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04/05 Brighton 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NEITHER team made any changes at half time. Town kicked off with the usual pass back to Gallimore, who dillied, dallied, and caressed a pass down the left towards Thompson, who controlled it, passed inside and the ball meandered across the pitch. Hang on, whatâ€™s happening?
Grimsby Town 2 Brighton & Hove Albion 2
04 May 2003, Nationwide League Division 1
It didnâ€™t go straight out of play. Are we practicing for next year already? Are there different rules for second division kick offs?
Brighton started the second half at a much higher tempo, like they had something to play for. With the home fans slouched lazily across several seats, and some still queuing for the last pie of the season (why worry itâ€™ll still be there in August) Brighton attacked down their right and managed to almost create an chance. The ball was whizzed back to Rodger, about 25 yards out in the centre, who lashed a shot towards goal. Santos stuck his bonce in the way and the ball skidded away for a corner. The corner, from their left, was curled away from goal and sailed gently through the area to one of their shaven headed players about 12 yards out, to the left of goal. It bounced off his chest and straight to Zamora, who blasted a half volley towards goal. The ball thumped Chettle full in the face and careered off sideways into a big, unguarded space. CULIP, on the edge of the 6 yard box and level with the right hand post, swivelled and steered a low shot through the legs of Santos, who had stayed on the goal line. The Brighton players and fans went wild, and who could blame them for that. Been there, done that, sold the players. There was a long delay as Chettle received treatment. He didnâ€™t move for a minute or two. Some of the Town players tried to claim that heâ€™d been fouled in the lead up to the gaol. Yes, thatâ€™s right, the ball had elbowed Chettle and should have got a red card. Now thatâ€™s a refereeing decision I would like to see.
The sight and sound of Southerners partying roused the Town fans into a response. There were no moans or groans when the goal was scored, I think weâ€™ve gone way past that, but the Brighton braying was enough to get the Pontoon going.
The fans got behind the team, roaring them on, ribbing the away fans that they were going down with the Wednesday ("with us" sotto voce and arpeggio) and, as it turned out, the Brightonians had 10 minutes of false hope. Town attacked. The most cynical Town fan in the Pontoon sarcastically shouted "Hello Mr Campbell" as the last of the Lennie Loans clipped a superb dipping cross beyond the far post, right onto Keaneâ€™s left boot. Keane, near the corner of the 6 yards box, volleyed across Beasant, who parried the ball onto HUGHESâ€™ thigh. Hughes finished brilliantly from two yards, showing his premiership class by making it look as though the ball just hit him. What a natural finisher. Keane seemed to gesture towards the Brighton fans. I know what weâ€™d say if the roles were reversed. Perhaps he needs a good old fashioned clip round the ear from his manager.
At this the Osmond Stand sank two feet. A couple of minutes later Chettle was replaced by Bolder, with Groves going back to centre half. Bolder snapped and snarled, looking most comfortable at this level. He doesnâ€™t need to pass the ball, nor control it much, so heâ€™s quids in for next season. Groves too was exceptionally adequate at centre back. Now this Bobby Zamora bloke, was he the one that looked like a thin Dion Dublin, but without the close control or threat? Such a big reputation and he didnâ€™t produce anything against Town that was extraordinary. Or even ordinary. A neutral would say he was "disappointing". We arenâ€™t neutral, he was great! The game, the season, some peopleâ€™s careers, ticked away without much incident. Gallimore reminded us why we heckle, by ducking under a near post corner. Yes, he was supposed to be defending at the time. A brief moment of panic, averted by Gorgeous Georges, who shrugged the ball Gallicly upfield. Ah, Galli again, booked for threatening their substitute, Brooker, not once, not twice, but three times as they ran back upfield following a foul by Tony the tormented Torreador. All he ever wanted was a little white bull, and he got it with Keane in front of him.
Have you got it yet? The game was over, Brighton deflated, Town happy to pass the night away with a stroll in the Park. Oh, just one more thing. Brighton had a few crosses, some of which remained in play. Somewhere in the last 10 minutes Town did something. The ball was dinked down the right touchline with Campbell and Blackwell chasing back. Somehow Campbell managed to muscle the big beefy Blackwell off the ball and scampered away into the penalty area. When near the bye-line he pulled a low cross back to the near post. Thompson, about eight yards out, wrapped his right foot around the ball and swept a first time shot against the face of the crossbar. The ball bounced down, up and Bolder headed back into Beasantâ€™s arms from a dozen yard out. With about five minutes left Cooke replaced Keane, who was booed off by the Brightonians. Cooke was cheered on, for one last time, by his devotees. He played on the left and was ok, putting in two good crosses which dipped low inside the 6 yards box. The first one Beasant plucked off the turf and the second Mansaram only just failed to divert inside the far post from a couple of yards out. At around the same time Brighton forced Coyne to make a save, which was nice of them, for it allowed the Pontoon to sing Dannyâ€™s praise for one last time. One of their slightly chunky players who had hair, tried a sidefooter from the centre left. The ball rolled through a thicket of legs towards Coyneâ€™s bottom right hand corner. Across he swooshed and at the foot of the post he flipped the ball away for a corner. One for the cameras there.
With a couple of minutes left, Brighton totally bamboozled Gallimore, and who could blame him, for they actually passed the ball with some skill and invention. Nothing too fancy, but in the context of their previous efforts, this was dandified football worthy of the floweriest of eulogies. Brooker and someone else played a one-two behind Gallimore. Thatâ€™s all, but it was enough to have Galli scratching his head in Laurelesque fashion. The ball was pulled back to a substitute, Barrett, who tried a quick, surprising poke shot through Santosâ€™ legs from the edge of the area. The ball rolled nicely to Coyne. And then the moment we knew would come some day, but itâ€™s still a shock when it happens. With one minute left Groves pointed to McDermott and off went the iconic, totemic colossus. Groves very publicly lead the applause as the ground rose to salute a career, a man, a life. In disbelief. He really is going! Parker bounced onto the pitch and, well, the King is dead long live the King. Parker did two good interceptions and had two excellent forays upfield. Once playing a one-two with Mansaram, the other ending with a swirling, slicing shot from 25 yards out. It stayed in the ground, itâ€™s a start.. Only Mansaramâ€™s rubbishness had stopped Parker flying towards goal unimpeded by man or beast. Or in Culipâ€™s case, manmade beast.
Three minutes of added time and nothing to report. The game ended and both sets of fans ran on the pitch, in an entirely good natured way. The Town fans swarmed around Georges Santos, ignoring everybody else. Perhaps working on the theory that kidnapping is just as likely to secure his services as an offer from the Town board. As the Town fans ran back into the stands, some took the opportunity to swing on the crossbars. No, no, no not you fat man! We need the cash to pay Georges, not new crossbars, now that youâ€™ve let him go. And that sums the season up, something almost happened, but it didnâ€™t. And then we went home. Welcome to the first day of the rest of our footballing lives.
Goodbye cruel first division, weâ€™re leaving you today. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
He will brook no argument, for entirely sentimental reasons it is John McDermott. Nobody ran off the pitch better. Groves gets a special nod too. But a smaller one.
Mr C Wilkes. Heâ€™s a small man, and heâ€™s not in shape. Absolutely useless, almost incapable of making the right decision. One pleasingly bad penalty decision was followed by a stratospherically ludicrous one. I particularly liked the booking of Kitson for timewasting - when Brighton had been awarded a free kick and were 1-0 down. It takes a genius to work that one out. And finally, Cyril, a valuation of his very being, and it is 3.429, as I am feeling in benevolent mood.
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