Withdean on Screen; Milestone Matches part 2

Small Screen Seagulls 2000sThe media spotlight didn’t often shine on the Albion. Outside of the glorious run to the FA Cup Final, and Replay, in 1983, appearances on the television were rare. Goal clips were shown on the news and, if you were lucky, the Brighton game might have been selected for extended highlights on Match of the Day or The Big Match. Live games were even rarer, with the Seagulls on screen just three times in the 1980s and four in the 1990s. The satellite television boom didn’t really reach the South Coast until the 21st Century. The story of the club’s homelessness, two-year exile to Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium and twelve year stay at Withdean did garner some attention. Television helped play its part in this. This piece remembers some of the milestone matches Brighton played at their temporary abode. This is the SECOND part of the story, the first can be found here.

Ipswich 05 Pitch invasion

1

BIGGEST MARGIN OF VICTORY (11th November 2006) FA Cup Round One

Match of the Day, BBC One; Brighton 8-0 Northwich Victoria 

Northwich Intro Northwich red button

After a disappointing 2005/06 season which saw the Albion relegated in last place from the Championship, and further frustrating delays over the planning permission for the new stadium in Falmer, the club were back in the third tier for a period of transition. It got worse just a month into the campaign when boss Mark McGhee left after a lacklustre start and three consecutive losses. Hopes of bouncing straight back up like the last time they were at this level were quickly diminished. Chairman Dick Knight said at the time he thought McGhee had lost the fans and accepted his proposal to stand down. Former Albion midfielder Dean Wilkins, coach of the academy, was appointed initially in a caretaker role before being given the post full time. Results weren’t showing much sign of improving with five defeats on the bounce, including a disappointing defeat Live on Sky against Blackpool in October. That proved to be a bit of a turning point as Wilkins’ young Seagulls then began a six match unbeaten run, five of them wins, ahead of an FA Cup 1st Round tie at home to Conference side Northwich Victoria. As the 1990s showed, Albion taking on non-League sides in the Cup wasn’t always a guarantee of a result. Terrestrial FA Cup broadcaster BBC showed the pick of the First Round ties at the end of an extended one-hundred-minute Match of the Day, once all the Premiership highlights had been on. In fact there were so many goals to get through, there was only time to show three of ours on the main show, with the rest shunted to the BBC Red Button where every goal from every game was played on a loop overnight. Damien Johnson voiced all eight Albion finishes, eventually!

Northwich Cox opener Northwich Robinson 2nd Northwich Revell Northwich Rents

Dean Cox got us off to the perfect start with a goal in the eighth minute. A positive surge from Dean Hammond brought the ball inside the area where Cox finished first time to curl into the bottom corner (above, top left). Jake Robinson doubled the lead ten minutes later when he skipped past two to drill low into the corner past goalkeeper Phil Senior. The juniors were out on top at half time and it was three nil ten minutes after the break. Robinson was again the scorer, cutting in from the right touchline past his marker and finishing from a wide angle under the ‘keeper (above, top right). The low corners were proving to be the weak spot for Senior and Alex Revell took full advantage with a fantastic strike (above, bottom left) from twenty-five yards. Four more goals were added in the final twelve minutes, the first of which completed Jake Robinson’s hat-trick (below left). This time the effort flew high into the roof of the net from range. The sixth came about when, for some reason, the furthest forward was Adam El-Abd who saw his shot parried into the path of Joe Gatting, son of former Albion defender Steve, to tap home from six yards. That was his first senior goal for the club after coming up through the ranks and another also got that accolade with a minute to go. Sam Rents was put through by Dean Cox with time and space to make it number seven (above, bottom right). And it was Cox who rounded things off neatly, scoring the first and the last, to make it a great eight-nil. His run into the area was spotted by Gatting, the through ball perfect for Cox to lift it over the goalie and into the top corner. A fantastically ruthless display from a Brighton side full of youth and excitement. They progressed to the Second Round with the biggest margin of victory Withdean would see.

