Sunday, 18 January 2009
Brighton & Hove Albion v Leeds United Jan 17th 2009
Saturday morning dawns, literally, and a dark, miserable, wet sky greets me as I trundle down the M62 to hook up with the supporters bus from Elland Road. Now my usual partner in crime, The Happy Chocker, was unfortunately unable to make the game but his able replacement Welly was already on the bus when I board ready for the 5 hour plus journey to the seaside. The first surprise of the day is that judging by the empty seats on the bus not many of the 900 whites fans due at Brighton had chosen this method to transport them to the Jewel of the south coast. At our midway stop we bumped into some Donny fans on their way to Southampton.
A small number of Donny Youfs greeted us with a muted "We all hate Leeds scum" far enough away to test even the best of hearing, but loud enough to ruffle Welly's feathers and as he sort to clarify exactly what they were singing the erstwhile brave youfs scuttled into the services with tails between legs. One old Donny fan made me chuckle though as I enquired if she use to go when Charlie Williams was in his prime (sadly deceased black comedian who played for them in the 50's and early 60's)....quick as a flash she retorted "I was the one who gave him his black eyes dear"
Once back on the bus thoughts turned to the match despite a DVD of Indiana Jones blaring out from the bus entertainment system. Will Larry throw the 2 new guys straight into the failing defence? Will Beckford be back after his hamstring injury? Christie or Trundle up front? But for me the big talking point is "Can we keep a clean sheet? The last one seems a decade ago when we travelled to Cheltenham. So the time passed quickly as my mind wandered between the defensive quandary of which combination Bam Bam Naylor will gel best with and whether Harrison Ford could extricate himself from the latest quicksand he'd fallen into.................you'd think he'd be more careful wouldn't you?
As we pulled into the Withdean Stadium, home of Brighton, I was in for more of a shock than I thought. Clearly I was aware that their "ground" was sub optimal but I didn't think it was as.........well different, as it was. It was like pulling into a rural sports centre rather than a ground where professional football is played. Things didn't get any better once we entered The Sportsmans Pub, splendidly sited like a rather grand Cricket pavilion, overlooking the ground. The "ground" consists of only one stand, integral with The Sportsman, and a collection of hotch potch temporary stands dotted about the extremities of a large running track..........the one allocated to away fans appeared to be 50 yards from the goal at the nearest point! Refreshment was needed and Welly and I had an enjoyable hour back in the Sportsman in the company of the Blackpool Whites, who had unselfishly arrived at 10.30am to check out the hospitality and prepare for the match.
Discussions inevitably focused on the strange Southern interpretation of the description "A pint of bitter" hence most of our Blackpool friends were drinking Cider but I stuck with the strange brew. Our new found friendship even survived a classic "heated debate" Mrs Merton style as Welly and one of the Blackpool lads debated the best intentions of Capt Birdseye..................finally both of them accepting he's a tosser and left it at that.
Larry's selection was interesting in pairing Trundle with Becchio up front and bringing in Naylor and Dickinson into the back four at the expense of Michalik and Sheehan. So under a cloudless sky and bright sunshine the match kicked off, at least that's what we assumed from our vantage point 100 yards away..................................as Leeds were kicking the wrong way there wasn't a lot I could see in the first half unless Brighton happened to attack Casper's goal. Just to show it wasn't my eyesight check out the Leeds fans reaction when we were given a penalty..........a ripple of realisation followed by "what's happened" reverberated amongst the most loyal of the loyal Leeds fans all of which created a surreal situation of a loud murmur greeting the curious penalty decision.
The hope of an early goal start was soon quashed by Becchio's inept attempt at converting the award and we settled into an uninspiring first half where good play and continuity were at a premium. Naylor settled well at Centre half and was commanding whenever
Brighton's powder puff attack stuttered into life. Dickinson was less impressive as his lack of match practice negated some obvious positives in his uncompromising challenges and positional play. As the half came to a close Brighton had a chance to take the lead when their striker was one on one with Casper but failed miserably to test the great Dane.
The lack of much noise as the players left the track summed up a disappointing half.
The atmosphere in the ground was non existent solely due to the distance the fans were from the pitch and other fans and the fact that without roofs on the stands any noise disappeared into the Sussex air. That didn't stop the whites fans having some fun with their opponents in the distant stand as they playfully taunted
them for their town's reputation as the Gay capital of the south with old favourites such as "We can see you holding hands" & "Does your Mother know you're Gay" Alas though this attempt at humour by the Yorkshire fans fell foul of the PC police amongst the youthful stewards as they warned fans that they would be arrested for homophobic behaviour if they continued!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ffs.
Leeds began to take a grip in the 2nd half and inspired by the introduction of Robbo & Howson we started to look the most likely winners as the defence grew in authority , albeit against a poor side, and the attack were causing problems each time they attacked.
Eventually Lee Trundle tucked away the first goal to the delight of both himself and the expectant Leeds fans and when Delph scored a sublime length of the field goal, reminiscent of Maradona's famous goal against England, we were celebrating a much needed victory and a precious clean sheet all in one. So the 18 hour day was rewarded with a victory and 3 precious points to help nullify the monotony of the long trek home, not helped by continuous episodes of Police Squad on the bus DVD.
The new players at the back looked the part and although this was by no means a classic match we did look more assurred throughout the team and this will give a much needed confidence boost ahead of our clash with The Posh next week. The only negative from the day, apart from ruining my eyesight squinting into the distance all afternoon, was the loss of Frazer Richardson with what looked like a hamstring injury.
So things could be starting to turn for the better.................next weeks test will be more severe but this Leeds fan is certainly more optimistic than he was last Friday and maybe just maybe we can get back into the play off places and stay there.