Having been massively unengaged & dissatisfied with the club a few months ago, this is a strange situation to find oneself in. With a play off place secured a few games ago & all the teams chasing promotion looking a tad dysfunctional, I’m completely relaxed about what happens to us over the next 3 (possibly 4) games. We’ve got a shot at Wembley & we all know Darren is going to be Head Coach next season no matter what. Que sera, sera…. Time to enjoy the ride..
So. This was an opportunity for a brief mooch around Brighton, a splendid craft ale in a local hipster pub in the Laines, a stroll along the pier taking in the wintery views of the coast & a trip out to Brighton’s splendid ground. I was ambivalent about the result. The Sea Eagles were in a rich vein of form, expertly organised by a very capable manager & within a shot of automatic promotion. A decent performance from us would have done me but I wasn’t really expecting anything other than a defeat. Yes, I was pretty chilled out..
The team news? I’d predicted it correctly. Butterfield dropped, a return for Thorne & another start for the boy wonder. A mysterious ommission for Hanson, meant that Callum Guy secured the token academy spot on the bench. Brighton? I didn’t recognise many of their players to be honest. Knockaert was there, last time I saw him he was bawling his eyes out on the pitch at Vicarage Road. Little cheat.
Unsurprisingly, the Eagles went at us from the start. They probably needed & expected a win after all. It was a case of battening down the hatches for us, as they went for it & we struggled to get our passing game together. Hughes was prominent though, demonstrating he’s destined to be the complete midfielder. He can control, pass, create & he sure can put himself about a bit.
The Gulls certainly had the best of that first half, they applied a lot of pressure without quite creating chances that troubled Carson. Knockaert’s free kick was probably the best of them but Shacks nodded over. He was a rock throughout, as were the rest of the defence. They needed to be. The Eagrets won plenty of corners & clipped them all in very effectively. It felt like a matter of time before we’d concede.
Our best chance? A punt forward on the break from Bryson, sone equisite control by Ince & a half chance to score. Ince scuffed his finish, though. He didn’t have the best of games.
Brighton showed a bit of a nasty side to them. They were robust in their tackling & mardy when things didn’t go their way, especially Baldock up front. The lumbering Dunk was booked for knocking young Will over. What an oaf, he was to pay dearly for that in the 2nd half.
The interval brought the opportunity to sit down on those lovely bright blue comfy seats & for me to say, ” We’re going to concede a goal from a corner, aren’t we?” 27 times to The Witch & Spicy Kev. We’d weathered the storm though & kept that crowd quiet. Surely, they were going to get more frustrated the longer it remained goalless?
Commendably, we were a different proposition in that 2nd half. Within minutes, we’d had 3 chances on goal. Could we actually get a win here? There was time for a bit more mardiness from the Seasiders before that though. Bruno, their bearded hipster of a right back, collapsed dramatically when Ince passed within 10 yards of him. Martin, with his only contribution of the game, tried to pull him to his feet (oh, the irony..) & a bit of a mêlée ensued. Ince got a booking for that. Nonsense.
The goal then. We won a ball in the air, it fell to the boy Will, he expertly controlled it on his chest before lobbing into the path of Weimann, who had come on for the ineffective Ince. His first shot was blocked by Stockdale but he managed to prod the rebound into the net. What a great view we had of that. The away end exploded & there were man hugs aplenty. Brilliant stuff & well deserved.
If anything we looked the more likely to add to that. Bryson advance menacingly but was scythed down by that lumpen oaf, Dunk. What an idiot. Off he went. And then the ending. 4 minutes added time. Stockdale up & a goalmouth scramble. And Brighton had scored from a corner after all.
A few fans blamed Our Darren for that goal, which was a tad unfair. Yes, he put Bucko on but that’s the type of thing you do when you’re trying to see the game out. It was a lucky goal for them. They celebrated wildly. At getting a draw.
We departed back to Watford quietly satisfied with what had turned out to be a great performance, with Hughes again demonstrating what a fantastic player he is. Will he be the difference for us in the play offs? Time will tell..