Date: 9 October 2010
The majority of my friends decided to give this match a miss. Well, not a ‘miss’ exactly - they were all watching it on TV - but they certainly didn’t cheer on the lads in person at the ground. Disloyal supporters? Well, maybe so, but the Withdean Stadium affords visitors such a poor view that we were somewhat reliant on phone messages and texts from absent fans to find out what was going on! Especially during the two incidents involving Symes in the first half. But more about them later.
What did those absent fans miss out on? Well, a very - er - entertaining pub. The ‘entertainment’ was provided by the landlady, who appeared to have been drinking heavily since the pub opened at 10 AM, and by lunchtime was literally dancing on the tables. Her staff weren’t much better. Inevitably we felt obliged to return after the match and see if they’d sobered up at all, but evidently they’d continued drinking while the match was on! But all this led to a friendly, non-threatening, light-hearted atmosphere. It meant supporters of the two teams could mix without any animosity at all - even after the game when Brighton fans inevitably felt somewhat hard done by, but knew we were hardly to blame for that. The beers were good, the pizzas were good, and the atmosphere was convivial, even though the Exiles’ contingent was reduced to five before the game and four after - a far cry from the previous week at Southampton.
Comparisons with the Southampton trip are inevitable. Two relatively local derbies in seven days. Last week, we lost as a result of two dodgy penalties given against us, this week we drew thanks to an even dodgier penalty given for us! Last week’s result cost us one position in the league as we dropped from 2nd to 3rd, this week we dropped from 3rd to 4th! And both weeks we had virtually no shots on target in open play…
We lined up slightly more defensively than at Southampton, with Hollands (who’d been crying out for a place in the papers all week - it seems sometimes nagging can pay off!) playing just behind Symes, McQuoid giving way. This was the same system as the opening match of the season at Charlton, except that then it had been Arter behind Pitman. The need to bring back Bradbury for the suspended Smith (although Bradbury was consistently beaten to the ball by Brighton’s left-winger) made it look even more like the opening day - except that now Garry was preferred over Cooper for the centre back slot. This line-up frustrated the home team, as no doubt it was intended to do, but didn’t present us with many scoring chances. We seemed to playing for a 0-0 draw. The only memorable incidents in the first half both involved Symes, though here too we were reliant on texts from elsewhere to inform us what was happening. In the first incident Symes stepped on the Brighton goalie (Ankergren’s) nose. The game stopped for five minutes while the victim received treatment, being the main contributor to the six minutes’ injury time that would be given at the end of this half. There was no card shown - rightly so, as the action was clearly unintentional. The second incident, when Symes elbowed an opponent’s face, led to a massive punch-up on the pitch with several players weighing in and the linesmen helping to restore order. The Brighton fans called for a red card but the referee showed a yellow. Again TV replays showed the elbowing to be unintentional, but Symes needs to be more careful in future. The home fans turned against him, booing his every action; but saving their loudest boos for the time, ten minutes into the second half, when he would leave the pitch to give way to McQuoid.
While the crowd were baying for a red card for Symes, Fletcher was warming up on the touchline. This seemed odd, because if you were reduced to ten men you surely wouldn’t pick Fletch to be one of them? But when Fletch did indeed come on, half way through the second period, he certainly turned the game around. His very presence seemed to scare the Brighton defence and we would (eventually) be able to capitalise on that. But unfortunately by this time we were already 0-1 down, and it could have been 0-2. Brighton’s goal had been scored by Lua Lua on the hour mark, following a clever sideways free-kick by Dicker that none of our defenders saw coming. The ‘almost’ second goal would have been an own goal by Bradbury - a poor back-header that Jalal was fortunate to get to.
I’d been informed by a Brighton fan before the match that they always concede late goals. No doubt Eddie had passed this information on to our players too, as they rallied determinedly for the last few minutes - and it paid off. Deep into injury time there was a handball - well, in truth, several hands went up and it wasn’t immediately obvious whether it was a Bournemouth hand or a Brighton one that touched the ball. The referee was well placed to see it, though, and for once we were even better placed. It was outside the penalty area. But curiously the linesman, who didn’t have such a good view, overruled the referee and flagged for a penalty - doing us a massive favour. Symes, our usual penalty taker, had already gone off and it wasn’t obvious who’d take it now. But Pugh, who’d already had an excellent second half, stepped up - and needed nerves of steel as for a prolonged period Brighton players (and fans of course) continued to complain. It’s to Pugh’s credit that despite the long delay, and animosity all round, he put the penalty away efficiently. 1-1. Home fans started walking out in droves. We stormed the Brighton goal for the rest of the game, sensing a very real opportunity to double our lead, but the clock ran down all too quickly and we had to content ourselves with one - scarcely deserved - point.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):