NO worries? Our Seagulls this season have now gone EIGHT games unbeaten; seven wins and a draw. We remain TOP of the Championship after a 1-0 win at Ashton Gate against Bristol City. But I am worried. All good things etc. When and where will it end?
Next up are the three big “L”s. – LEICESTER (away Saturday), LIVERPOOL (home – at the Amex Wednesday), and LEEDS (at the Amex, Friday); all clubs you may have heard of. Then it’s the BIG ONE, again at the Amex: CRYSTAL PALACE (Tuesday 27).
I’m worried as I really don’t want our fantastic run to end against any of these. Perhaps I would settle for a lucky Liverpool win in the Carling Cup IF it meant victories over Leicester, Leeds and Palace. Two wins at home in the league would reinforce our Holy Grail quest for the Premiership.
But back to the nitty-gritty of the league. On Saturday Gus Poyet took our table-topping Seagulls to Bristol. We haven’t done well against the Robins in recent years but they have been struggling to score this season. I mentioned the big problem for Gus last week. Who does he leave out? With injured players returning to fitness and new stars available he did the sensible thing – he played an unchanged side!
There was no place, not even on the bench, for our new Spanish international (38 caps) player Vicente Rodriguez, or exciting midfielder Will Hoskins. Tommy Elphick and Adam El-Abd, our defensive stars from last season, returning from injury, didn’t make it to the team sheet either. Will Buckley, Romain Vincelot and Kazenga LuaLua did at least make the subs’ bench.
Poyet is critical of the decision to limit players on the substitute’s bench to five. For the first time we are in the fortunate position of having at least NINE players ready to join the first team squad.
I didn’t get to Bristol but almost 2,000 Seagulls fans did and their support was loud throughout the game. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t always exciting. But decisively Albion kept a clean sheet.
We didn’t start well and didn’t get a strike on goal until the 32nd minute. But our defence held firm and frustrated the City attacks. The stats showed we did have the majority of possession, 54 per cent to City’s 46. As the game moved on, particularly into the second half, we looked dangerous. Craig Noone, preferred to LuaLua, was our brightest attacker causing problems with his tricky footwork.
Ex-England star David James was the busier keeper and he had to make a marvellous double save early in the second-half from Ryan Harley and then Craig Mackail-Smith from close range.
Poyet replaced Noone with LuaLua with 20 minutes to go and soon after Brighton got the breakthrough.
In the 79th minute a corner was touched on by Inigo Calderon enabling Ashley Barnes to get a shot in and following up fire home at the second attempt. He is our top scorer with five goals.
Now Brighton were in control and in the final ten minutes went close to scoring the second. Mackail-Smith had a shot blocked and had a header go narrowly wide whilst LuaLua’s fierce shot also went just wide. City’s pressing at the end came to nothing and the three points were safe. “We are top of the league,” sung the Albion faithful.
Poyet doesn’t often single out players for praise but after the game he did say “In the first half Liam Bridcutt was immense, then in the second half you have to look at Lewis Dunk: we are talking about a 19-year-old and I can’t believe that people can’t see what he is doing on the pitch.”
Actually, people have spotted this and there are already rumours that Premiership clubs are watching him.
Gus also said about our Danish keeper: “Casper was also very good towards the end.” That is three successive clean sheets so Poyet’s praise of his defenders is justified. Could we possibly make it six?
Whilst we are handing out the tributes, I’m pleased to report that Poyet was the Championship manager for the month of August.
September has started well with this win and now it is just the little matter of winning the next four (Leicester, Liverpool, Leeds and Palace) to complete the best start EVER.
Then the title ‘Lord’ Gus Poyet would truly be justified.