Crawley travelled to Pulborough on Saturday for a ‘Home’ fixture, as Willoughby Field had been underwater on Friday the fixture was switched.
This was the third meeting of the two top sides in the division and as Crawley had come off second best in both previous matches there was a steely determination not to make it a three losses out of three. Although the wind was strong, underfoot conditions were perfect and the game showed great promise of being a close encounter.
Crawley started with an unfamiliar looking side with Josh Burt making his first team debut for the season. Crawley chose to work with the conditions in the first half and began strongly, using the wind to keep the home side pinned in their own half. Kieran Gosling was showing imperious form in the loose and the lineout, and the Crawley scrum was strong with new prop Barry Theobald to the fore. These efforts ensured the visitors were also dominating possession. However Pulborough are unbeaten this season and their ability to pounce on any mistake showed why. Against the run of play a speculative kick after 30 minutes was chased down as Luke Wilson tried to cover a thigh injury sustained earlier meant he could not get to the ball before the attackers and the home side scored.
With the score 5-0 at half time both sides realised the contest could go either way, however Pulborough had the elements in their favour and started the half with more confidence. This confidence slowly erroded as Crawley changed tactics and started to keep the ball in hand and run hard at the home defence. Blaise Salle and Richard Hewitt both had excellent games as these two top side tore into each other. The defensive work that both teams displayed was outstanding and neither side could take advantage of possession that they shared in equal measure. The hammer blow for the visitors came with 10 minutes to go when the referee awarded a rare penalty in the Crawley half which Pulborough converted to effectively take the game away from Crawley.
This did not stop the young Crawley team, with 9 players below the age of 20, they threw everything at the home side for the last few minutes. In the end it was to no avail as the defence held strong but all credit must go to both sides for providing such entertainment in a keenly fought but good natured encounter.
Unfortunately Crawley suffered further injuries to add to their growing list of players unable to play. Ashley Eaton who enjoyed his best game to date and Andrew Turner are effectively out for the rest of the season.
Squad:Westphal-Reed,L Wilson, Hewitt, Salle, Mitchell, S Wilson, Searle, Theobald, Ferrier, Eaton, Riley, Burt, Harding, Turner, Gosling, Dean, Rouch.