Harty on.... Albion’s FA Cup exit and Rebels Youth

AFTER probably the biggest day of collective FA Cup upsets on Saturday, the Albion faithful arrived in numbers on Sunday for a record Amex attendance – hopeful of adding to the giantkillings and knocking out holders Arsenal.

Unfortunately, Brighton made the age old mistake of possibly giving their opponents too much respect. By standing off them early, Theo Walcott’s strike set the scene and by the time Arsenal had doubled their lead, it really was an uphill struggle for the hosts.

A glimmer of hope came in the shape of Albion pegging one back through Chris O’Grady but all it appeared to do was make the Gunners up their game and increase their lead again.

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Albion got another back, courtesy of Sam Baldock, to give us all renewed hope of at least a draw.

Then came, in my opinion, the real bone of contention, when the Albion’s Adrian Colunga hit a speculative shot which appeared to be handled by Arsenal defender Calum Chambers.

Was it a penalty?

In my opinion, cast iron. I’ve seen them given for the same thing at all levels of football, so were the Albion robbed of a spot-kick?

It’s one of the reasons why we all love football, because we will never know what might have happened. Arsenal might argue they should have had a penalty at the other end and they had a couple of chances to extend their lead but, if they go on to retain the trophy at Wembley in May, we can also fall back on the fact that they were a tad fortunate at the Amex in the fourth round.

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But, moving forward now, in the same way I was convinced it was a cast iron certainty that the Albion would be relegated under Sami Hyypia, on the flip side with new manager Chris Hughton at the helm, there is no way the Seagulls will be anywhere near the bottom three come the end of the season.

They will finish, if not in the top ten, very near, possibly around seven or eight points short of a play-off place.

That will just prove, beyond doubt, that had they sacked Hyypia in late October or early November, when they should have, and got Hughton back then, they would have been in the mix at the end of the campaign.

n Elsewhere, the Ryman Youth League title race hots up with Bognor, Worthing and Burgess Hill breaking away with a ten-point gap from fourth-placed Horsham.

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Last Thursday, victory at Lewes for the young Rebels came courtesy of perhaps one of the youngest youth teams to have been fielded in the club’s history, with not one second year in the starting line-up or amongst the used substitutes.

A hard-fought victory at home to Three Bridges followed on Monday, with February being a pivotal month in the season with back-to-back league games against the Hillians and a visit to Bognor.

Next up at Woodside for the under-18s is the visit of Hastings on February 9.

I know the lads would appreciate the support of the Worthing footballing public as the season reaches a potential exciting conclusion.

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And, while winning is always an added bonus, development is still the key.

With the number of former Rebels under-18s now playing in both the under-21s and the first team, that statistic still remains the envy of many other clubs in the Ryman League.