Harty on the Albion versus Arsenal and the play-offs

SO, there I was sat at the Amex, the Albion locked at 2-2 with the mighty Arsenal, dreaming of the replay trip to the Emirates, when Theo Walcott gets a lucky deflection and the Seagulls’ FA Cup dreams are over for another year.

But, it was good while it lasted – a very entertaining game on Saturday watched by an all-time high Amex crowd certainly gave supporters food for thought for the rest of the season.

Leonardo Ulloa, the big Argentinian signing, certainly impressed on his debut, and marked his first appearance with a goal.

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And, all credit to the much-maligned Ashley Barnes, who I felt was a more worthy man-of-the-match than the actual recipient, Adam El-Abd.

It’s a difficult one for me because I’ve known Adam since he was a youth team player. But, the match sponsors managed to give him the award when the bloke he was marking, Olivier Giroud, scored twice, while the contribution of Barnes, one goal, one assist, was overlooked.

Having said that, and again no slight on Barnes as a player, but I hope we see a partnership develop between Craig Mackail-Smith and Ulloa.

Now is where the hard work really begins. A cursory look at the Championship table on Sunday showed a not-as-yet worrying but, all the same, five-point gap between the Albion and a play-off place.

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Supporters of every Championship club can look back on the season so far and pinpoint dropped points, none more so than the Albion. But those points never return, so attention must turn to the 54 still up for grabs in the remaining 18 league fixtures.

You don’t need to be Carol Vorderman to know that five points is fewer than two games, but the Albion now have to put together a string of wins to put them back in the picture – starting with three on the bounce against Sheffield Wednesday, Hull and Blackburn.

Tuesday night’s victories for relegation battlers Bristol City and Barnsley against high-flying Watford and Millwall again emphasised that, on their day, anyone can beat anyone in this league.

Clearly, the million dollar question is, out of the current top six, who will the Albion displace if they are to reach the play-offs and enter what is effectively a four team £90million knockout tournament?

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Call me partisan, biased, whatever you like, but, I firmly believe that it will be Crystal Palace’s form that will dip. Bearing in mind they’ve still also got to come to the Amex on St Patrick’s Day, come the final day of the season, as I predicted all along, it will be Seagulls above the Eagles in the table.

l With the local football programme having been previously blighted by the weather, hopefully, the milder conditions will see some football at Woodside Road this weekend.

At the time of going to the press, Morty Hollis has been working on the pitch in the hope that the club can put on three fixtures in four days.

The youth team take on Horsham tonight (Thursday), the first team will hope for back-to-back home wins and a healthy crowd against Sittingbourne on Saturday, before the youth team’s County Cup quarter-final against Crowborough on Sunday morning (11am kick-off).