WOULD it be churlish to say we aren’t playing at our best or that we really haven’t played well in recent games? YES! Look at the results: WWWWWWWW! The eight straight wins is a post-war record! It could be right back to the 1920s to find a better run!
After Saturday’s 2-1 win at Withdean against Swindon and the Tuesday night win against Dagenham & Redbridge we are 13 points clear of Huddersfield at the top of League One (with a game in hand and the best goal-difference)! But I’m not joking; we haven’t been on top form. So given the results and our position Gus Poyet and his team deserve great credit.
Poyet has been slightly annoyed by commentators and other managers who have ventured their opinions on why we are running away with the league. “Loads of money” they suggest, but as Gus has pointed out, that is just not the case. The whole team cost just £750,000 to put together AND at least four other clubs in the division have a higher players’ budget. One thing is certain: Seagulls supporters know the current batch of players deserve huge credit and that Poyet in particular has achieved miracles.
It is great to finish our time at Withdean with capacity crowds. Around 7,600 packed into the stadium. It would have been over 8,000 if the Robins had filled the ‘away’ stand. Just four more Withdean games and that’s it, off to the AMEX. We ‘pinched’ another win to keep the chance of completing the season unbeaten at home. The win equalled our post-war best of seven straight wins.
On Tuesday night at Dagenham, our 1-0 win beat the record by notching up EIGHT straight wins. Southampton have been saying they could catch us for the title! Saints boss Nigel Adkins was watching so the travelling Albion fans of around 1,500 enjoyed their “We are top of the league” chants even more! Saints, in fourth, were left 18 points below us. By the time they visit Withdean on the April 23, with four games to go, we should already be crowned as Champions (I hope!).
We weren’t great against Swindon, despite a fine start. Craig Noone went on a dazzling run from the left into the area. He was brought down leaving top ref Mark Halsey an easy penalty decision. At this point Gus hid behind his dugout! Gary Dicker scored with a well taken kick – so no problem with penalties? I think that was six scored out of 12! Swindon are at the foot of the table, with only 10-points-deducted Plymouth below them. I have to say they shouldn’t be down there. They played the ‘Poyet Possession and Passing’ game rather better than we did!
When Robins’ David Prutton scored a tremendous goal from all of 30 yards, they were deservedly level. I don’t think Casper Ankergren in our goal moved as the drive flew past him. All should have been well when Glenn Murray was tripped in the area. Up stepped Dicker again and into hiding went Poyet again! Dicker scuffed his shot onto a post! Penalty problems again as that was seven missed out of 13.
We were very nearly punished when Swindon had a glorious chance, but a close range shot from Mike Grella thumped the underside of the crossbar and stayed out.
The difference between our Seagulls and the Robins was Murray. With an hour gone he picked up the ball well outside the area, took it past two defenders to score with a magnificent angled shot. That was his 19th goal. How many could he have if he also took (and scored) our penalties? The sooner Poyet signs Murray up for next season in the Championship the better.
Dagenham had gone six games unbeaten so something had to give. They are 20th in League One and desperate for points. On their own less than perfect pitch they are difficult to beat. As with other away games recently our defence were called on to perform. Gordon Greer and Tommy Elphick had to cope with numerous crosses into the box. Ankergren was by far the busier keeper. Ex-Albion Bas Savage proved a handful as he came close to scoring several times. He should have done better from close range but crashed the ball against the bar.
The longer the game went on without the Daggers scoring the more likely Albion could punish them. Again it was Murray who made the difference. It was possibly our first clear-cut chance. With 30 minutes remaining, Noone crossed to the far post where Murray volleyed high into the net. That made Murray a 20-goal-a-season-man!
It’s on the road again on Saturday, up to Rochdale, seeking straight win number nine!