BRIGHTON ended 2011 badly on Saturday... but then started 2012 BRILLIANTLY on Monday!
It wasn’t fun and it wasn’t festive on Saturday. We were sent to Coventry, the Championship’s bottom club, and welost 2-0. That made it four defeats on the trot for the Albion and we have dropped down to 16th in the league, seven points from the play-offs.
It would be easy to repeat what I said after the loss at Reading – it wasn’t too bad a performance. But the excuses are starting to wear thin, I‘m afraid.
I could claim we didn’t have any luck and the ref made some poor decisions, all true. We had a lot of possession, we had a lot of shots on target (10 to the Sky Blues’ four – but unfortunately two of theirs went in and none of ours did).
We had six corners to their two. We only committed eight fouls to Coventry’s 22 but the referee, Mr M Heywood, gave us two yellow cards.
This was particularly harsh for Lewis Dunk (offence unknown) and Alan Navarro. He was booked for taking OUR free-kick too early!
Both players are now suspended. Dunk misses two, the Saints (already played, more of which later!) and the FA Cup tie against Wrexham at the Amex, whilst Navarro missed just the Saints game.
This is at a time when the Seagulls injury list is long and Ashley Barnes and Romain Vincelot are still on their red card suspensions.
And it gets worse! Arguably our most dangerous player, Craig Noone, had to limp off with a hamstring injury.
Coventry scored twice with goals from Gary McSheffrey and Lukas Jutkiewcz either side of half-time. Manager Gus Poyet remained fairly positive after the loss.
He said: “We were okay but that is not good enough in the Championship.
“We were possibly better than them in the first-half but they had one shot and they scored from it. The only thing we can do is to keep believing and to keep playing... sooner or later things will change.”
Amen to that!
We started 2012 below halfway, with serious player problems, through discipline (lack thereof) and injury.
Poyet’s squad for the Saints game almost picked itself.
The January transfer window opened and perhaps there will be money available for team strengthening. But what positions does Gus need to go for? I’m afraid there are several areas that could be improved.
Casper Ankergren in goal doesn’t consistently inspire confidence. He flapped at a couple of crosses at Coventry, which certainly lead to the Sky Blues’ second goal.
Our full backs, in the shape of Adam El-Abd and Mauricio Taricco, are too often exposed by fast wide men. Then in midfield, a ball-playing general remains high on the wish list. Actually we could also use a “hard” man to win the tackles. Finally, we need another target man striker to play alongside Craig Mackail-Smith. He isn’t getting the right support at present.
So, goodbye 2011, a momentous year. It started with us running away with the League 1 title to gain promotion to the Championship. Withdean was a fortress in our last season there. Then it was on to our magnificent new Amex Stadium and a splendid start in the higher division, with capacity crowds and exciting games.
We gave Tottenham a hard game, we beat Premiership Sunderland and we frightened Liverpool. After eight games and into September we were TOP! Sadly only for a couple of weeks though.
Since then, reality has returned and every game is hard fought. But we can look back on the year with pride.
We started the New Year on a run of four losses with no goals scored. As Auld Lang Syne was reverberating across the UK, I was telling anyone who would listen that I thought our luck would turn and that Mackail-Smith would start scoring again. Sadly I was sailing across the La Manche while the Saints game was going on – but picked up the news by following more than 600 posts on northstandchat.com as I went.
So I can let you have this summary. Our fortunes did finally take a turn for the better as I predicted – well hoped for.
We beat Southampton 3-0!
Gus Poyet, with a seriously depleted squad to pick from, brought in youngster Jake Caskey-Forster and Steve Cook. He also dropped Ankergren to the bench giving Peter Brezovan his chance between the posts. 21,000 were packed into the Amex with ref Andy D’Urso in charge.
Not a lot to say about the first half except ex-Albion Dan Harding picked up a yellow card and was subbed off.
On 51 minutes came the pay-back for the two dodgy penalties we suffered at St Mary’s.
Their top scorer, Rickie Lambert, received a straight red for having a go at El-Abd. Bad decision! Next our assistant manager, Taricco, picked up a strain so that Poyet was able to give youngster (and former Lewes loanee) Grant Hall his chance. On 66 minutes, Caskey scored. A goal at last and from our young midfielder – and against Saints. Oh, the joy!
Then, on 76 minutes another goal! Matt Sparrow knocked in a ball from Bridcutt.
And on 86 minutes, the Albion faithful were in heaven. Another goal from Sparrow, this time LuaLua providing.
There was still time for our skipper Gordon Greer to tarnish the result by getting yet another red card. Stupid boy!
But it was our day and my Channel crossing was made all the happier than usual as a result. We moved up three places to 13th and we are unbeaten in 2012!
A VERY Happy New Year!