Saturday, 10 December 2016
Brighton & Hove Albion v Leeds Utd. 9th Dec 2016.
An away game at Brighton on a Friday poses more than the usual logistical problems for Leeds fiercely loyal fans but that hadn’t stopped nearly 3,000 making the trip down to Sussex. I had plumped for the official coaches to get me there on time. So with “The Fairy tale of New York” ringing in my ears we set off for the 6 hour trip to the Amex. As we joined the M1 I spotted Chris Rea on his long drive home. Xmas is definitely coming fast but would we get an early Xmas present against the high flying Seagulls? One thing for sure there was plenty of time to ponder the game. Would Pontus be fully fit? Would Roofe rock Brighton with another goal? Would the Amex pies still be top of the league standard? We were about to find out. Well we were if we actually got there on time for the kick off as the M25 car park and congestion around the Amex conspired to delay our arrival until 7.35pm. Phew!
Garry Monk had stuck with the same team that saw off Villa as Leeds attempted to stop the Seagulls impressive run of form. The early signs weren’t good. Brighton knocked the ball about with confidence with Murray, Murphy, Baldock and Knockaert giving Leeds some very testing questions in the opening 20 minutes. Chances from free kicks went begging for the home side as Leeds struggled to deal with any of the set pieces into the box. The travelling support’s raucous encouragement tried to lift the young Leeds side but they were definitely 2nd best against an impressive and very mobile home team.
With just 23 minutes on the clock the key moment of the game arrived. Another corner was conceded by Leeds. Brighton’s set routine and movement again found a man free at the back post who’s goalbound shot was stopped by Phillips on the line. Problem was it was his arm that prevented the ball crossing the line. Red card and a penalty. Suddenly the 6 hour journey to get here looked to be in vain even at this early stage of the game. Murray coolly chipped the penalty in to give the home side a 1.0 lead.
Brighton continued to dominate the game. Baldock, Murray and Knockaert all had chances that either Green saved or a defender’s body was flung in front of the goal bound shot. Monk had reset his team with Roofe moving out to the wing and Doukara moving to a central, defensive midfield position. Interesting move that showed just how thin the squad was currently stretched through injuries to 3 key midfielders O’Kane, Bridcutt and Hernandez. Leeds battled on and refused to give up but their only sniff at goal came right at the end of the half when Sacko got free and his miscued shot fell at Wood’s feet in the box but the big New Zealander’s attempt looked more like an audition for Bambi than a genuine shot as his feet got horribly tangled. HT 1.0 Brighton.
The urinal philosophers were shell shocked. “why didn’t he just let it go in? No point getting sent off for that” moaned one expert. “Why do we always get shit ref’s?” another pundit complained whilst the final philosopher chuckled at the sight of Doukara in central midfield. Thoughts about the first 45 minutes were put to one side as the half time entertainment on the concourse included fire crackers and the boisterous Pontus Jansson appreciation society. The match day pie was exquisite though. If Michelin gave out stars for match day pies this was definitely a 3 star.
Monk withdrew Sacko in place of Grimes at half time and sent our new central midfielder, Doukara, out to the more familiar pastures of the wing. This did bolster the Leeds team up to a point. They were battling hard as they’ve done all season but struggling to make any impression on the rock like Brighton defence whilst at the other end Murray, Knockaert and Baldock were still giving the Leeds back four a torrid time. Ayling in particular was struggling with the pace and trickery of the Brighton wide men. The Leeds fans consoled themselves with a new version of Wham’s “Last Christmas” which I believe is now available on iTunes for download.
Vieira was certainly trying his hardest in the centre of midfield but Brighton’s undoubted quality shone through as they turned the screw on Leeds. The only flicker of hope was there was still only one goal in it and whilst that was the case Leeds could still snatch an equaliser………problem was as the clock ticked past 70 minutes we still hadn’t managed a shot anywhere near the Leeds supporting Brighton goalie Stockdale. Dallas replaced Doukara to try and get an unlikely goal. With ten minutes to go Duffy again won a header in Leeds box but Green saved comfortably. Time was running out for the hopeful Leeds team.
Then on 82 minutes the game was over. Bartley touched a Brighton player in the box after the 150th Brighton corner and he fell to the ground like a dying Swan. Penalty. Bollox. Yellow for Bartley and a 2nd goal for the Seagulls as Hemed converted the spot kick with ease. Game over. There was still time for a game of coin exchange between the Leeds fans and the one row of Brighton fans in the seats above them. Wood had half a chance late on but that was the game over. Full time Brighton 2:0 Leeds.
Man of the match was the half time pie. The way the chicken, ham and leek combined to satisfy this Leeds fan’s craving was very impressive. Overall it was a disappointing but battling performance from Leeds. Going down to ten men so early on ruined any chance of getting any points against such a strong side. The injury crisis could also have been increased as Jansson went off with 2 minutes to go. Is his hamstring playing up again? The post match debate was all about whether Phillips should have handled the ball or not? Hindsight is a wonderful thing I mused as I tried to get some sleep as the coach headed north. My bedside clock showed 3:33 am when I eventually crawled into bed. At least the pie was nice.
We go again on Tuesday against Reading. Bring it on………..