Five things we have learned from Crawley Town's pre-season
With just two days to go until Crawley Town travel to Hartlepool for the opening game of the new season, Philip Richardson looks at the five things we have learned from the Reds' pre-season.
Tyler Frost and Sam Matthews to be influential on the wing
Arguably the two stand out performers from the Reds’ pre-season have been Sam Matthews on the right wing and Tyler Frost on the left wing.
On Saturday, Frost put on another eye-catching performance earning him a man of the match. His impressive speed and willingness to run at defenders matched with much improved end product should make him a real threat in the upcoming season.
In an interview assistant manager Lee Bradbury has said he expects Tyler Frost to have a 'big season'.
On the other flank Matthews has also impressed linking well with forward Tom Nichols. With quick feet and a lethal left foot, he could be a real menace cutting in from the right to deliver pin-point crosses or have efforts at goal.
He is also effective at utilising Ashley Nadesan as Matthews often drops short to create space in behind for Nadesan’s pace.
Whilst it is yet to be seen if they can continue their pre-season form, the signs are promising for Crawley’s wingers to have very successful campaigns.
Depth not an issue
One of the major takeaways of the pre-season has been the amount of depth at all positions at the club.
The pre-season has seen a lot of combinations and rotation amongst the squad and to a tee they have proven themselves.
With Nichols looking like he will miss the beginning of the season with injury, Davide Rodari and Sam Ashford will provide strong challenges, with Rodari scoring against Spurs under-23s and Ashford netting in two of his three pre-season appearances.
Similarly, skipper George Francomb is suspended for the first game of the season after his red card against Bolton last season.
But Archie Davies has excelled in pre-season with strong well-rounded performances against strong Spurs and West Ham under-23s teams.
With additions at keeper (Blondy Nna Noukeu), left back (Owen Gallacher), centre back (Harry Ransom), centre midfield (Jack Payne) and maybe a couple more to come, Crawley look set to have good depth in all positions, which will unquestionably help around the busy Christmas period.
Set-pieces to be a forte
Last season it was clear how important Jack Powell’s impressive set-piece deliveries were.
Pre-season has been no different with Powell’s corners being a constant source of chances.
However, Matthews has also added great ability with set pieces from the right. This was shown against West Ham when his searching ball was put into a great area, spilled by the keeper and headed home by a trialist.
If Crawley are able to sign the 6’6 trialist that played at centre back against West Ham as well, then this will only add to their set-piece threat.
Although last season Nichols was their main threat, Rodari showed against Spurs that he is more than a threat in the air and hopefully he can bag a few goals.
George Francomb to play centrally?
As mentioned previously, skipper Francomb will be suspended for the opening game of the season. With this in mind Davies has really excelled coming in at right back.
With strong defensive performances, as well as impressive crosses and roaming runs, his pace has really stood out. This gives the Reds a few options and some very difficult decisions to make.
They can either bench the impressive Davies and start Francomb, or play Davies and move Francomb to a more central midfield role.
However, this would create another challenge as who would move out as both Powell and Jake Hessenthaler looking solid.
A glimpse into the possible solution was seen for the last 20 minutes against Spurs, when Crawley moved to a 4-5-1 with Francomb joining Hessenthaler and Powell in the midfield.
With Nichols looking likely to miss the beginning of the season through injury, maybe this formation will be used in the early season. This is something to keep an eye on for Reds fans.
Where does Nick Tsaroulla fit in?
Finally, arguably Crawley’s breakout star from last season, Nick Tsaroulla. Last season his quick footwork and confidence on the ball shone as he quickly became a fan favourite after his FA Cup herpics.
However, injury has meant he has struggled to appear in pre-season, only featuring twice.
Last season he would have been strong favourite to start on the left-hand side, however strong performances from Gallacher at left back and Frost at left wing will make it difficult for him to get his spot back.
It will be interesting to see but I think there will likely be a large amount of rotation of the left wing with Tsaroulla probably featuring at left back to provide attacking support.
It is yet to be seen but the battle for positions on the left hand side can only be good to push the team and players further.
The Reds have a young squad and the more competition there is, the better they will develop.