Head coach Gabriele Cioffi was under a little pressure after his Crawley side finished 19th in Sky Bet League Two last season, with supporters not sure if the Italian was the right man for the job.
Fast forward a few months and the former defender has got his team flying, creating chances at will and playing some of the most open and expansive football on show in the division.
Cioffi has achieved this by putting together a side diverse in abilities, experience and attributes. Building from the solid defensive foundations of Tom Dallison and Jordan Tunnicliffe; full-backs Josh Doherty, Lewis Young and David Sesay (whichever two are selected) are given free rein to get forward and help with the creative side of the game.
Playing a holding midfielder to protect the central defenders, Cioffi allows for forward impetus from all areas of his side – which has seen Crawley become, possibly, the most creative side in the lower tiers this season so far.
The key reason for this, though, is the astute capture of frontman Berylyl Lubala from Birmingham City. Playing for City’s reserve side, Lubala turned down a new deal with the ‘Blues’ in order to gain regular first-team football under Cioffi at Crawley.
The move has paid dividends for both player and club as Lubala has been one of the EFL’s star performers so far this season, scoring seven times with some spectacular strikes and causing no end of problems with his pace and trickery. Lubala will already have caught the eye of scouting networks aplenty as his move for more game time has paid off.
Another vital component of Crawley’s success is target man Ollie Palmer. The big frontman has found a home at ‘The Red Devils’ and plays a key role in offering a physicality and presence that compliments the likes of Lubala and fellow forward-thinking midfielders Reece Grego-Cox, Panutche Camara, Mason Bloomfield and Nathan Ferguson to create a potent mix which sees Cioffi’s men cause problems for opposing teams from multiple areas and avenues.
A lot must be said for Cioffi’s coaching ability in terms of turning many underperforming and somewhat (previously) uninspiring League Two players into such an expressive unit, while his recruitment of forward Lubala is looking like a masterstroke.
Whether Crawley can maintain their current form and style remains to be seen, but fans of the club will be glad they stuck with their Italian coach and allowed him to build a very capable side.