Like us, the Reds are flying the flag for the first wave of New Towns...
Photo © The JR James Archive (cc-by-nc/2.0)

Like us, Crawley Town have been doing a decent job of flying the footballing flag for the first wave of New Towns in recent times. First there was Stevenage, of course; our New Town getting the green light in November 1946. But next up wasn’t Harlow. Or Basildon, Hatfield or even Peterlee. Nope! It was that little slice of paradise in West Sussex called Crawley – designated in January 1947. So, we were the first two out of the blocks – and we’re the two New Towns with the highest representation in the football pyramid.

Of course, that’s if you look past Peterborough, Northampton and – not to make it more complicated – Milton Keynes. As we’d all prefer this history lesson to end sooner rather than later, these three ‘New Towns’ were part of a third wave in the late 1960s. And two already existed. MK, meanwhile, went through a few clubs of their own before the Dons ditched their salubrious south London home in favour of a move north out of the capital.

You might have heard about that one?

Who are Crawley Town?

We’re the two oldest New Towns on the block. That we now know – if you didn’t already. But our two towns differ is in our footballing history. Boro’ are the third team to represent  Stevenage (after Town and Athletic). But the Reds mark their 125th anniversary in 2021. So, we’ve achieved more in a shorter space of time. Well, that’s what we’re taking from this nugget of information. We did reach the Football League before them…

For the Reds, they spent the first half of their story up until this point -> . <- playing exclusively at county or district level. The rollcall includes the West Sussex League; Mid-Sussex League; Brighton, Hove and District League; and the Sussex County League. In 1956, they moved on to the Metropolitan League. And, in 1963, came the club’s decision to up the ante; turning semi-pro and becoming a member of the Southern League.

Why do we know Crawley Town?

Now, their Southern League adventure currently makes up a massive chunk of their more recent history. It was a 41-year association with the competition; only coming to an end in 2004 as the Reds won the title for the first time in their history. It meant promotion to the Nationwide Conference too. Of course, we’d already got to that point; coming through the Isthmian League set-up a decade before and cementing our place among the top non-league teams in the land. But the 2004-5 season wouldn’t be the first time that we’d met…

In fact, the 1987-8 campaign is when our paths first crossed with the Reds. And it’s fair to say they were the better side back then; on track to end up in sixth in the Southern League Premier Division. In contrast, we were going back down to Vauxhall Opel League Division Two North after a dire second half of the season. And it during that time that our Knights Floodlit League quarter final took us to their old Town Mead ground.

What is our record against the Reds?

In that cup clash, it’s not as if there was a clear gap in quality. But the Reds did pull rank; edging us out of the competition by a single goal.

It wasn’t until 2004, however, that we got the true measure of each other. Boro’ came out on top in five of our first six meetings as equals. That includes a 2004-5 Conference Cup win and a 2005-6 FA Trophy defeat. After that, the balance of power would tip one way – and then another. The Reds, for example, did the double over us during the 2006-7 campaign. But we’d then pull the head-to-head back around in our favour.

The next time there was a league double, it’d be us claiming the points. Our 2009-10 title-winning campaign saw us get the upper hand over our fellow New Towners in more ways than one. It included a 3-0 victory at their gaff late in the season; Joel Byrom stealing that show with a goal from the halfway line. And that’d be that for the time being.

Up we went to the Football League. The next campaign saw the Reds copy our lead and come up too. But we kept one step ahead of them by going up to League One. Well – until they followed us up yet again. After a two-season hiatus, our next league encounter would be two levels higher than before; the Reds victorious in our reunion fixture in December 2012. Overall, however, we’d enjoy the better of the battles over the years.

Crawley Town: Boro’s Record

Our head-to-head: P 29 — W 14 — D 5 — L 10 — F 39 — A 32 — Pts 44 — WR 48%
Our last tango: Crawley Town 2-0 Stevenage, 22 February 2020

What happened to them?

We’ve now met Crawley Town more times in either League One or Two than we ever did in the Conference. To us, that seems a bit strange to look at it like that. After all, there are some fixtures that still invoke memories of our non-league days more so than our time in the 92. The 2019-20 season could so easily have been our last together too. We got that stay of execution, however, and we lived on to fight the Reds for another day.

After all, us New Towns gotta stick together.

Except you Harlow.

No-one likes you.

• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Crawley Town club profile