Ex-Cherrie Mean sinks the Terras
WEYMOUTH’S recent run of form came to an end against championship challengers Crawley Town at the impressive Broadfield Stadium.
But with the Terras leading 1-0, it took an inspired substitution by Town boss Billy Smith midway through the second period, to turn the game on its head.
Darran Rowbotham’s eighth strike of the season during first-half stoppage time had put Andy Mason’s men in the driving seat before Smith threw on Nigel Brake in the 67th minute in a desperate bid to get back into the game.
And the switch came up trumps just seconds later when Brake himself popped up to level proceedings with his first touch of the game.
Weymouth, whose credentials will be severely tested in the next few weeks with clashes against a number of the top sides in the division, then went behind just three minutes later when Crawley’s ex-Bournemouth midfielder Scott Mean curled a superb free-kick home from 25 yards.
After last week’s second half fireworks against Kings Lynn, Mason adventurously handed a starting place to all three of his strikers in an attempt to carve open the promotion-chasing outfit’s back-line.
But the gamble didn’t pay off as the number of clear-cut openings created by the Terras could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Instead it was the Sussex side who looked the more likely to find the net and it was only a case of dogged defending, wasteful finishing and a clutch of top-drawer stops from keeper Danny Potter that prevented them from scoring earlier than they did.
Crawley fashioned the first chance of the contest within two minutes when Mean’s effort from the edge of the box flashed across Potter’s goalmouth unopposed.
Four minutes later a quick Weymouth raid, which proved to be their best avenue of attack throughout, ended with Underhay dragging an effort tamely wide from the edge of the box.
The hosts then started to turn the screw, particularly in the middle of the park with Mean pulling the strings.
Striker Dean Wordsworth, who wasted a whole host of chances, scuffed his shot when in a good position before Mean’s downward header from point blank range was narrowly wide of Potter’s up-right on 20 minutes.
The Terras’ keeper was then called into action five minutes later to produce a fantastic block to deny Wordsworth, after the ex-Stevenage frontman was played in by Danny Carroll.
At the other end, the front trio of David Laws, making his 250th appearance, Rowbotham and Underhay were struggling to make any serious headway.
Potter again had to be at his best shortly before the break to acrobatically turn away Wordsworth’s curler following a neat move down the right flank involving Mean and Dave Powell.
But despite all Crawley’s possession and pressure it was Weymouth who took the lead in stoppage time with a goal following a sweeping move which was, depending on your viewpoint, either a clinical fast-break or route one at its most effective.
With a host of Town men committed forward for a set-piece Potter rose high to claim a cross and immediately found Laws in space down the right flank. The striker then ran Marc Pullan ragged before clipping an inch-perfect centre from the by-line into Rowbotham at the far post who nodded it across keeper Andy Little into the far corner.
After the break Wordsworth’s wasted yet another golden opportunity to score – this time heading over when under pressure by Mathew Hare. But with Mason’s side starting to find more space in the final third and Town running out of ideas then came the decisive introduction of Brake.
And just seconds later he popped up to level the score. Wing-back Matt Woolf blasted goalwards only to see the ball deflect off Underhay to Brake who slotted past Potter.
The goal seemed to inspire the hosts and three minutes later came Mean’s brilliant swerving free-kick that appeared to catch Potter unawares.
With Weymouth now suddenly behind, they spent the closing 15 minutes desperately searching for an equaliser.
Rowbotham had a right-footed drive deflected narrowly over by Brake late on and in the dying seconds Matthew Hale had a glorious opportunity to snatch a point for Mason’s troops.
Underhay, who by this time was running on empty, did well to hold off the challenge of Hynes to work himself some space on the right flank. He drove in a dangerous centre, which was inches too high for Laws but Hale looked destined to slot home at the back-post. But the off-balance wing-back somehow steered his right-footed shot the wrong side of Little’s right-hand upright.