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A Flock of Seagulls: Brighton Report
By: Tony Butcher
A CLOUDLESS, windless Indian summer day in the leafy suburbs of the happening metropolis that is Brighton. And oh what an odd stadium. More akin to those grounds that stage UEFA cup preliminary round games, it felt like a pre-season friendly in Vaduz.
Brighton & Hove Albion 1 Grimsby Town 2
28 Sep 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The Town fans were scrunched together in a temporary stand behind one of the goals (as seen to the right on TV). Around 30 yards from the pitch, to one side, with a lovely view across the verdant pastures (and running track). Tree-lined, with what looked like a clubhouse, pole vault runway and hammer cage out there in the dim distance behind the other goal. The ground is essentially three sided.
The sun blared down on the pitch, so the Town players warmed up in the narrow slit of shade near the hammer cage. The Town fans, in the open, squinted to see the amber artisans, but settled back to bathe in the sun. How pleasant. The section holding the Town fans was segregated from locals by some green netting over a couple of seats, we could almost hold hands with the Brightonians. Though, being northern, we wouldnâ€™t, of course.
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, as shown. Nothing more to add really, apart from the amazing world of the strange in the Town end. Err, why was David Crosby waddling in, along with the lead yodeller from Focus; Dutch experimental rockers from when the world was brown. It was still 1972, as far as these two were concerned. When was the last time you saw a walrus moustache support Town? Goo-goo, ga-joob.
While weâ€™re on the subject of hair, or should that be mad hair, the pictures of Brighton youngster Chris McPhee in the programme brought a smile to the face and a tear to the eye of many who remembered early 80s fopsters, Flock of Seagulls. How apt, and such a cheeky grin too.
Brighton kicked off away towards the twilight zone, where only grass grew. They kicked the ball in the air, most inaccurately.
Hands were rubbed, especially when Town easily passed around, over and through their defence following a free kick. Robinsonâ€™s attempted scissors volley was charged down as he sought t o finish off a Harlem Globetrotter bit of one touch passing. It was almost sweet, Georgia Brown. Brighton kicked the ball in the air again, Town got it back. Brighton kicked it in the air again, Town got it back. And how. Robinson turned, muscled and rolled past his marker, wriggling free about 30 yards out. He looked up and saw Barnard, not so much steaming as cruising down the left, unhindered by blue striped fowl. Robinson rolled the ball gently into that huge, huge gap, for one should never look a carthorse in the mouth. BARNARD controlled the ball, ambled into the area and, from about a dozen yards out and perhaps eight yards left of the goal, curled the ball around the â€˜keeper into the bottom right hand corner. The Town fans couldnâ€™t quite believe it, and the cheers were 80-20 laughter. The Town players threw themselves all over Barnard, who was strutting towards the Town fans. Oh joy spread amongst the believers "this was the day". A couple of minutes gone and already in the lead. There was no chicken counting going on, just yet.
And perhaps it was "the day", as Brighton persisted in their game plan of being very rubbish. It was quite embarrassing in a way. They seemed incapable of passing to each other and their modus operandi was "Give it to Bobby", the clearly unfit Zamora. Their passes didnâ€™t so much go astray as set off in search of the lost continent of Atlantis, without telling their parents (or the coastguard). Town could hardly believe their luck, and a few minutes later Mansaram received a pass in the centre just inside the Brighton half, turned, twisted, wiggled and waggled, slipped and shot from 25 yards, the ball slicing away from the â€˜keeper, smacking the inside of his right hand post and bouncing back across goal, to be cleared by their full back. Brightonâ€™s response was a long shot that fizzed very wide of Coyneâ€™s left hand post. It was enough to wake their slumbering support, but of no real consequence. They then had another long shot which swayed way, way wide. Both were from incursions down the wings and a lay-back to a midfielder a few yards outside the penalty area. "My granny could do better than that" was the constant refrain from a Town fan, who wouldnâ€™t give up until someone laughed. I thought he said "My Galli could do better than that", which was debatable.
Ah, but such a move did eventually force Coyne to do something. One of their small, battling scufflers in midfield thwacked a right foot drive from just outside the penalty area, to the right of centre. The ball slowly swung away from Coyne, who leapt horizontally and parried the ball away from his top left hand corner, got up and flung himself on the bouncing ball as Zamora lurked. Letâ€™s not be churlish or condescending, it was an "Ooosome" moment. You know, most of the half was hacking and tracking in midfield, with Town easily breaking up any attempt by Brighton to pass their way through. Ha, fools, donâ€™t they realise we donâ€™t like it up â€˜em, Captain Mainwaring. Tippy-tappy football at half pace is a Cornish pasty with a glass of milk stout to Coldicott and Pouton. And a lovely pub lunch was had by all.
There were a couple of less than magic moments, when several hearts were beating very fast. Brighton broke quickly down the Town right on a counter attack. Campbell didnâ€™t bother running back with one of the little scufflers, despite being stood next to him as they broke. From near the corner flag the cross was drilled low to the near post, about 10 yards out. Little Scuffler opened up his body and steered the ball with his right foot past Coyneâ€™s left hand post. Towards the end of the half Brighton broke away down the Town left, and fizzed a hard cross into the six yard box. McDermott did a magnificent diving header to send the ball whence it came, but Zamora had anticipated the flight of the ball and attempted to divert it back in to the now unguarded goal. Fortunately, the ball skimmed off the top off his head and out for a goal kick.
Apart from a dropped cross by Coyne (free kick given for, ahem, "pushing" by Zamora), another couple of dreadfully wayward long shots which were attracted to the hammer cage like a starry eyed suitor, that was Brighton in the first half. Letâ€™s ignore those long throws which didnâ€™t seem to cause many difficulties. Town didnâ€™t do anything really after Mansaram hit the post, they were content to scrap about in midfield, with the occasional foray into the dark continent that is sometimes known by lawyers as the "opposition half". Barnard did cause a moment of outrage/panic when he intercepted one of many woeful passes by Brighton, surged down the centre, drifted to the right, waited for a foot, then fell over it, about 20 yards out. The referee spent an age getting the wall back, then making Barnard put the ball in exactly the wrong spot, then moved the wall again. Some peopleâ€™s tea had gone cold by the time Barnard delicately flipped the ball over the wall and over the bar to a land far, far away. Perhaps the land of chocolate.
Half time: Brighton & Hove Albion 0 Grimsby Town 1
The ball seemed strangely attracted to the slow growing area of darkness around McDermott. Fine by us, as it kept going out of play in the area of shade. At half time all was well in the world, for a change. Very poor opposition, the sun was up, the sky was blue, it was beautiful. There were great big holes everywhere, with Brighton holier than thou. Town were getting away with a few ropey performances, with Campbell, the ghost train on the right wing, Pouton still sluggish and the Barnard/Gallimore combination boiler still only simmering gently.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Youâ€™re more entertaining than a foam man fulminating".
The report continues in the second half.
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