I MISSED Brighton’s last two games trying to catch some sunshine. Unlike our Seagulls I failed miserably – that’s the Canaries for you, but at least the rain was warm.
In my absence Albion beat Colchester 2-0 at Withdean to push themselves, for a short while at least, six points clear at the top of Football League One.
I was especially sad to miss the magnificent FA Cup win at Watford. Our 1-0 win dumped another Championship side out of the cup (Portsmouth having been beaten in the earlier round). Of course I was kept informed and the victories compensated for the lack of blue skies.
Manager Gus Poyet must have read my piece last week because against Colchester last Tuesday evening he started Glenn Murray, Radostin Kishishev and Gary Dicker!
Albion’s first goal came at the very end of the first-half. It was our enterprising right back Inigo Calderon who slotted home after great work by Murray. It was his fifth goal of the season.
New boy Craig Noone came on for Kishishev with around 20 minutes left. He soon scored his first goal for Albion. Cutting in from the left, he passed a couple of defenders and curled his shot into the bottom right corner. Two-nil and the points were safe. And it was another clean sheet. There was still time for Colchester’s Pat Baldwin to get himself sent off for a second yellow.
Fortress Withdean league results now read – Played 13, Won 9, Drawn 4, Lost 0 – Goals for 28, Goals against 9. This also meant a club record, the team having topped their division for 18 games.
Poyet spoke of his pride after the game. “I am so proud of the team. We are top of the table on merit; we must ensure we are there at the end of the season.” Amen!
Saturday sent our Seagulls up to Championship side Watford in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup. We know that promotion from League One is Poyet’s priority but he put out a strong side and we won with a goal from Ashley Barnes. Even without me there were around 3,700 Albion fans there. It was another great day out for them and there was the reward of a trip to a Premiership side in Round 5 to come.
It wasn’t a fluke! By all accounts the win was well deserved. Albion created the chances and Watford didn’t look like the team from a higher division. Poyet’s team selection must take the credit for this. Tommy Elphick and Matt Sparrow returned to the side with star man Elliott Bennett left out – more of him later.
The defence was solid. Upfront Poyet had three strikers in Chris Wood, Barnes and Murray and jointly they were always a threat.
Dicker won a ball in midfield and found our big Kiwi Wood who chested the ball to Barnes. The Watford keeper couldn’t keep out his powerful shot. One-nil to the Seasiders after 17 minutes! Wood had a couple of chances to increase our lead but Watford managed to survive.
The floodlights went out around half-time but came back on for a second half which Brighton bossed.
Barnes saw his header from a Dicker free-kick hit the cross bar. Albion’s keeper Peter Brezovan didn’t have a lot to do. Elphick had a chance to score our second but shot over following a free-kick.
Two chances for Watford came to nothing and it was Calderon who had the final chance. The Barnes goal was enough to secure the win.
Sunday brought the all important 5th Round draw. Would it be Chelsea, Arsenal, or Man United? No!
What a fantastic draw for one Sussex side though! Crawley get Manchester United at Old Trafford. Great for them. I’m hoping a certain former Dutch marine and Albion favourite, Michel Kuipers, will be making the headlines by thwarting the Rooneys and Berbatovs of the top side in the land!
We got Stoke – at Stoke. At first sight this wasn’t too exciting, but they are going well in the Premiership and will be another great test for Poyet’s promotion hopefuls. The game will be on the weekend 19th/20th February.
I mentioned Elliott Bennett. Championship Norwich came in for him a couple of times in January and Poyet and Chairman Tony Bloom responded quickly by saying the club didn’t want to sell. Bennett then put in a written transfer request!
Poyet “rested” him for the Watford game and the transfer window closed without any more approaches.
Happily Bennett remains with us and was back playing at Leyton Orient on Tuesday night.
A goalless game gave us the draw. The one point may prove valuable as Orient are strong at Brisbane Road. Unfortunately all four of the chasing pack won, Bournemouth, Huddersfield, Southampton and Oldham, and closed the gap. Bournemouth are just one point behind (but played two more). Now I’m looking for a win at Bristol Rovers this Saturday!