Northwich Robinson Hat Trick Northwich Scoreline

This result didn’t quite prove to be the shot in the arm to push on for the rest of the season. Further exploits in the Cup continued, ending with a Third Round defeat to Premiership West Ham away. League form was patchy and the club trundled to an eighteenth place finish in League One in 2007, picking up just eight points from the final twelve matches. The following season was much more positive though and Wilkins narrowly missed out on a Play Off spot by a single place. The biggest result came off the pitch, with permission finally granted for Falmer, this time Lewes District Council decided not to challenge. Things were on the up again! But sadly not for Dean Wilkins, who was relieved of his duties at the end of the season, in a surprise move. Brighton searched through their former glories and brought back Division Three winning manager Micky Adams after seven years away for the 2008/09 season. What could possibly go wrong?!


2

BIGGEST SHOCK (24th September 2008) League Cup Round Two

Carling Cup Highlights, ITV1; Brighton 1-1 Man City (2-2 AET, 5-3 on pens) 

Man City Intro Man City Skippings

In September 2008, Manchester City were taken over by an Abu Dhabi Group consortium for £200 million which instantly made them the richest club in world football. The club finished ninth in the Premiership the season before and were now competing in Europe this time round. On Transfer deadline day they bought Brazilian superstar Robinho from Real Madrid for £32.5 million. By contrast at the same time, Brighton were competing in League One having brought back the manager who left to become an assistant at Leicester seven years earlier, beginning their twelfth season without a home, lost to Crowborough Athletic in the final pre-season match and the biggest bit of transfer news was the re-signing of Adam Virgo on a free, having not spent a penny on a new player all summer and relying on youth, free agents and loans. So when the two sides were drawn to play each other in the Second Round of the Carling Cup it was fair to see it was a complete mismatch. The City schedule was jam-packed due to their progression in the UEFA Cup so this match had to be played when pretty much everybody else was playing the Third Round. They went into the match off the back of a six-nil thrashing of Portsmouth and won three out of the first five Premiership games. Brighton’s form had regressed since an unbeaten August, without a win in four and lost the previous Saturday to the nine-men of Walsall. Nobody really held out much hope of making it to the League Cup Third Round this Wednesday night at Withdean. Football League highlights broadcaster ITV put on a late-night programme at 11.35pm to round up the events of the week presented by Matt Smith in the studio, with our match receiving the voiceover treatment from regular reporter Tom Skippings.

Man City Opener Man City Murray Man City Anyinsah Man City Equaliser

Big money signing Robinho was a no-show but City’s side included several famous names, the likes of Peter Schmeichel’s son Kasper, Richard Dunne, Vincent Kompany, Michael Ball (not that one), Michael Johnson (not that one either) and Jo all starting. The Albion’s team featured local born Adam Virgo, Tommy Elphick, Adam El-Abd and Tommy Fraser alongside new signing David Livermore and Ipswich loanee Matt Richards. But honours were even in the first half, with Steve Thomson nearly even putting Brighton one up when he struck the post. However, City took the lead just after the hour mark. Gelson Fernandes saw his effort take a huge deflection of Elphick and fly past Kuipers (above, top left). Just when you thought that would be that, Brighton popped up with an equaliser in the final minute after great work from Thomson. He received the ball from a throw-in on the left touchline, dribbled past Stephen Ireland and through Vincent Kompany. He received the ball in the box from a Virgo flick over the top before stabbing the ball goalwards. Waiting to pounce from no more than two yards out was Albion striker Glenn Murray who got there ahead of Fernandes to equalise (above, top right). Extra Time was required. Brighton turned the game around just five minutes in when substitute Joe Anyinsah, on loan from Preston making only his second appearance, pounced in the area (above, bottom left) after good work from Dean Cox. For all their wealth, experience and technique, it took Mark Hughes’ Manchester City side to go route one for their equaliser three minutes into the second period. A long punt upfield from goalkeeper Schmeichel was missed by everyone and allowed to bounce just outside the box. Stephen Ireland latched on to it to squeeze between the central defenders and slot the ball through the legs of Kuipers for two-two (above, bottom right). They still couldn’t be separated and a shoot-out was next.

