Crawley Town finally gave their home fans something to cheer about with a 2-0 win against Yeovil Town.
It was their second win in a row following on from when they were bottom of the table with no points from the first three games.
But how has this transformation in fortunes come about?
Pace down the middle
A key factor in Crawley’s run of defeats was the decision by Kewell to deploy a target man in a 4-3-3 formation.
New signing Thomas Verheydt started all three of Crawley’s opening league matches, and struggled to make a telling impact, often being marked out of the game by opposition defenders and received a lack of crosses.
Kewell then took action, with what has proven to be a masterstroke decision, to change the formation to a 4-4-2 with natural pacey wingers Enzio Boldewijn and Jordan Roberts forming a strike partnership up top.
The switch in tactics has seen the Reds score five goals in two games, after scoring just once in the first three matches. Roberts has particularly impressed in his new position, with his deflected effort at Swindon followed by a brace against Yeovil- his second being brilliantly set up by Boldewijn.
The new partnership formed between Boldewijn and Roberts is a definite reason for optimism, as Crawley look to build on their impressive form.
Captain Smith’s leadership is vital
Crawley lacked the excellent leadership skills of Jimmy Smith in their opening matches.
The 30-year-old returned to action in the 3-0 win at Swindon, following a lengthy absence due to a thigh injury, and instilled a new-found determination and winning mentality within the team.
As well as finding the net in the impressive win, Smith’s overall display brought the best out of the rest of the team and was again instrumental in the following 2-0 win against Yeovil.
Having returned to the fold earlier than expected, and playing the full 90 minutes in both of his first two games back, his determination and commitment speaks volumes and must surely influence the rest of his team.
In the words of Jordan Roberts; “It’s massive that he’s back. It’s not only because he’s playing that it brings a boost to the team, it’s his presence in the changing room and on the training pitch.
He demands better from everyone week in, week out and as a captain that’s something you want around you as that skill is a brilliant thing to have and it’s always a positive for the team.”
Confidence is key
A notable consistency which has been evident right from when Harry Kewell joined the club, is his overwhelming confidence.
Regardless of the result Kewell maintains his high level of belief in himself and his team, and remained insistent that he and his players would turn things round after the disappointing start and has fulfilled that promise.
As a Champions League winner from his illustrious career as a player, Kewell demands respect, and his values and ideas are starting to be exemplified by the players. They are playing with a belief and confidence that had been missing.
Bad luck was often to blame for the defeats, particularly against Cambridge, with the Reds hitting the woodwork twice and seeing several efforts brilliantly saved.
However, they lacked ruthlessness and confidence in front of goal, but following the tactical changes and the installation of self-belief, goal scoring is no longer an issue.
Crawley may have a vast array of attacking talent, but two consecutive clean sheets suggest they are becoming just as strong defensively. Josh Lelan and Josh Yorweth have regularly featured under Kewell, albeit the injury to Mark Connolly against Cambridge, and are beginning to justify the manager’s faith.
Except from an occasional misplaced pass, Yorweth looks an assured partner to the impressive Lelan with the pair keeping Joe McNerney out of the team and will surely give Kewell a positive conundrum once Connolly returns.
Kewell has also found reliable full-back options in Lewis Young and Cedric Evina, with both providing further pace and width in attack but are always back to defend expertly when needed.
Crawley’s upturn in form coincided with an obvious increase in commitment and dedication.
Despite the obvious cases of misfortune, there were times during the run of defeats that the Reds looked a little lacklustre and in need of inspiration,
particularly against Cambridge.
This was a trait that became a distant memory in their two recent victories, with every player visibly putting in 110% to prove their worth to the manager and to the fans. This dedication was notably personified when Smith, Boldewijn and Roberts all stayed on the pitch despite receiving hefty knocks, which could have forced them off on another day.
Despite just returning from an injury, Smith didn’t hold back from a single tackle; something which cost him a yellow card and a knock to his ankle. At first, he looked unable to walk after the challenge without limping, but the captain played on and continued to spur his team on for their first home win of the season.
The players were met with well-deserved, rapturous applause from all the home fans, most notably when Camara, Roberts and Cox were substituted, demonstrating their approval and delight at the performance and result.