A thoroughly rewarding south coast trip yesterday that saw a battling Addicks performance that just about merited the point we snatched from high-flying Brighton.
Three of us made the increasingly short road journey and found ourselves in Lewes at 5.30. We had no firm plan when we left but were keen to avoid getting caught in the park and ride queues or the 30-45 minute wait we had heard about for a train after the match. Lewes is a classy looking town and the couple of pubs we visited were loaded with Addicks topping up on Harvey's ale. We managed an excellent curry from Shanaz, which looked iffy from the outside before heading back up the A27 in search of a rare parking spot. £13 to park for a couple of hours is trumpy but we were pretty close to the ground although I worried about the single-lane entrance and exit in terms of the Le Mans start home.
To the ground then and I have to say I was extremely impressed. There was a large crowd walking up as we did and most were swathed in blue and white bar scarves. The stadium looks great as you approach and is studded with merchandise outlets, bars and restaurants. I have always found the locals at Brighton to be very decent and a mirror-image by-and-large of our own support. They make a big effort at Brighton and it shows.
Inside, the stadium doesn't disappoint (I have left my phone in the car - pictures to follow. The roof joins the stadium's four sides, none of which look the same. Two smallish but perfectly reasonably ends are sandwiched between a good-looking two-tier side opposite a very impressive three-tier stand which is where I would be sitting if I followed them every week. If I had one grumble it would be about the rake of the seating behind the goal as it could probably have been steeper. As it is, it might have encouraged the stand-up/sit-down performance that went on most of the evening, but that might just have been due to the larger and more exuberant following than normal.
We lined-up with the favoured away 4-5-1, Hamer, Wiggins, Morrison, Dervite, Solly, Harriott, Jackson, Pritchard, Hughes, Wilson and Kermorgant. The first-half was tight with Brighton having the lion-shre of possession but only carving out two chances to show for it. They moved the ball quickly on the flanks and Lualua in particular threatened down our right.
After the break we came out of our shells and for 20 minutes we took the game to hosts as we attacked the end behind which our fans stood. Harriott was seeing a lot more ball and was doing an admirably impression of Lualua's first-half showing. Jackson was well forward and Pritchard ran right and left looking for openings. We looked short all the time upfront where Kermorgant was getting no change. Brighton finally came back into it and Ben Hamer was kept busy dealing with a series of headers. Brighton should have scored when they finally found a man spare at the back post but he somehow managed to head wide of an open goal.
As the game entered it's final phase Albion upped the ante and threw an extra man or two forward. Hamer made a superb low block and we watched the deflection bounce up and hit the bar. We had every man behind the ball and it was difficult to break out with no-one leading the line. Finally a couple of welcome subs and it was Dale Stephens who nearly grabbed a late winner with a 25 yard drive at the finish but his arcing shot was tipped over.
The gate was given at over 28,000 and in a nice touch, they also acknowledged the visiting numbers of 1900 odd which was given a genuine round of applause. Back to the car then and my fears were realised as we inched our way for half-an-hour out of that car park. Still, back home in bed before midnight after a decent evenings work. The point should go a long way towards ensuring we play Championship football next season. One more win should do it really given the host of clubs still beneath us. Leeds should be arriving on Saturday just in time.