Stanley v Crawley: the importance of bouncebackability


Matt Harrold –

More often than not this season, Crawley Town’s matches are decided by the first goal. According to Soccerstats, The Red Devils have won nine of the 12 games in which they score the game’s opener, but lost 13 of the 16 games in which they concede it. They have kept more clean sheets than half the teams in the division, yet only Morecambe have conceded 4+ goals more often.

In essence, they excel at defending leads and tend to have the discipline to hold on for a narrow win, 9 of their 11 victories coming by a 1 goal margin. When they go behind, however, they rarely show the creativity to break teams down and are at times guilty of crumbling from a losing position.

When it comes to bouncebackability, few League Two teams are better equipped than Accrington Stanley. Manager John Coleman is always driven to recover quickly from defeats and that is a mentality he has instilled into his team. Stanley have won five of the six league games which have followed a loss this season and they have scored the first goal in all six, five of those openers coming in the first half.

That stat does not make good reading for Crawley, who have been behind at half-time in nine of their 15 away games and only gone on to take one point from those nine trips. The south coast side have one of the best home records in the division but away form has been their Achilles heel this term.

Crawley have conceded 17 goals in their last 8 away games and no team has shipped more. By contrast, Accrington have scored 19 goals in the previous 8 home games, although that statistic dates back to mid-September due to postponements.

The East Lancashire side were not at their best at Carlisle last week, losing 2-0 to the Cumbrians. The Reds started the game slowly and although they applied spells of pressure in the second half, manager John Coleman admitted the better team won. Whenever Stanley lose a game, however, they always respond quickly and that is why they have sustained their promotion challenge.

The impressive form of Matt Harrold this season suggests that he provides Crawley’s best chance of getting a result. However, to get the best out of their target man, Yates’ side have to commit men forward and that is not something they are always willing to do against the better teams. Harrold has not scored against top nine opposition this season and that may be due to the team’s defensive approach in those games.

The former Bristol Rovers man is a striker that will bust a gut to get to the danger area and put his foot or head in where it hurts. However, for him to get the near post chances that he feeds off – his winner at Stevenage last week the classic example – he needs players around him who will be direct, run forward and play the ball into the danger area early. His level of understanding with Roarie Deacon for that goal at the Lamex was palpable – Deacon knew that if he played the ball to the near post, Harrold would find that gap between the defenders and the goal. However, if Harrold were to play in a team that plays with caution, players such as Deacon are less likely to take those kind of risks.

If Crawley arrive in East Lancashire just to sit back and contain, it will be hard for them to give Harrold the right service and Accrington will have the quality to break them down. Josh Windass might not have played since early January but the recent form of Shay McCartan, who is beginning to start more games, suggests he is capable of filling the void. Coleman’s troops will be desperate to bounce back from the Carlisle defeat and the possibility of a Stanley backlash is the danger for Crawley Town, who make the long journey from Sussex.