ON Saturday our Seagulls travelled to Milton Keynes to play the Dons (without me – but as it turned out it was a good one to miss!). I don’t really want to talk about it! We lost!
The midweek game against Plymouth (we won that one 4-0!) had increased our lead at the top of League One to four points and increased our goal difference. The Albion’s record of the most weeks ever at the top of their division continued to be bettered and was up to 23 weeks.
Manager Gus Poyet had warned Albion fans not to expect too much from his impressive high-goal-scoring side: “We have been very good recently and I don’t want anyone to think that they are going to watch Brighton score three or four goals every game.” Good for Gus, highlighting the need to keep our feet on the ground.
Those of us who have stuck with Albion over the years at Withdean still can’t quite believe we are scoring goals and winning there in style! Not long ago we couldn’t buy a win. If we were a goal up the chances were we would concede before the 90 minutes. “Fortress” Withdean leaked like a sieve! But now we are formidable.
We have not lost at home in the league since April last year. Now if we get ahead we expect to go on and score more. I’m sorry Gus, but in the last two games when we were four nil up I was actually a tad disappointed that we didn’t go on and reach six or seven! How times have changed.
Unfortunately Gus was right. We aren’t going to be perfect all the time. Against MK Dons we were ordinary, to say the least. A bad day at the office, a one-off, a temporary aberration – I hope. The Dons scored late in the first half after sustained pressure from the home side. It was pinball as Casper Ankergren saved then blocked only to watch as a header came back of the post for Daniel Powell to nod home.
We didn’t look like the top team for the first hour. We had help from the ref and Sean O’Hanlon who got a red card with 25 minutes left. But despite having more of the ball we didn’t look like scoring. Our free-scoring attackers Glenn Murray, Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood all had indifferent days.
Bringing on our super-sub Francisco Sandaza towards the end didn’t do the trick either. We could not make the one man advantage count. Poyet’s magical tactics and substitutions for once didn’t do it. A rare defeat was worsened on seeing all the chasing pack pick up points.
Poyet said after the game: “There are no excuses. I would love to give you an excuse but I can’t. It was not nice, but that’s life… We have played 30 games this season but just lost five games. We are still top.”
Actually I can come up with an excuse. The Albion team coach broke down on the way to the match – honestly! They then had to take several taxis to get to the game.
Poyet’s criticism was reserved for the ref Carl Boyeson. He failed show a second yellow card to O’Hanlon early in the second half for a clear cut foul on Wood. Poyet also criticised the ref for not awarding MK Dons a penalty after Marcos Painter tripped a Dons player in the area. “He wanted to compensate but if you are not going to give a yellow card you still have to give the penalty, because it was a penalty.”
But it is not doom and gloom. MK Dons are a decent side with a very good record at Stadium MK. It was perhaps being too optimistic to expect much from the game.
On to Tuesday evening when it was west to Yeovil Town to see if we could get back on track and stay top. Yes, we could! One goal from Elliott Bennett on 25 minutes was enough to secure a valuable win and the precious three points. Poyet will be very happy at the clean sheet. We promotion seeking fans will be pleased to see our lead at the top increase to four points.
Second-placed Bournemouth are now four points behind having played two games more (plus we have the much better goal difference).
Huddersfield are third, six points away, having played two games more. Posh Peterborough are nine behind whilst Saints and MK Dons, in the last of the play-off places, are 10 adrift. With 15 games to go (eight at Withdean – seven away) and 62 points in the bag, the title and automatic promotion to the Championship is looking good – very good!
Brighton continue their bounce-back at “Fortress” Withdean on Saturday when they entertain Carlisle, who did us the favour of beating Southampton midweek at St Mary’s.
We can do it!