Crawley Town breakdown: Nichols the talisman, Craig immense and the drastic change from September

Tom Nichols has had better fortunes at Crawley than at Bristol Rovers. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)Tom Nichols has had better fortunes at Crawley than at Bristol Rovers. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
Tom Nichols has had better fortunes at Crawley than at Bristol Rovers. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images) | Getty Images
We spoke to Mark Dunford, the sports editor for SussexWorld to get the background on the threat Crawley will pose the Gas tonight

Bristol Rovers are on their travels as they travel to the People’s Pension Stadium this evening to face Crawley Town in another Sky Bet League Two fixture.

Crawley, who are on a three-game unbeaten run at home, though two of those have been draws against the bottom two teams in the division, will want to close the gap between themselves and the Gas.

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Rovers are six points clear and four places higher than John Yem’s side, who will be a completely different outfit from the side that lost 1-0 at the Memorial Stadium back in September.

To get the inside track of what to expect from Crawley Town, we spoke to Mark Dunford, responsible for the coverage of Sussex clubs like Brighton & Hove Albion as well as Crawley Town to let us know what the mood is like in their camp.

Key player

Crawley Town’s talisman is former Bristol man Tom Nichols. When he is on it for the Reds everything that is good goes through him - and that was none more evident than his performance in the 2-2 draw with Stevenage. He scores all kinds of goes and can unlock any defence. He has been plagued by injury this season and he was out with  a minor knock for  Saturday’s goalless draw with Scunthorpe United and he was sorely missed.

At the other end of the pitch the back three of Joel Lynch, Tony Craig and Jordan Tunnicliffe are absolutely key with League’s Two’s best keeper Glenn Morris just behind them. It’s an experienced defence which can be hard to break down.

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Strengths

As previously mentioned, the experienced back line and keeper can be hard to break down. But upfront when they are on it they play some lovely, counter-attacking football.

In the pre-match press conference, skipper George Francomb highlighted they can be explosive on the counter attack and that’s why they are more successful against teams who come at them more. Ashley Nadesan’s pace is a great outlet for them and he was on fire with three goals in two games recently against Forest Green and Oldham. John Yems’ mantra is you start with a point, and that’s the least you should finish with.

Weaknesses

As was evident against Scunthorpe at the weekend, they can struggle when teams sit back against them. They don’t struggle to create - 13 efforts against Scunthorpe - they just struggle to score. Joel Lynch said after Saturday’s game that the wingers and attackers need a bit of confidence and he is absolutely right. And that’s why Tom Nichols is so key for them in opening up defences and getting a goal out of nothing.

Team news

Injuries have plagued Crawley all season and Yems is yet to get out his ideal first team. As mentioned, it’s unclear whether Tom Nichols will be back tonight. The signs are good for top scorer Kwesi Appiah to be returning soon, along with midfielder Jake Hessenthaler. George Francomb said in the press conference today they are nearing a fully fit squad, and I bet Yems cannot wait for that. January signing Remi Oteh, who had a promising start to his Reds career with a superb goal away at Harrogate, definitely out after picking up an injury in the Forest Green win.

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Last meeting

The Pirates will face a very different Reds side and formation. It was a 4-4-2 at the Memorial Stadium and that was mainly down to the amount of injuries Crawley had.

Sam Ashford, who started up front with Nichols that day, left the club in January and Jake Hessenthaler has been out since picking up an injury at Walsall in December.

Expect to see a 5-3-2/3-5-2 with Lynch and Tunnicliffe joining Craig at the back, Nick Tsaroulla and Will Ferryat wing-backs, Francomb, who played centre back against Rovers in September, to join Jack Payne and Jack Powell in midfield.

Fitness will dictate who starts up front but would be great to see Nichols and Appiah back.

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Former Bristol Rovers defender Tony Craig has been ‘immense’ in recent months. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)Former Bristol Rovers defender Tony Craig has been ‘immense’ in recent months. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)
Former Bristol Rovers defender Tony Craig has been ‘immense’ in recent months. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images) | Getty Images

What’s the view of former Gas duo Tom Nichols and Tony Craig?

Nichols is seen as the main man for Crawley and it’s clear on forums the fans miss him when he is not there. Craig has faced criticism in the past but his performances, certainly in recent months, have been immense and I think the fans now see his experience as vital.

The fans do our player ratings away from home and in February he jointly won the Crawley Observer Crawley Town Player of the Month with Jordan Tunnicliffe.

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