THE SEAGULLS fans that made it up to Leeds on Saturday were ecstatic.
Brighton won with an injury time goal from Alan Navarro.
The fans sang #Good old Sussex-by-the-Sea... good old Sussex-by-the-Sea... we’re going up and we’ll win the cup, for Sussex-by-the-Sea#, with just a chance, a very, very, slight chance, that promotion could be on and we could win the FA Cup (I did say it was a slight chance!).
What a fantastic win in Yorkshire it was. Everybody knows they are a BIG club but we beat them, and deservedly, at Elland Road.
Manager Gus Poyet was remarkably calm and controlled after the game as he praised Albion’s never-say-die attitude: “To win against Leicester last week (a Buckley goal on 93 minutes) and now Leeds (a 91st minute goal) highlights the desire and the belief in this side to keep pushing for victory when a draw might look the most likely outcome.
“Last week it was Bucca who scored and today it was Alan Navarro. I was delighted for Navs as it was his first goal for me and over the 90 minutes he was our best midfielder.”
Poyet also had praise for Craig Mackail-Smith and Vicente Rodriguez who both came off the subs bench and made a difference.
He said of them: “It was a tough decision for me to leave out Craig so I was pleased that it was him who scored (after 77 minutes), and that it was Vicente who provided the delivery. We just need to get him (Vicente) fit so he can have even more of an influence on games.”
Perhaps most encouraging was Gus’s final comment. He said: “I now have the strongest squad I’ve ever had in my time at the club.”
The first-half didn’t provide much excitement. As this was at Elland Road and Leeds were in ninth place in the Championship ahead of us on goal difference the fact that we denied them any clear-cut chances was something of a triumph. Poyet had started with Will Buckley and Kazenga LuaLua. Having two attacking wide men on together showed intent to win. He played both new defenders, Gonzalo Jara Reyes and Joe Mattock, which enabled him to leave last year’s best defender Inigo Calderon on the bench. This proves the new depth to the squad.
For the second-half he was able to change it around by bringing on Craig Noone as a replacement for Buckley who he needed to protect.
With 30 minutes left he replaced LuaLua with Vicente. His final tweak was to swop our new striker Sam Vokes, who had had a couple of chances well saved by Andrew Lonergan in the Leeds goal, for Mackail-Smith.
Within three minutes he had scored. Vicente sent over a quality corner which fell for CMS to knock in from close range.
Brighton are still unbeaten in 2012 but that was his first goal this year. I’m certain more will follow.
Our joy (I’m including those following the match back in Sussex) was short lived. Almost immediately Leeds won a corner which Luciano Becchio headed perfectly into the bottom corner, leaving Peter Brezovan helpless.
At 1-1 with 10 minutes to go, lesser sides would have settled for the draw. But Brighton attacked and their pressure paid off as Navarro latched onto a ball from Vicente outside the area.
He drilled it low to beat Lonergren for his first Brighton goal. Unbeaten in 2012 after nine games – it doesn’t get much better.
The three points leapfrogged us over United into eighth, just one point from the tantalising play-offs. Now we can almost forget the home game back at the Amex last September when Leeds snatched a goal in the 90th minute leaving the 3-3 draw to feel like a defeat.
Last week I was puzzled by the red card for Leicester’s Jermaine Beckford. The red card has been rescinded, but I’m still puzzled.
So, Millwall, check (below)... now for Liverpool. All the tickets were snapped up so a 6,000 strong blue and white army will travel up to Anfield. Sadly I’ll be in front of a TV but on a promise to make the quarter-finals, wherever.
MILLWALL were at the Amex on Tuesday night. I hate to say it, but I think Poyet got it wrong. Gus went for a different formation against the Lions.
He didn’t start with a recognised winger. On the bench were Craig Noone and Kazenga LuaLua. Up front he started Craig Mackail-Smith and Sam Vokes. There was no sign of our stars from recent games, Will Buckley and Vicente, who didn’t even make the subs’ bench.
It was left to full backs Inigo Calderon and Joe Mattock to provide width and crosses. For once Poyet’s plan didn’t work.
With 2,357 Lions fans in the South Stand and 20,000 in the stadium, it was another night with a great atmosphere. Although Millwall are low down in the Championship we knew they would be no pushover. They had beaten Southampton in the 4th Round of the FA Cup at St Mary’s and Derby last week. And Kenny Jackett’s team had ex-Albion striker Darius Henderson. His 16 goals this season puts him well ahead of our goalscorers.
And we were right, it wasn’t easy. In our periods of possession we didn’t penetrate. Calderon provided a lot of crosses but these were well dealt with by the Millwall defenders. Our build up was too slow and there was no way through the middle. The Lions were more direct and always dangerous. They scored on 23 minutes when Albion keeper Peter Brezovan didn’t catch a cross and punched out weakly. It came straight back for Andrew Keogh to head home.
Early in the second-half we almost went two down but Keogh managed to miss from six yards. Gus continued to delay substitutions but his patience was rewarded with our equaliser on 52 minutes. Navarro’s miscued shot found Vokes who slotted past a wrong-footed David Forde for his first Albion goal. 1-1.
Gus made changes five minutes later. On came Noone and Agdestein which brought attacking options but our cheers didn’t last long. Millwall weren’t prepared to settle for a draw. Keogh chased what seemed a lost cause and ended up providing Liam Feeney with a simple tap-in. Albion were 2-1 down with 26 minutes left. It wasn’t looking good. A first Seagulls’ defeat in 2012 seemed likely.
Poyet waited until there were just five minutes left before introducing LuaLua. There didn’t seem time for him to make a difference. But there was. Our run of late goals continued. The clock showed 88 minutes when we won a free-kick. It was outside the box but central. It was touched to Kazenga who hit a trademark drive through the wall of Lions which Forde couldn’t keep out. So 2-2 and a famous LuaLua somersault in celebration. There was great relief all-round as we maintained our 2012 unbeaten record. But Millwall did deserve the draw. The one point wasn’t enough to push us up into the play-off zone but we go to Anfield with no losses in 10 games.