Skipper has big role to play for Reds

The Argus: Gary Alexander Gary Alexander

Captain Gary Alexander has been reassured he still has a major role to play at Crawley despite the arrival of three new strikers.

Alexander has started all but two league games for Reds this season but his place is now in question following the arrival of Jamie Proctor from Swansea City on Wednesday.

Crawley have also brought in Lateef Elford-Alliyu from Bury while Jimmy Spencer is due to complete his loan move from Huddersfield Town next week when he recovers from a minor knee injury.

Alexander has failed to score in his last 21 League One appearances with his only goal since netting a brace at Preston in September coming from the penalty spot against Chelmsford City in the FA Cup.

Manager Richie Barker has persisted with the veteran marksman largely due to a lack of alternatives with John Akinde not considered good enough and 18-year-old Jonte Smith lacking experience while loan duo Nicky Ajose and Jonathan Forte have also struggled for goals.

That situation has changed completely since the start of January with Barker now having seven strikers to choose from – Alexander, Billy Clarke, Proctor, Elford-Alliyu, Akinde, Smith and Spencer – once the latter becomes available Barker said: “We wanted more options up front and we have got that now. It gives us the opportunity to play different combinations while there is also more competition for places which will push people on.

“We know Gary has needed a breather this season but we just haven’t had the options to allow him to have it. There have even been games when I have wanted to bring him off with 20 minutes to go as he needs a break but wasn’t really able to.

“Gary hasn’t got the goals both we and he would like but in terms of his overall contribution he has done okay for us. He is a great team player and takes the captain’s responsibility extremely seriously. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind not scoring again for the rest of the season if we ended up being promoted which shows the type of character he is.

“Maybe it has become a little bit of a burden on him. He has played a lot of football so it will be nice to give him a break to recharge his batteries. When that is, we will have to assess the other players.”

After the postponement of today’s visit of Carlisle, Crawley have two more home games withPreston and Swindon Town due at the Broadfield Stadium before Reds travel to Sheffield United on February 5.

Crawley ended a run of five league games without a win at home when they beat Colchester United 3-0 on New Year’s Day and Barker admits they will need to build on that if they are to force their way back into the top six.

He added: “If we are going to get anywhere near the play-offs we need to pick up points at home. We haven’t had a great deal of home games recently so it is hard to judge but our home record overall this season has been pretty good.

“Because we have done so well away from home people have tended to assume our home record is not so good but that is not the case. It has been okay but there is no doubt we need to push on in the home games we have coming up. I’ve got a fair idea of how many points we need to take from the next run of games. I am not naive enough to think we can just turn up and pick up three points each game but if we get something out of all these home games then there is a good chance we will be back in the play-offs.

“I don’t like saying the next few weeks could make or break us but if we are still in the running after the next three games then we will have a great chance of achieving what we want to achieve.”

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