Clarke ready to renew strike partnership with Tubbs

Billy Clarke put Reds ahead with a 35th minute penalty
Billy Clarke put Reds ahead with a 35th minute penalty

Billy Clarke is itching to renew his burgeoning attacking partnership with Matt Tubbs when Crawley Town host struggling Stevenage tonight.

Clarke has been forced to watch Reds’ last two games from the sidelines after he was sent off late on in the victory at Walsall, a decision he brandished ‘ridiculous’.

The versatile attacker is expected to again partner Tubbs upfront tonight as they did to good effect against Rotherham and Walsall, and Clarke is confident it’s a partnership that will continue to blossom.

“I don’t mind where I play really but I’ll always look to attack and always try to score goals,” said Clarke, who largely operated behind a main striker under former manager Richie Barker.

“The first few games under the new manager (John Gregory) I played left midfield but the last two games I’ve played I’ve been up top with Tubbs and I think it’s worked well.

“I know the manager wants me to get onto the ball and I think we compliment each other well. He’s a predator in the box and I like to drop off a bit deeper to get on the ball so it’s my job to try and find him.”

Clarke did that to great effect against the Sadlers when he curled in a delicious ball for Tubbs to head in his second of the match from close range as Reds won 2-1 in their first game back from a four-week break.

The Irishman didn’t finish the game however after being handed a second booking for kicking the ball after the referee had blown his whistle for offside.

It looked harsh and Clarke said he felt referee Kevin Wright was ‘evening things up’ after awarding Reds an early penalty.

“The referee blew his whistle and it must have been less than a second later that I’ve had a shot which went only just wide,” Clarke said. “It bounced straight back into the ‘keeper’s hands so it’s not like I was wasting any time.

“I thought he could have done the sensible thing and had a word with me, and maybe even add 20 seconds on at the end, but to send me off was ridiculous.

“After our penalty I thought he might try and give them something, they had a couple of half shouts for a penalty so it was inevitable a big decision would go for them.”

In his absence on-loan Tubbs has caught him up as the club’s leading scorer with both players now on five, and Clarke knows adding to that tally tonight will be difficult.

“Stevenage are a physical side so it’s going to be a tough game for us, but if we play as we can we’re more than capable of winning,” he said.

Boro won the earlier fixture at Broadhall Way 2-0 but have struggled of late, although their fine late win over Bradford on Saturday did lift them off the foot of the League One table.