Stevenage 1-1 Crawley Town: Danny Newton’s wonder strike cancelled by Ibrahim Meite’s excellent goal on wet and windy night
PUBLISHED: 21:47 12 September 2017 | UPDATED: 22:59 12 September 2017
Danny Loo Photography 2017
A superb strike by Stevenage’s Danny Newton on half time put Boro ahead before an equally impressive reply by Crawley’s Ibrahim Meite just after the break resulted in a 1-1 draw in their SkyBet League Two clash on a wet and wild night in North Herts.
Newton’s goal was the type of goal that makes you smile and reminds you that football at heart can be a simple, joyous game. The 26-year-old, relishing his big break in league football dipped his shoulder, drove at a backpedaling defence before unleashing a powerful low shot that went in off the post.
However three minutes after the interval Meite replied through a drive that beat the otherwise excellent Joe Fryer as the game finished level in sheeting rain as Stevenage returned to the Lamex three days after their unexpected home 2-1 defeat by Lincoln City.
Darren Sarll’s men have rightly earned plaudits already this season for the quality and intensity of their play so it was testament to their high standards that such a collective sigh of disappointment could be felt in and around the club at the defeat.
Sarll is nothing if not a commander of men and as Sir Alex Ferguson said the secret of good leader is knowing when to put an arm round someone and knowing when to ‘kick them up the backside’.
Judging by Sarll’s thoughtful handling of the unfortunate Luke Wilkinson it was the former. The defender’s sending off against the Imps failed to help matters in a final half an hour that the boss described as ‘madness’. At 1-0 up facing ten-men at home a team should not lose.
At least in theory.
But if football was predictable – and not the glorious, maddening game that we love and which frustrates us all in equal measures – then we’d all be at home watching the Great British Bake Off.
As it was a crowd of 1,922 hardy souls turned up on a cold, wet night to support their heroes.
And there could be no more potential hero at this level over the coming months than the hugely promising winger Ben Kennedy.
The Ulsterman whose football education saw him schooled on the streets of Northern Ireland – as opposed to identikit academies that produce identikit players with reasonably honed technical skills and a complete absence of an ability to think for themselves in tight, fluid situations.
The type of skills former Inter Milan star Kanu honed on the dusty streets of Lagos, or in the case of the former Barcelona man Alexis Sanchez, the dry, baked open spaces of Tocopila.
Street footballers learn the type of skills you simply can’t coach. Instead if you are a good manager, as Sarll is, you simply harness their enthusiasm and improvisational skills as best you can while guiding them – and enjoying the ride.
To that end Kennedy looked lively early on acting as a conduit for Boro’s best work as he ducked and dived down the right wing as the rain started to fall amid the swirling leaves to remind us that the dark winter months are approaching.
The Boro could leaven that thought by providing illuminating and powerful winning football through autumn and deepest midwinter.
And in Kennedy they certainly have the creative attacking player to unlock defences and lift fans. A ‘street footballer’ in the truest sense, with his intelligent movement and vision.
As the rain started to sheet down Matty Godden fired off a dangerous low shot that whizzed past the despairing dive of Crawley keeper Glenn Morris on 23 minutes. Unfortunately for the star striker the ball also flew past the wrong side of his post.
But it wasn’t a night for finesse. It was a night for hard work, unflinching commitment and lung-bursting runs off the ball to do the ‘dirty work’ required to win at this level.
Crawley’s new boss Harry Kewell is certainly learning those attributes are important after a roller-coaster ride during his first months in charge of the Sussex club. Losing his opening three league defeats on the bounce followed by a 5-1 hammering by Harry Redknapp’s Birmingham City in the league cup was a chastening experience.
Two wins against Swindon and Yeovil steadied the ship but a 3-1 defeat against Colchester United on Saturday saw his team arrive at the Lamex in 18th position having garnered seven points from seven games. All of which meant he sent out a team that looked to frustrate while giving nothing away – forcing the onus onto the home side to break them down.
It was Kennedy again – having taken the unilateral decision to switch wings for a moment – who fired in a low shot with five minutes remaining that Morris did well to claim.
And with many getting ready for the half-time interval another street footballer – certainly one that bypassed the academy system at any rate – made his mark.
Danny Newton spent his formative years working his way around non-league outposts of Hinckley United, Nuneaton Town, Brackley Town, Leamington and Tamworth before arriving in North Herts as a 26-year-old desperate for a chance to make the grade.
If Newton’s goal moments before half time was anything to go by he has a big future in league football.
Picking up the ball and running towards goal he dropped his shoulder, beating his man in an instant before continuing to drive. Looking up and assessing his options in a split second he took another touch before drilling in a delightful low shot to Morris’ left and into the net to make it 1-0 to Stevenage.
His joyful celebration was as much about the delight of such a wonderful goal as they were a primal scream that unleashed all those years of frustration at being told he wasn’t good enough for league football.
Boro, electrified by what they had witnessed, nearly scored a second moments later but Fraser Franks on a foray into the box headed narrowly wide.
In all the excitement Joe Fryer’s athletic full-stretch save from an Ibrahim Meite wonder strike from outside the box was almost forgotten. Although given the excellence he showed in his anticipation and an exceptionally powerful wrist to tip the ball over the bar deserves to be remembered for a long time.
However, three minutes into the second half Meite – a loan signing from Cardiff before last month’s transfer window - got his revenge by firing a low shot that nestled into the net from the edge of the area.
Fryer looked unsighted as he was fractionally late on the shot, but that would be to deny the 21-year-old’s superb shot was worthy of a goal.
As the rain continued to sheet across the pitch and temperatures dropped Crawley increasingly began to dominate possession in a scrappy second half high on endeavour but lacking quality in the difficult conditions.
Boro’s hero Newton was subbed for Chris Whelpdale with 18 minutes remaining and thoroughly deserved his warm ovation.
The visitors Dannie Bulman then had a skidding shot fly wide after good work by captain Jimmy Smith but as conditions worsened a late winner would have been harsh – even if Ronnie Henry managed to stop a Crawley scramble on the line and Morris saved well from Boro substitute Alex Samuel with seconds remaining.
In the final analysis both sides should be satisfied – if nowhere near delighted – with a hard-earned point. On a wet night suitable only for ducks. And street footballers.
Stevenage: Fryer, Smith, Martin, Franks (Vancooten), Beautyman (Samuel), Kennedy, Pett, Newton (Whelpdale), Toner, Godden, Henry (c)
Crawley: Morris, Young, Doherty (Payne), Bolderwun, Smith (c), Yorwearth, Evina, Bulman, Lelan, Lewis (Randall), Meite