Good news. We’ve got Newcastle in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup! We have another chance to beat a Premiership side at the Amex.
This is on the weekend January 27-29. But, oh, first there is the small matter of Wrexham in the replay.
Last Saturday at the Amex our Seagulls ended up with egg on face. They couldn’t beat Blue Square Bet Premier team Wrexham. The game ended as a 1-1 draw. The replay at the Welsh side’s Racecourse Ground is expected to be played on Tuesday January 17.
Wrexham at the Amex in the Third Round was always going to be a banana skin. The side from north Wales are top of the Conference and we knew they would be difficult to beat.
Albion manager Gus Poyet had a problem, well several actually.
He had half of his first team squad out through injury or suspension. And he didn’t want to risk losing other key players against lower league opposition. He decided to rest Liam Bridcutt, Craig Mackail-Smith and Adam El-Abd. Captain Gordon Greer is still serving out his three-match suspension and Craig Noone is nursing a strain.
Poyet’s answer was to go with many of the development (youth) squad players.
He ended the match with six on the pitch, including debutants Torbjorn Agdestein, Anton Rodgers, Ben Sampayo and Grant Hall. Young Jake Forster-Caskey (step son of ex-Albion skipper Nicky Forster) started AND was Albion’s man of the match. He won that award in the Saints game last week too.
But the brave Poyet plan FAILED. Starting with six changes from the team that beat Southampton five days earlier ,it looked to being going okay. The young Brighton side had plenty of possession but were never completely on top.
Kazenga LuaLua threatened down the right side whenever he had the ball. He, Will Buckley and Forster-Caskey had long range shots but the Wrexham keeper Joslain Mayebi wasn’t seriously troubled.
The Red Dragons also gave their 2,000 supporters plenty to cheer about – they were in good voice. As we reached the break goalless the 17,000 Albion faithfully thought “must do better in the second-half”.
We didn’t have long to wait. After just a couple of minutes LuaLua beat his full back down the left, made the bye-line and fizzed a low ball across the goalmouth. It was young Jake F-C that had timed his run perfectly to turn the ball home from close in for his second goal in two games. We could relax now and look forward to the draw for the next round. WRONG.
First, LuaLua limped off with what might be another hamstring injury. The number of Albion players injuring themselves is no laughing matter.
Is it the pitch? What about the watering of the pitch before each start? Poyet was presented with another problem he didn’t want. The fans wanted to see a positive move such as Mackail-Smith on. But he brought on Agdestein for his first senior appearance.
It went wrong again. Adrian Cieslewicz ran in from the right, past a couple of Albion defenders and let fly. The ball took a nasty deflection of young central defender Hall and flew past Peter Brezovan in goal. The Welsh away support enjoyed that and made themselves heard.
Poyet immediately made his last two changes. It wasn’t what we wanted. He brought on youngsters Rodgers and Yaser Kasim. They did okay and both put in decent long range shots but we wanted a winner.
n fact at the death Wrexham had a couple of chances to win the game. That would have been harsh on us but we couldn’t begrudge them the draw and a replay.
Bottom line, I’m afraid, is that Poyet didn’t protect his players. We now have an extra game in January and LuaLua picked up an injury.
The big decision now will be, does he go for the win at Wrexham by playing a strong side OR stick with the youngsters.
Gus said: “I nearly played the whole development squad because we had too many injuries. They have another chance to go and impress next week in a very important game.”
As a fan I want to see us up against Premiership Newcastle. I want to see Demba Ba et al at the Amex. So I hope Gus goes for the win and gives us another day to remember.
Looking to the future, two weeks ago plans were revealed for the state-of-the-art training ground close to the A27 near Shoreham Airport.
Also released were the detailed plans to increase the Amex capacity by 8,250 i.e. up to a total of 30,750.
Great! Perhaps I’ll have space to write more next week.
I had a new view of the action against Wrexham.
Because my group didn’t buy our “own” seats we had the chance to sample other parts of the stadium.
I didn’t count the steps to the West Stand Upper tier but nearly called for oxygen.
The view was great (main picture) though further from the players. But you could spot the openings and I found myself wanting early balls played forward rather than the sideways possession stuff. Perhaps Gus should sit up there sometimes?
At half-time Albion favourite Norman Gall was interviewed.
He played 488 games for us from 1962 to 1974.
It is back to the serious matter of the Championship this Saturday as Bristol City come to the Amex. They are just above the drop zone but have improved significantly since we won 1-0 at their place back in September.
We want to complete the double and stay unbeaten in 2012.