In faraway Sussex Brighton extend their unbeaten home run against City to 40 years with a rather fortunate win, the Tigers having the lion’s share of possession and chances.
City went to Brighton. City played pretty well. City lost. It’s a familiar scene against a club that the Tigers have not beaten on any of their various grounds since the promotion season of 1965-66, our third visit to the Goldstone Ground. Since then it has been four draws and 13 defeats in 40 years – make that 14 defeats after this match.
To be fair City haven’t always delivered the “played pretty well” element of my opening comment, at times over the years we have saved some of our most rotten performances for the Seagulls, home and away. By the same token, Brighton haven’t often been as woeful as this, they looked a poor side ready for the relegation trap door to open up and consign them to the lower leagues, a destination that their genuinely awful stadium – and long term home for many years to come despite recent empty protestations by the Deputy Prime Minister – deserves. Rarely can league football have been played in such bizarre circumstances as a mish-mash of temporary structures house supporters in blocks of a few hundred at intermittent locations around a running track. Only on one side, the southern flank, does a a single stand extend for a decent distance – and even then the nearest supporter is perhaps 30 yards from the nearest touchline. A dreadful place and one that merits only a single visit for ground tick purposes.
The Deputy Prime Minister was there, ludicrously bedecked in a Black and Amber scarf and introduced to the home crowd before the game as some kind of saviour after his decision to approve planning permission for a new stadium at Falmer. Which just leaves two thorny little issues – the planning authority of Lewes, within which part of the new stadium site is located (a fact that Prescott appears unaware of in his recent decision notice) doesn’t want it, believes other better sites exist in the town and is minded to test Prescott’s decision in all of the courts it can find – and the fact that Brighton haven’t got money to build a tennis court, let alone a 20,000 seater stadium. So the Withdean will stay home for some time for the rather down-at-heel and badly treated Brighton fans. They’d probably engender more sympathy if they didn’t spend all their time instructing other clubs’ supporters just how down-at-heel and badly treated they are.
To the match. City carded a line-up that rewarded Jason Price for his good second half showing against Cardiff, but balanced this with the return of the one striker plus Barmby formation that did much to signal City recently arrested decline in form.
France Collins Cort Dawson
Price Welsh Delaney Elliott
As was often the case last season the first 15 minutes saw Elliott up front and Barmby on the left, but they soon swapped. Not before City took the lead. On 4 minutes a corner was won on City’s left and Dawson swung a deep cross beyond the back post to Leon Cort. His climb was superior to that of the dozing defence and he nodded the ball into the six yard box where Elliott thumped a close range shot into the roof of the net.
City then continued to dominate a weak looking Brighton side for whom the talismanic Leon Knight had again been dropped (apparently due to lack of effort in training) and a nippy lookalike called Sebastien Carole had been selected wide right in his place. After 16 a Dawson crash tackle appeared to quell any threat from a tentative Brighton raid down our left, but the marking was slack from the resulting throw-in and Carole was afforded time and space to curl a sumptuous 25 yard shot over defence and goalkeeper that nestled in the far side netting. An equaliser of unexpected quality from Brighton’s first shot of the game, and a strong contender for their goal of the season.
City reacted positively and soon a fierce cross from the right flank by (I think) Price allowed Barmby to glance a splendid header goalwards, only for loan goalie Blayney to hurl himself right and claw away the ball for a corner – goal of the season contender followed by save of the season contender, such is the luck we experience in Brighton. City continued to look the better of two average teams, our defence dealing with their attack with little sweat, Sam Collins in particular looking strong again as he dominated the limited Colin Kazim-Richards. Richards’ persistent fouling didn’t earn him a yellow card until the second half, he had been booked and withdrawn by half time in the KC clash in August, but he continued to look a very limited performer, in a very limited team.
Even a limited team can make chances though. A quick break from a City corner saw Carole rampage down the right wing before squaring to Frutos, who chose lemon over peach as he blazed a shot way over Myhill’s exposed goal. Good passing on our right flank found Price in space and he fed Delaney on the edge of the box, but the Irishman followed Frutos’s lead and hit a banana shot well wide. Cox.
A Dawson free kick was swung into the Brighton box low, evading all touches, and it looked to be sneaking inside the far post before Blayney intervened with another fine save. But the final word of the half was Brighton’s as they again attacked down the right through Carole, who skillfully drew in defenders before finding the unmarked Charlie Oatway 25 yards out and central. The experienced midfielder, who is named after all 11 of the 1972 QPR first team (none of which, strangely, were called Charlie), gratefully lumped a well struck shot above Myhill’s despairing dive and the his team went in at half time 2-1 up.
The second half signalled changes, and rightly so because City’s dominant first half spells had been overtaken by Brighton’s willingness to press the ball all over the park and attack in numbers down the wings, inspired in particular by Carole’s ability and poise. So City decided to have a good go. Stuart Green was introduced for the anonymous Welsh and Paynter came on for the fading Barmby. Proper 4-4-2 was immediately shown to be the way to go as we pressed forward. Carole was detained defending in his own half rather than threatening our goal and several chances came City’s way. Fagan crossed after a clearance had been halted by the corner flag stick and Price’s bundled shot was again clawed away by Blayney. Then a clever free kick that started with France pretending to blast a shot and ended with Green chipping a cross to the far post found Price in space but offside as he shot goalwards. Another free kick was delivered directly and a looping Paynter header beat the goalkeeper but not a defender on the line. Then finally, and most closely, Dawson shuddered the crossbar with a powerful shot after an equally powerful dribble from the halfway line. Andrews came on for Price (Green moving wide right) and looked the kind of composed ball player we need in the centre of midfield – just not in the last 10 minutes of a blood and thunder bottom of the table six pointer. The last chance fell to Brighton’s Carole as he crashed a 30 yard shot just over in the dying seconds of the game, but in truth City had made and squandered all the decent chances in the second half and Brighton had hung on grimly, young centre back El-Abd being the pick of their back line as he used strong heading and good positioning to repel the many crosses we put into the Brighton box.
So the best team lost, I think it would be hard to deny that. But the return of the 1+1 caution up front was not welcomed, especially as Barmby has failed to significantly influence games for some weeks now. And when we did get our best strikers on we lacked the luck to breach a massed Brighton defence. A poor result but a decent performance. That’ll often be the way between now and April, but it will be enough to see us finish comfortably above rubbish teams like Brighton. Let’s now see if we can bracket Crewe similarly.
HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; France, Cort, Collins, Dawson; Price, Welsh, Delaney, Elliott; Barmby, Fagan. Subs: Green (for Welsh, 45), Paynter (for Barmby, 45), Andrews (for Price, 78), Duke, Lynch.
Goals: Elliott 4
Sent Off: None
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION: Blayney, Reid, El-Abd, Butters, Mayo, Carole, Oatway, Hammond, Frutos, Kazim-Richards, Hart. Subs: McCammon (for Frutos, 67), Robinson (for McCammon, 89), Nicolas, Elphick, Chaigneau.
Goals: Carole 16, Oatway 45
Booked: El-Abd, Kazim-Richards
Sent Off: None
REFEREE: K Stroud