Up next – creepy Crawley
It’s fair to say Torquay aren’t the only club in League Two to have history with Steve Evans. This goes back to the Boston days – our only victory against the ‘other’ Pilgrims came at Plainmoor in February 2004, just before Evans returned to the hot seat after That Suspension. Our record against Evans’ Boston was 2 draws and 2 defeats. The most painful of these for Gulls fans was an ill-tempered affair in December 2006 when Boston won 1-0 despite having 2 players sent off late on, including journeyman striker Drewe Broughton who was dismissed for a second yellow for time-wasting while being substituted! At the end of that season, both Torquay and Boston were relegated, with Evans resigning to take up the Crawley job. Our record against Evans’ Crawley has been equally poor, with 2 wins, one of which being an FA Trophy tie in 2008, and 4 defeats, including the FA Cup Fourth Round tie last year which resulted in a red card apiece. This makes our overall record against Evans 2 wins, 2 draws and 6 defeats, which gives us an additional reason to dislike him, on top of all the usual ones that need little explanation.
But it is also worth noting that assistant manager Paul Raynor is also on Gulls fans’ public enemy lists, and this goes back a bit further. In 1994, we faced Raynor and Preston North End in the play-off semi-finals. We won 2-0 at Plainmoor in the first leg, so we were looking good for another trip to Wembley, but at Deepdale, on the infamous plastic pitch, it would all go horribly wrong, and Raynor has largely been blamed for this, namely for pretending that Gulls centre back Darren Moore (yes, that Darren Moore) had elbowed him in the face (or so the story goes). With us down to 10 men, Preston went on to win 4-1 after extra time, although they would be beaten by Martin O’Neill’s Wycombe at Wembley.
Aside from these two enemies, and the suspiciously anonymous wealthy owners, we don’t really have anything against Crawley Town. I don’t believe that, as has been suggested, there is any jealousy of Crawley’s spending in the air, as our gripes with Evans and Raynor go back to well before Crawley became well-endowed. Having said that, some fans feel aggrieved towards Crawley for last season’s FA Cup tie, specifically the way the match panned out, and the resulting Fifth Round draw – I should add that I don’t necessarily agree, although I only listened to the game on BBC Radio Five Live.
It is the presence of two of the most despised figures in English lower league football as far as Gulls fans are concerned means this match has a little more than a bit of needle. Like last week with Bristol Rovers, we feel that there is a score to be settled with Evans and Raynor – and as I doubt we’re the only club in the league to feel this way, it’ll be interesting to see if this counts against Crawley over the course of the season, as teams raise their game against them to silence the Glaswegian.
As for what I think will happen, I feel the same as I did before last season’s match. Last year, Crawley didn’t just build a side to win the Conference – they built a side arguably good enough to compete one or two divisions higher. It’s definitely seen as a long term project, arguably more so than Rushden & Diamonds who also spent their way into the Football League in a big way. And since then, they have added yet more quality, particularly up front with the additions of Wes Thomas and Tyrone Barnett, who both scored against Torquay last season for Cheltenham and Macclesfield respectively. So you’d automatically think that the same result is likely again – a Crawley win.
Having said that, while we appear to be weaker than last season having lost our manager and key players, the players we added this summer have proven to be positive assets so far, we are in good form and spirit, we have been feisty and clinical going forward, and, as I said, we will be up for this game, something that proved crucial at the Memorial Stadium last weekend. Whether that’ll be enough is another matter. Against Aldershot, we were disappointing and lucky to hold out for 3 points. Will 3 away games in a week have taken its toll? Has the effect of the arrival of Ling and the new faces started to wear off?
With that in mind, I’m going to be pessimistic and suggest a 2-1 win for Crawley. For us to still be unbeaten after tomorrow would be a great result.