Road to Lee Valley: What's the story down in Crawley?

Crawley Men's Vase Finalists 2015

This Saturday, Sussex outfit Crawley will take to the field in the Men’s Vase Final to take on Coalville in what could be the second leg of an historic double for the club.

A small club in the shadow of Sussex’s other leading lights such as East Grinstead, Lewes and Chichester, Crawley have waited a long time for their moment in the sun.

“This year has been the best for Crawley for nearly 20 years.” says Carl Wright, one of Crawley’s attacking players. “We’ve won the league already and we’re really excited about the cup, we’re hoping to add that to the league title. We’d really love to do the club proud.”

Crawley won the Sussex League in 1998-99 but have had a barren run since then, before finally winning the Kent/Sussex Division 2 this season, seeing off amongst others, Holcombe 2s and Sevenoaks 2s in the process. The secret of their success, says Wright, is not a particularly complex one:

“We’ve worked really hard on our fitness but we also have great team spirit. Those are the main things to see us through this year. We’re all mates but we work hard for each other. We’ve won a lot of games with goals in the second half and that extra fitness and will to win has meant we were able to cope with two games in a weekend. It’s been a great season.”

Crawley, who have netted an impressive 78 times in the league this season have come through the cup rounds with an impressive track record, beating Haslemere 2-1, Camberley and Farnborough, last year’s winners 4-2, Yeovil and Sherborne 8-2, then a 9-4 defeat of Ludlow in the quarter finals ahead of a 7-1 win over Redbridge and Ilford in the semi-finals. It is fair to say goals are the order of the day for the Sussex side, but Wright is keen to point out not only the role of top scorer Kieran Fuller, but also that of goalkeeper Jamie Westwood.

“Kieran’s scored 38 goals this season and he’s a real threat from penalty corners but we also have a very good goalkeeper in Jamie Westwood. He played in goal for East Grinstead when he was younger but until this season had been playing outfield for us. We persuaded him to go back in goal and he’s been outstanding.”

For a club the size of Crawley, their big day out at Lee Valley, dubbed “Hockey’s Wembley” is obviously a big deal. There is a suggestion that some players may find themselves overawed by the occasion, something Wright is keen to ensure doesn’t happen:

“We have some younger players in the group who will have never experienced anything like this before but luckily we have plenty of experience, too. Adrian Bettesworth and I both played in the National League for Lewes and Alex Watson has played a high level too.” he adds “Hopefully we can help the rest of the squad keep their focus and get the win.”

Opponents Coalville will be a stiff test for Crawley, they too have found goals easy to come by netting 30 times in their four games to reach this stage. Wright puts it quite nicely when he weighs up his side’s chances of getting the win:

“We’re a bunch of mates who work hard and love socialising and playing in a team together. Win or lose, we’ll have a great night afterwards!”

Two prolific goalscoring teams, one final, one trophy. Let battle commence!

Tickets are still available for Men's Knockout Finals weekend. The schedule of the weekend is below and tickets can be purchased here.  

Saturday 2nd May 2015
09:30 - NOW: Pensions Men's 2nd XI Plate Final - Lewes v Beeston
11:30 - NOW: Pensions Men's Vase Final - Coalville Town v Crawley
13:30 - NOW: Pensions Men's Trophy Final - Sheffield University Bankers v Guernsey
15:30 - NOW: Pensions Men's Cup Final - Reading v Surbiton
17:30 - NOW: Pensions Men's 2nd XI Cup Final - Cannock v Surbiton

Sunday 3rd May 2015
09:00 - NOW: Pensions Men's Masters O50s Trophy Final - Hereford v Sevenoaks
10:00 - Men's Masters O50s Shield Final (Pitch 2) - Bournemouth v Charnwood Mountsorrel
11:00 - NOW: Pensions Men's Masters O50s Cup Final - Reading v Harleston Magpies
12:00 - Men's Masters O60s Plate Final (Pitch 2) - Gloucestershire v Iceni Rex Essex
13:00 - NOW: Pensions Men's Masters O40s Cup Final - Stourport v Khalsa (Warks)
14:00 - Men's Masters O40s Shield Final (Pitch 2) - Norwich Dragons v Taunton Vale
15:00 - Men's Masters O60s Cup Final - Worcestershire & Herefordshire v Indian Gymkhana
17:00 - NOW: Pensions Men's Masters O40s Trophy Final - Henley v Cannock