FOLLOWING eight straight wins, our Seagulls flew up to Rochdale, played better than ever, but only came away from Spotland with a 2-2 draw. Now we are 11 points ahead of second-placed Huddersfield with a game in hand and a goal difference better by 18 goals. So there’s no need to panic!
Other fans and commentators are playing the game of “When Will We Clinch Promotion?” and “When Will We Be Champions?”
Apparently, mathematicians have confirmed we already have a play-off spot. Also two wins at Withdean next week could see us promoted.
I’m pleased to report that manager Gus Poyet won’t play any of these guessing games. He just wants Albion to keep winning. When and where is of academic interest only.
Poyet was the least happy person after the game at Rochdale. He doesn’t like losing (or even drawing), he doesn’t like conceding and he doesn’t like missing chances. For the neutral, for Rochdale manager Keith Hill and most Seagulls fans, it was a cracking game
We had 25 shots at Rochdale’s goal, scoring twice. They had fewer than half that but also scored twice.
Poyet said that the players’ failure to “respect a few things we have been respecting all season” was to blame for them not hanging on to their lead, adding that “internal rules” – he would not discuss – had been behind Albion’s success but not implented for this relative failure of a draw.
Gus doesn’t single out individual payers for criticism. The team take praise and criticism as a squad. We don’t know exactly what he had in mind but obviously he wasn’t happy about the penalty given away with less than 20 minutes to go.
It was a game of two penalties, one for each side. Both could be described as ‘soft’ but to be fair you couldn’t say ref David Webb was wrong with either. We were one down when Gary Dicker threaded a marvellous ball into the Rochdale area. Glenn Murray’s angled run took him in front of Craig Dawson who made enough contact for Murray to fall.
We have had problems with penalties but young Chris Wood, on his return from international duty with New Zealand, claimed the kick and confidently slotted home.
Our percentage success improved slightly to 50 per cent: seven scored out of 14.
Earlier Wood had missed a great chance with just the keeper to beat. Elliot Bennett had a strong free-kick which was only parried. After only 14 minutes, Liam Bridcutt had to go off with a dead-leg. Craig Noone replaced him, giving Brighton an increased attacking option. His pace created a couple of chances, one an Inigo Calderon shot the other a narrowly wide header from Wood.
Rochdale went ahead after 22 minutes from a Robbie Williams free-kick (were the home fans singing “take that”?) which Casper Ankergren beat out only for Will Atkinson to knock in the rebound.
In the second-half the action continued at both ends. It was Brighton that went ahead. Calderon and Bennett combined on the right, ending with a fine deep cross from Bennett. Dicker, running into the box late, powered a header into the net, despite Fon Williams in the Rochdale goal getting a hand to the ball.
Albion had a Noone shot just wide and an offside ‘goal’ from Wood, following a fierce shot from Bennett. Wood’s curling shot also forced a fine full-stretch save from Williams.
But it was the second penalty, this time to Rochdale, that completed the scoring on 71 minutes. Watching the TV replays of the Radostin Kishishev tackle a few times, there wasn’t any great danger as the ball came to Chris O’Grady who had his back to the goal with Gary Elphick right behind. Kishishev jumped in to win the ball and O’Grady went down. Mr Webb was well placed to make the decision. He disappointed all Albion fans, who were counting down to nine consecutive wins, by giving the penalty. Gary Jones scored.
Poyet brought on Alan Navarro, who was back for the first time since his August cruciate ligament injury, and Fran Sandaza. For once his ‘magic’ substitutions didn’t work.
So only one point, which in other circumstances would be well received. Rochdale moved up to seventh and must fancy making the play-offs. They have Southampton and Peterborough to come to Spotland so can still do us a favour.
Now it is back to defending our marvellous unbeaten at Withdean record. Sheffield Wednesday visit on Saturday and Dagenham & Redbridge on Tuesday evening. Gus should have Adam El-Abd and Ashley Barnes fit again and back for selection. Watch this space for confirmation of promotion to the Championship.
Finally, I’ve been watching the Falmer webcam. Fantastic – I can see my AMEX stadium seat going in. The pitch is looking good and only needs grass!