Crawley Town anticipating record crowd for Wolves visit

Billy Clarke returns from suspension and could partner Matt Tubbs (below) in attack
Billy Clarke returns from suspension and could partner Matt Tubbs (below) in attack

A record crowd could turn out to watch Crawley Town take on mighty Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Broadfield this Saturday.

With visiting Wolves travelling down with their full 2,000 allocation of fans the total number attending what is being billed as Reds’ biggest game of the season is expected to eclipse the current record of 5,058, set last season against Portsmouth.

Matt Tubbs returns to Crawley Town FC  on loan (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Matt Tubbs returns to Crawley Town FC on loan (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Confirming it could be a record crowd for the club since entering the Football League, Gregory said a loud home support could play their part.

“I can’t say a bad word about them, they’ve been brilliant since I’ve been here,” Gregory said about the Crawley fans. “They got the drum out the last home game against Notts County and everyone seemed to join in the sing-songs.

“It’s great to see as many people in here as possible and if the weather holds it will be a bumper crowd and a great atmosphere.”

Dannie Bulman is the only squad member definitely ruled out, with Gregory saying he wouldn’t be putting any pressure on the midfielder to return from a fractured cheekbone which will keep him out of action for at least another three weeks.

One major boost is the return of attacker Billy Clarke from a three-match suspension, and Gregory may look to pair him upfront with Matt Tubbs - who extended his loan deal until the end of the season on Thursday.

“I think it’s been the longest three weeks in his life,” Gregory said of Clarke. “We were going to have three games in a week and then we’d have him back, but obviously we’ve had games postponed and cancelled, so it’s been a little bit longer than we all anticipated. He’s chomping at the bit and raring to go.

Clarke missed seven games with a knee injury he picked up in October and had only made seven starts since returning before getting sent off at the end of Reds’ home defeat to MK Dons on Boxing Day.

“Talking to him it’s been a frustrating season for him, with injuries and with a change of management, it’s not helped the rhythm for the likes of Billy and one or two others,” Gregory said. “They came under scrutiny in December when I came in and then he gets suspended, and there’s quite a few of them playing for contracts.”

Gregory was hugely impressed with Clarke playing off of Gary Alexander in the 3-2 win at Leyton Orient, saying “had he scored it would have been the perfect performance”.

The Reds boss described playing ‘in the hole’ as a “luxury position” only reserved for the “very special players”. Gregory has also deployed Clarke out wide but would consider partnering him upfront with Tubbs.

“Without any question both of them could play that role. They’re both very bright footballers, Billy’s my little Lionel Messi,” he said.

Wolves had been suffering their first real ‘blip’ of the season, drawing two League One games and then losing at Gillingham to a late goal before beating Preston North End 2-0 at home on Saturday.

That run of one win in their last four has seen them knocked off of top spot, though they remain just three points off leaders Brentford.

New signing Nouha Dicko could make his debut for Wolves in attack and the club is also believed to want Leon Clarke from Coventry.

Gregory though says he expected Kenny Jackett’s side to walk away with the League One title.

“They’re a massive club with a huge following, great traditions and great history, and they’re actually playing in League One against us,” he said. “I have to say I expected them to be ten, 15 points clear of everyone by now...but they’ve found it hard, everyone seems to get their game up against them. I saw them lose in the 96th minute at Gillingham, it just shows you that they’re fellable.

“We go into the game full of confidence, we’re on a pretty good run, we’re scoring goals and it should be a great game.”

Crawley come into the game in 14th position having won two of their last four league games.