By Tony Leighton
How times change. Who'd have thought, three years ago, that Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crawley Town would be facing each other in a League match?
Back in the 2010/11 campaign, Football League founder member Wolves were a Premier League club while Crawley, who had always been in non-league, were four divisions lower as they battled to get themselves out of the Conference.
But three seasons on both sides are in Sky Bet League 1 and, when they met for the first time ever in Friday night's live TV clash at Molineux, it took a Leigh Griffiths penalty deep into stoppage time to give the home side victory and deny Richie Barker's Red Devils what would have been a richly deserved point.
"It was extremely tough to take," said manager Barker, whose team seemed to have snatched a draw when winger Billy Clarke's last minute strike cancelled out striker Bjorn Sigurdarson's seventh-minute opener for Wolves.
"We didn't start well," added Barker, "because we gave them too much respect and we were a bit 'rabbit in headlights' for the first 15 minutes.
"But in the second section of the first half we were the better team, and we were certainly the better team for the majority of the second half.
"Hopefully we'll have made a few friends throughout the nation who watched on TV and we'll finally get the respect we deserve for the way we play."
The respect that the manager wants for his team is already there from a good number of football followers who have witnessed the club's rapid rise, two successive promotions having been achieved before Barker took over last term and led them to a very respectable 10th-place finish in their first League 1 season.
Now they are looking to push on and perhaps compete for promotion to the Championship, though Barker is no more than cautiously optimistic.
"To improve on what we achieved last season will be tough," said the manager, whose defeat left them 12th in the League 1 table. "But we'll give it a go.
"We're a small club punching well above our weight, but if we continue to play the right way, who knows? We've been the best team for a high proportion of all the games we've played so far, and if we play like we did tonight in most matches we'll win more than we lose and get our just rewards."
For all the latest news on Crawley Town please click here