Are You Ready For The Craw… ley?

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Steve EvansDo it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it now… we don’t often go in for electro music, but it is a simple message from Hot Chip. Our traditional November struggle now behind us, we hurtle towards the festive frolics of Christmas with a win under our belts at Hartlepool and the chance to double our monies. And who better than against an old foe who aren’t enjoying the best form right now.

The last time we crossed paths with Crawley Town, we were on our march towards the title in 2009/10. Seems so long ago. That season, we scored twice without reply at home. Away, we scored twice without reply. If you discount Joel Byrom from the halfway line. It seemed we had escaped the Red Devils after promotion to the Football League. And again when we made it to League One.

But they caught up. After building up a fair bit of momentum, Crawley Town replicated the success we enjoyed in League Two and came straight up last season. We nearly escaped for a third time, but Sheffield United put paid to that. Now it’s time to show them that when it comes to non-leaguers coming good, we are the original and we are the best. Three points is a fine way to do that, right?

• It would be poor form for us to not mention that tomorrow also presents Boro’ fans with their first proper chance to mark the passing of Mitchell Cole. We haven’t played at home for a good while now, but we have no doubt that the Lamex will unite to pay our collective respects to a much-loved player – whether by way of a silence at the start of the game, or by applause on the 21st minute.

FIFA13 Verdict:
It feels like a long time since we did this, and it shows. There was a fair sense of lethargy in the first half and going in 0-0 at the interval didn’t come as a shock, frustrating as it was to be a part of. Boro’ mustered five shots, one of which was on target; Crawley had all three of theirs on the money. For what it was worth, the hosts shaded possession and saw Anthony Grant go into the book.

You’d think the second half wouldn’t be any worse, right? Hmm. Gary Alexander headed in to put Crawley ahead after 64 minutes as Boro’ looked pretty average at the back. A double change (Shroot for Tansey, Rogers for Freeman) was the first effort to revive the fortunes – and in the 75th minute, a lifeline came Stevenage’s way. Lucas Akins netting from the spot after a generous penalty award.

In fairness, it did spark Boro’ into life. After the visitors thought they had earned a penalty for themselves, the hosts broke rapidly and, who else, Shroot put Boro’ into a slender lead. The 83rd minute was also the cue for Patrick Agyemang to replace Marcus Haber. It ended 2-1, but not before Bondz N’Gala almost gifted a leveller to the guests. Thankfully, no harm came of it. Heart in mouth, mind.

FT: Stevenage 2-1 Crawley Town (Akins pen 75′, Shroot 83′; Alexander 64′)

Bookies’ Verdict:
Despite the fact Crawley Town are without a league win they beat MK Dons in October, the bookmakers are not too inclined to think this is Boro’s game to lose. It could be down to an indifferent run of form at home for the Hertfordshire side, but Bet365 were offering a tasty Dolly Parton (9/5 if you didn’t get it) on a home win. A draw is 12/5 at both Boylesport and Betfred if you think the stalemate is on.

With the penalty at Hartlepool taking Lucas Akins clear in Boro’s goalscoring charts, could he be the first to net tomorrow? Bet365 is offering sevens that he will. Or how about Robin Shroot with his new contract? If he doesn’t start, it’s a risk but one worth taking at 8/1? Or Dannie Bulman against his former side at 20/1? If you like the sound of our FIFA outcome above, Coral will give you tens.

Last Season Meeting:
Stevenage 2-0 Crawley Town (Blue Square Premier, 2009/10)

Team Tarot (4-2-3-1):
Arnold
Gray
Roberts
N’Gala
Charles
Dunne
Grant
Akins
Tansey
Freeman
Haber

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