It’s now February and sadly, even with 17 games to go, the aim for this season is now consolidation rather than the play-off aim of a few weeks ago for Crawley.
It’s disappointing because our early season form was excellent bar a few blips and had we have kept that form up we could even be challenging for the automatic places now.
Unfortunately those hopes of even a play-off place have faded with the recent poor form and it will take an unprecedented run of wins to take us back into the play-offs. However mid-table at the start of the season was the realistic aim and quite frankly I would have been and still would be delighted with a midtable finish but it’s hard not to think what could have been.
I’ve seen a few people bemoan the apparent dismantling of the squad that Richie Barker inherited at the start of the season but I have to say with the exception of losing Hope Akpan, I’m delighted with the January transfer window. Connor Essam lseems to be the natural replacement for Kyle McFadzean when he eventually and sadly inevitably departs, and Jamie Proctor has shown signs of real quality despite it being fairly obvious he’s lacking match fitness. I think the squad when it gels will be a strong one, much stronger than the one that started the season, and if the blissful stability of mediocrity this season allows the squad to gell then I think we’ll really be in a position to challenge for promotion both on and off the pitch next season.
But for this season the next few games will shape our season- whether it will indeed be mid table mediocrity or a play-off push. Monday night (the 18th) sees us play Doncaster at home in front of the Sky cameras, a game in which a win would see us take huge confidence into the following game which is an away trip to resurgent Leyton Orient. 4 points would be a good return but 6 points would be vital to our season and we’re more than capable of getting them.
I briefly mentioned Jamie Proctor earlier and I really think he could be key for us for however long we can keep him because he’s quality. Much like Hope Akpan he’s been taken on a free from a Premier League side ,and he shows that he’s come from the top flight- he’s got pace, he’s tall, he’s strong, and he looks like he’s got an eye for goal which we lack somewhat. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he one day makes the move back because he clearly has quality and if he can prove it with us no doubt there’ll be at least Championship clubs sniffing around. He could finally be the man to plug the goal scoring gap in the squad that’s been there since Matt Tubbs departed late last January.
He also, from what I’ve seen of him, looks like the perfect player for Billy Clarke to link up with. Clarke himself is a bit of an enigma- do you give him a free role off the striker, or as an off the shoulder poacher type? He has Championship quality and on his day he’s simply unplayable. If he can can forge a partnership with Proctor they will be a devastating duo and next season they could lead the potential charge for promotion.
Long term I think the club is in good hands, and the ambition to establish ourselves in the Championship has been stated more than once. But when you’re as small a club as we are it’s difficult to say where you’ll be in a few years time…
Written by Louie Elmer, We Are Going Up’s Crawley Town blogger
Louie tweets at @LouieElmer