Stevenage v Crawley preview: Clarke battling for fitness

Billy Clarke is battling for fitness
Billy Clarke is battling for fitness
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New loan signing Kyle Bennett goes straight into the squad for Saturday’s trip to Stevenage, though forward Billy Clarke is battling to be fit.

Speedy 23-year-old winger Bennett joined from Championship side Doncaster on Friday and could feature at some point at Broadhall Way.

Clarke has been back in training this week and could return to the squad after missing the last three matches with a knee problem.

Defender Kyle McFadzean makes the squad having shaken off an illness which saw him withdrawn at half-time on Tuesday night.

That 3-0 mid-week home defeat to Port Vale was a result Richie Barker admits he ‘didn’t see coming’, though the Crawley boss insists neither he nor his players will be dwelling on a first defeat in eight league games.

Still the weekend’s game against an improved Boro side is a good chance to get back to winning ways and Barker said: “It’s always nice to get back on the horse as quick as possible.

“I think there was only once last year we had back-to-back defeats. I dare say that’s going to be a tough record to follow this year... but we won’t be setting out to not get beat, we’ll be setting out to go and win the game.”

Graham Westley’s side are 20th in League 1 but are on an improved run of form, winning three of their last four games including a 3-0 victory away at Crewe in the week, so Barker is expecting another tough test against organised and physical opponents.

Dannie Bulman scored a stunning winner for Crawley in the same fixture last season against his former club and the 34-year-old midfielder has become a key component in Barker’s side.

Confirming that conversations over a new contract were likely to take place over Christmas with Bulman’s current deal expiring at the end of the season, Barker said: “I always knew what Dannie could do, but we’ve evolved as a team, as a football club over the last 16 months since I came in.

“I think his job is different to what his previous job was. I think he’s evolved as a player, I think he’s found something that is suitable to us and suitable to him in terms of the way he plays which will I’m sure make him a better player and prolong his career as well.”