Crawley Town down to bare bones for FA Cup clash

Billy Clarke is battling for fitness
Billy Clarke is battling for fitness

Threadbare Crawley are again unlikely to fill the bench when they make their FA Cup entrance this Saturday.

With talisman Billy Clarke still struggling with a knee injury, on loan pair Kyle Bennett and Luke Rooney unavailable, and Richie Barker believing that no youth team players are pushing for a first team place, the Reds boss will struggle to name all seven substitutes.

It means their Non-League opponents Hednesford Town could well boast a bigger match-day squad despite being three divisions below.

“We’ll probably not fill the bench,” Barker confirmed. “For a League One team to go to a Non-League team, when I’m sure they’ll fill their bench, (is bad).”

Forward Clarke has been out for a month and remains a big doubt for Saturday.

Rooney and Bennett’s respective clubs Swindon and Doncaster have not granted permission for them to feature, leaving Barker short.

Crawley have failed to name a complete squad in a number of league games this term and when asked if he would look to the Under-18s he added: “I think the youth team players should only be on the bench if they deserve to be on the bench.”

Barker is extremely wary of facing a Hednesford side who are flying high at the top of the Conference North table with nine wins from 12. The Pitmen have lost just once this season and reached the 1st Round stage with wins over AFC Telford Utd, West Auckland Town in a replay and Stamford AFC in the last round.

Reds will need to keep an especially close eye on Elliott Durrell, who scored 35 times last season and already has 19 goals from 16 games this term from midfield.

Naming the tie “a real banana skin” against a side Reds know well from their Southern League days, Barker said: “I would say it’s not an ideal draw but if we do the right things as a League One team people would expect us to win the game. It’s tough because they’ve got the winning mindset at the moment and a player who’s scoring goals for fun.”

Victory in the FA Cup tie could provide Crawley a morale-boosting lift following four straight League One defeats.

The latest was Tuesday night’s disappointing 2-0 loss at second to bottom Bristol City which featured two late goals through defensive mistakes in the last few minutes.

Managed by former Crawley boss Sean O’Driscoll, this was the Robins’ first home victory of the season.