STRAIGHT to the nitty-gritty! Our Seagulls flew down to Bristol and BEAT the Rovers 4-2 to go THREE POINTS CLEAR at the TOP of League One, writes Ray Eggleton.
Albion have been in top-spot for 19 consecutive weeks now. There was a chance, if things had gone wrong, that Bournemouth could have overtaken us.
We went a goal down after just TWO minutes - but I wasn’t worried. Sorry, of course I was worried but only for 38 minutes when we equalised!
The win takes us to 53 points, three ahead of Bournemouth who have played two games more. Huddersfield have crept up to third and are four points behind having played one more game. Southampton are fourth but eight points behind us.
Another plus is that we have the BEST goal difference by five or more, which is worth another point! Bottom line – things have gone so well that we WILL gain automatic PROMOTION to the Championship (I think!).
At this point in the season it is all about results and points.
Having invested, wisely I hope, in seats at our splendid new AMEX stadium, I and thousands of others want to see the very first game there in the Championship.
It wasn’t looking too good around the 30 minute point! Within two minutes of the start Will Hoskins for Rovers unleashed a wind assisted shot from 25 yards which sailed over Casper Ankergren in the Albion goal, smashing against the underside of the bar and into the net. That could be Goal of the Season for the Pirates!
Meanwhile, Bournemouth were going one goal up against Leyton Orient and Southampton two goals up at Peterborough.
It was too early to panic. In Gus we trust! Poyet was playing all three of our strikers – Glenn Murray, Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood. The well in excess of 1,000 Seagulls fans that travelled west must have been delighted. I wasn’t at the Memorial Stadium unfortunately but my scout from Wales was there to report back!
The conditions were horrible because of strong swirling winds and a pitch that is used for rugby. Could Poyet’s perfect passing plans prevail?
The positive rewards started on 38 minutes when Wood worked the ball to Barnes. His control was great and his left-footed shot better! A superb goal to equalise and the Gus bus had started.
Brighton began to dominate. They went ahead early in the second-half. Elliott Bennett, wearing canary yellow boots despite not going to Norwich, sent Barnes down the right and followed up into the area to sweep home the cross, putting us 2-1 up.
The game wasn’t short of incident. Barnes smashed in from close range but was adjudged to have handled. Hoskins “scored” at the other end but was flagged offside. Jo Kuffour for Rovers then had a drive come back off the inside of the post.
Albion killed off the game with goals three and four. Gary Dicker from midfield put through Barnes one-on-one with the keeper who bravely blocked only for the ball to rebound off defender Cian Bolger for an own goal.
With 11 minutes left Craig Noone, who was on for Wood, put over the perfect cross for Glenn Murray to coolly head back past the keeper. Four one up and the job was done!
Hoskins actually scored another fine goal in the last five minutes as some consolation to the Bristol side who slipped down to second from bottom.
I mentioned early doubts during the game as I kept an eye on goals being scored by the clubs below us.
Last week they all won and it was looking like a repeat – until the 90th minutes! In-form Southampton were beating Peterborough 4-2 following a fine goal from ex-Albion player Dean Hammond.
Posh got to 3-4 with a penalty and then snatched the draw in the 93rd minute with another penalty. Thanks ref!
Meanwhile, second-placed Bournemouth were one up against Leyton Orient and into added-on-time. Up popped little Dean Cox, another ex-Albion player, to equalise. I wasn’t always a fan of little Dean but he did us a big favour there!
All in all things couldn’t be much better on the Seagulls’ front! Is that tempting fate?
Saturday brings mid-table Hartlepool to Withdean. Another three points will mean another two weeks at least at the top, even though we are at Stoke (Saturday 19th February 3pm) in the FA Cup 5th Round the week after! Happy days.
And there’s more! There’s exciting news from the Amex. The pitch is being installed, with work continuing on the under soil heating. And the club have ordered magnificent top of the range giant TV screens for the stadium. Gus Poyet and Elliott Bennett are up for the League One Manager and Player of the Month awards for January. That will all do nicely!