Sunday, 31 August 2014

Brighton & Hove Albion 2 v Charlton Athletic 2

Home from a near perfect fortnight's holiday in the Cypriot sunshine. Very hard to beat a clean white villa with a large sparkling pool and wall-to-wall warm sunshine and clear blue skies. Sea views from the hills, agricultural back-drop, gentle breezes and country roads lined with laden olive, pomegranate and fig trees. Difficult to improve on all this and simple Greek food - but I managed it yesterday.

After getting into bed at 4am, I got four hours heavy sleep before rising and preparing for my favourite away venue in the Championship - Brighton on a Saturday at 3pm. Mate and I were on the 11.05 from Blackfriars which seemed to move at 15 miles-per-hour until well past Croydon but we were still in at Brighton on-time for 12.25pm where local Pete met us (thanks for guesting on this blog Pete). A swift couple of pints of West Pier in the station bar before a stroll down into the town for a few more Sussex ales. It may not have been Mediterranean-hot but the sun was shining and it was short-sleeve order.

For the first time on a Brighton trip we braved the train to Falmer and I have to say it was a breeze. Well organised and efficient we were quickly at the ground and managed a pint of Harveys from the cask in the ground before taking our padded, leg-room seats for the action. Could it get better? Well, obviously it could and it soon was.

I said after watching Igor Vetekole at Brentford that he looked every inch the Killer and I stand by that this morning. Not because he notched his fourth and fifth goals of the campaign and heads the inaugural scoring charts, but because of the manner and style of his play and, more importantly, his finishing. It took him four minutes to create chaos among the visiting 2000 Addicks by picking up a loose ball from a Tucudean charge and with a second to spare he shaped and drove a low shot beyond Stockdale.

After that it was pretty much all Brighton up to the break as they passed and probed around our back four. In spite of the pre-match threat of Mackhail-Smith, O'Grady and Baldock, they only fielded the Scotsman alongside another double-barrelled target man in Forster-Caskey. Neither could make any impression on Bikey and Ben Haim, so it was left to Colunga and Teixera in particular to try and hurt us. Joao Texeira caught the eye throughout the match and was the home sides' man-of-the-match by a country mile although Lewis Dunk did everything that could be expected of him including both Brighton goals. Wiggins and Solly haven't yet recaptured their best form but were solid enough and we looked comfortable at the back for most of the match. 

Brighton did manage a couple of back post volleys which were sent high and wide and they did force a fine save from Henderson but could have few complaints at being one-down at the break. The second period was really more of the same and I thought we had it won although the clock seemed to move very slowly. Church had come on for Tucudean at the break and we looked poised to move further upfield if necessary at any time. That came after Lewis Dunk headed home a disappointingly routine corner after 67 minutes.

Nine minutes later and after building some midfield momentum with Wilson now on the right and Gudmundsson having shifted left, we broke and Simon Church was rewarded when Igor seized on the pull back to dart goalward and squeeze a shot wide of Stockdale and in off the post twenty yards in front of me. Cue joyous pandemonium again and booming chants of I-gor, I-gor, I-gor, I-gor. With fifteen minutes left we really should have taken the three points but Brighton had worked their socks off and they continued to play football and press us. Their equaliser was a carbon-copy of the opener from Lewis Dunk and it took the wind from our sails coming in the last minute of the match.

On reflection it was still a very good point and the nature of their goal was only similar to a couple of own recently. We had the luck at Huddersfield when Ben Haim got away with a penalty shout which would have cost us the game and we survived that to snatch a point. We sit pretty in sixth and along with table-toppers Forest are the only unbeaten sides in the division. We have beaten two of the best teams at the Valley and drawn three away games at tough venues. We can be proud of our start and confident that there is more to come. 

It was good to see old-face Southampton Addick, Nick Blendon and his Jihadi son as well as my old schoolmate, Big Pete Roberts.

Final word to B&HAFC for another great day. Win, draw or lose, they make a big effort to welcome visitors to the Amex and for that they deserve to do well. The posters pictured here are typical of the careful consideration given to welcoming visitors. I will be back.

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