Seagulls Scene with Ray Eggleton

BRIGHTON lost 3-1 at Portman Road, Ipswich, on Saturday last week. The Championship league table results column for the last four games shows a worrying LDLL. Have the wheels come off the Gus Bus?

By September 10, our Seagulls had played eight games, won seven and drawn one, against Blackpool. We were unbeaten home and away. We were clear at the top of the Championship. It was an unbelievable start to the season following promotion from Division One.

We knew it couldn’t last of course but did hope it proved the Seagulls were capable of doing well in the higher division. Losing at Leicester wasn’t a surprise. Just failing against Premiership Liverpool at the Amex in the Carling Cup wasn’t a disaster.

But a defeat by Crystal Palace at our new ‘Fortress Falmer’ brought us down to earth with a nasty bump.

The loss to Ipswich, again after scoring first, rang more alarm bells. So five games without a win leaves us, and manager Gus Poyet, with problems.

We weren’t good enough and here’s what Gus said: “Ipswich were the better team. They had more quality, were quicker and stronger than us…they were Premier League players against what looked like League One players…we had no chance.”

It seems clear that he thinks he needs to bring in quality players. The transfer window doesn’t open until January so it may have to be via the loan market, which he doesn’t like, in the short term.

Poyet’s bleak summary came just a day after news of a much more positive kind. Poyet and his assistant Mauricio Taricco have signed new extended five-year contracts with the Albion.

Chairman Tony Bloom said: “This is great news for the club. Gus and Tano are key to all our immediate and long-term plans.” Gus added: “I am delighted to extend my stay as the last two years here have been absolutely fantastic.”

This is reassuring news for the long-term future as they will be involved in the development of the club’s new multi-million pound training ground at Lancing and the creation of a new youth academy. Can they get the Seagulls out of the downward dive in the short-term?

At Portman Road all went well for 55 minutes or so.

Albion were under pressure from an Ipswich side finding impressive form.

The Tractor Boys won at West Ham midweek and have been moving up the table steadily after a poor start. With the powerful presence of Michael Chopra and big names like Jimmy Bullard, Jason Scotland, Lee Bowyer and Ibrahim Sonko Brighton needed to be at their best. They survived the first-half with the help of a good Casper Ankergren save from Chopra and periods of patient passing.

Early in the second half we went ahead. Gary Dicker won the ball and found our Spanish international Vicente. He dummied Bullard on the edge of the box and scored his first Seagulls goal with a great curling shot into the top-left corner.

Unfortunately we only held out for six minutes as Chopra was allowed to strike a great goal from the edge of the penalty area. Worse followed nine minutes later when Sonko headed home a Bullard corner. With just three minutes left Chopra cut in from the left and smashed past Ankergren to seal the win. As Gus said, Ipswich were the better side.

The reality check following the Palace game continues.

But it is certainly NOT all doom and gloom.

Although I was despondent in my column last week following the loss to the team we love to hate – Palace – I and several Seagulls’ friends tried to find the positives.

For example: we do have the best stadium; we are now a bigger club than Palace; we are STILL fifth in the Championship (all the current top sides have let points slip away recently – and Palace are 12th); we have great Albion pies; we do live in Sussex; And we will beat Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in January, won’t we?

If asked before the season started if we would take being up in the play-off positions in October the answer would have been an emphatic YES.

So of course the Gus Bus can soon be back on track. He has five years to get us up into the Premiership – no problem!

Next up is yet another BIG one. We have an international break before Hull City come to the Amex on Saturday October 15 (NB. Kick-off 5.30pm). This game should tell us a lot and in particular whether we have indeed been hitting above our weight. The Tigers are in the promotion play-offs too, on 17 points after 10 games, just behind us on goal difference.

The match is a sell-out already so a full house will again provide a great atmosphere. I’m predicting a bounce-back with our bus back on track.