BRGHTON beat Ipswich at the Amex on Saturday 3-0, writes Ray Eggleton.
There was a genuine feel-good factor as Albion fans walked away from our fine new stadium with the sun still shinning. Our Seagulls had beaten the Tractor Boys and scored three goals. It doesn’t get much better.
Ipswich had won their last four games and were looking to make it five.
They pressed Gus Poyet’s side high up the pitch but because of this the breakthrough came. Captain Gordon Greer deep in his own half looked up and saw space behind the Town’s defenders. He hit a stunning long pass wide to the right. It was a long chase which our speedy Will Buckley won easily. He did incredibly well to reach and fire in the perfect low cross. There was Craig Mackail-Smith arriving at speed to knock past the helpless Arran Lee-Barrett. It was a happy birthday for Craig as he scored his ninth goal of the season on his 28th birthday.
The 20,500 fans were up and cheering. Well, perhaps not the 2,000 plus who had made the trip down from “the small town near Norwich” as Brighton fans delighted in singing.
Usually against Ipswich you expect friendly football banter, but this day it was different. A group of away fans unfurled large banners. One read: Some Things Money Can’t Buy and another Football Isn’t One: The Amex.
Nobody understands what exactly they were getting at. Perhaps they thought American Express were bankrolling the Albion. Whatever, home fans took it as some form of insult and booed them.
It gave even more of an edge to the game. After the banners had been confiscated and we had gone ahead they were treated to a rendition of “Where’s Your banner Gone?” That first goal was an indication of a new approach to our attacking play. Yes, Poyet’s passing and possession play continued but there was a new freedom to hit long balls forward. This is what our £2.5 million CMS was waiting for.
The patient passing stuff hadn’t done any favours to our all-action striker.
With Ipswich pressing up there was room for the well-struck long ball for the willing Buckley and Mackail-Smith to chase. Clearly Gus worked this out and had told his defenders and midfielders to use this option.
A major part of the success was down to our new midfielder, Abdul Razak.His Manchester City pedigree showed through as refreshingly he moved the ball forward with quick passes whilst prepared to hit long balls when he spotted an opening. He was strong on the ball, kept possession and made his passes count. This was his home debut and he deservedly won the man-of-the-match award. I don’t think the sponsors always get this right but they did this time.
Mackail-Smith almost doubled his tally with a firm header from a Buckley corner. Unfortunately it smacked onto the crossbar and back.
We were reminded that Ipswich had an attacking threat when Michael Chopra chipped the outrushing Peter Brezovan. Brilliantly, Greer had recovered to be on the goal line to head clear.
Into the second half Chopra put the ball into our net, only for ref Colin Webster to rule out for an earlier handball.
One goal didn’t leave us comfortable, but on 65 minutes we were able to cheer and relax. Liam Bridcutt sent the ball into Ashley Barnes outside the box and he took it onto his right foot to score from 20 yards. That was our top scorer’s tenth of the season (including several penalties) but his first in open play since September.
It should have been three soon after but Buckley’s shot from 10 yards flew wide. But the win was finally sealed with two minutes of normal time left. It was defender Gonzalo Jara Reyes who picked out Barnes with the perfect ball which was slotted home for his 11th of the season. The 3-0 win matched our best of the season, equalling that against Southampton’s 10 men.
The difficulty for Poyet was team selection. He now has a large squad with cover in all positions. Lewis Dunk (he of the unfortunate Anfield OG), didn’t make it into the squad. Gus had the luxury of Kazenga LuaLua, Inigo Calderon, Sam Vokes and Gai Assulin on the subs bench. The second Man City loanee, Assulin, come on for a cameo debut for the last 14 minutes, showing he was good on the ball and could beat players. And then there’s our elusive international midfielder Vicente Rodriguez, still not appearing.
Brezovan is looking better between the posts but still had us looking away eyes closed following back passes.
Adam El-Abd put in another excellent performance as did skipper Greer and midfielder Alan Navarro. Gus was happy and we were happy.
As I said at the start, trooping away from our marvellous stadium with a 3-0 win – it doesn’t get much better. The three points move us up to seventh, on the same points as Cardiff – and just two points from Blackpool in fourth.
Our season remains very much alive with the tantalising play-offs beckoning.
Gus can have the last word: “We were very good today. Today was the most complete performance.
“When teams come to press us you have space in behind that we’ve not been exploiting, but I think today we did it well. I am so happy for Macca – that will give him that extra confidence.”
Next up is lowly Doncaster away (Saturday) followed by a six-pointer against Cardiff at the Amex (Wednesday evening). Winners of that could be well established in the top six.