselves. Thomas Pinault sent a shot just wide of goal and then Bartlett pulled out a stunning double save to deny Malcolm his hat trick when first he blocked his shot and then when the ball re-bounded to Jon-Paul Pittman he blocked that too.
With that last attack on goal the whistle went to bring an end to a disastrous day for the Harriers. The only positive thing about it was that we still remain in fourth place in the table and we have a chance to make up the lost ground on the leaders by beating Forest Green on Boxing Day. Creights will miss that game.