Man City Richards penalty Man City Adams Man City Scoreline

Penalty shoot-outs had served Brighton rather well, with a superb dramatic win over Swindon in 2004 on the way to Play Off glory being the most famous thus far. Nobody was giving an inch during this, with the first seven spot kicks all being converted. Livermore, Elphick, Murray and Virgo scored for the Seagulls, with Ched Evans, Elano and Kompany replying for the visitors. Michael Ball couldn’t follow, with his kick saved well by Kuipers low to the Dutchman’s right. That presented Matt Richards with the opportunity to win it, which he duly did; dispatching his penalty to the left (above, top left) sending Schmeichel the wrong way and Brighton through! Cue a mini pitch invasion, the hoardings and running track of Withdean no barrier for the fans. There was no doubting this was an embarrassing exit for Manchester City, who would get over it in subsequent years of course. Pure elation for Brighton, supporters getting that little chance to gloat over the big clubs. In his interview afterwards, Micky Adams said “The fans have thoroughly enjoyed it tonight. It’s nice to see the Withdean packed out.” Adams wouldn’t go on to see that again too much. Defeat to Derby in Round Three saw a swift exit, they were knocked out of the FA Cup in Round One via a replay and were a penalty shoot-out away from a Wembley Final in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy but Luton edged it that night, Live on Sky. Form in the League crashed and burned and he was sacked in February after just nine months as the club slid into the relegation zone. An emergency rescue operation was required in the final third of the season to avoid falling into League Two.


3

THE GREAT ESCAPE IS ON (18th April 2009) League One

The Championship, ITV4 (repeat); Brighton 3-1 Oldham

Oldham Titles Oldham Smith

With Micky Adams losing his job in February and the club in the bottom four of League One, it was a tall order to reverse the slide with so few matches remaining. Come in, Russell Slade! The 2007 League One Manager of the Year was appointed in March until the end of the season, giving him just fourteen matches to lift them from 22nd place. Early on he got the better of his old side Yeovil with a five-nil thrashing but that was the only win in March. Defeats on the road at Walsall, Scunthorpe and MK Dons followed before a vital win at Hereford. An Easter Monday victory at Colchester kick-started an incredible finish to the season which continued with this match, at home to Oldham. Joe Royle’s side were comfortably mid-table with the Play Offs not quite in reach so essentially had little to play for. But Brighton had the worst home record in the Division, with just two wins at Withdean since 1st November – that’s an astonishing thirteen matches. ITV’s The Championship continued to be the terrestrial highlights programme for the Football League but despite the name, they did show the goals from all three Divisions. Matt Smith presented the Sunday morning show on ITV1, repeated on Monday nights on digital channel ITV4, from Molineux as Wolves celebrated promotion. Reporter Chris Hall talked through the goals on a big day for Brighton.

Oldham League One Oldham 1st goal Oldham Owusu header Oldham consolation

Dean Cox got Brighton off the mark after twenty-six minutes, left unmarked at the back post to nod home Lloyd Owusu’s cross. And the assister became the goalscorer just before half-time in slightly unusual circumstances. Gary Hart, who was actually released in the summer by Dean Wilkins only to be immediately brought back when Micky Adams was appointed, provided a similar looking cross to the back stick where Owusu stood. The striker joined in March on loan from Cheltenham. He was denied a goal at the first attempt when his stooping header was saved by goalkeeper Mark Crossley but his quick reactions ensured he wasn’t to be denied completely. Whilst lying full stretch on the floor, he flicked the loose ball in from all of a yard to improvise brilliantly (above, top right). You don’t see too many horizontal headers! After an hour, Lewis Allesandra pulled a goal back for the Latics when he outmuscled Adam El-Abd to win a ball over the top and calmly slot past Michel Kuipers (above, bottom left). The hope was short-lived as Lloyd Owusu grabbed his second and Brighton’s third less than two minutes later to seal the points. Somehow the ball trickled through the middle of the Oldham defence and Owusu latched onto it to slot past Crossley (below left).

Oldham Owusu 2nd Oldham table

Three-one was the final scoreline as Brighton completed a huge victory and shook off that Withdean hoodoo. There were three more matches in order to pull off the greatest of great escapes, with just one of those coming at Withdean. The League One table still made for uncomfortable viewing from an Albion perspective, with the club languishing in 22nd spot but three vital points brought them that little bit closer to getting out. Hereford’s fate was sealed that weekend after another defeat, just three other spots now waited to be filled. Brighton followed up these back-to-back wins with two more great away performances. A two-one victory at Bristol Rovers saw the Seagulls come from behind to snatch the three points. That man Owusu scored again, cancelling Rickie Lambert’s opener, whilst on-loan Crystal Palace forward Calvin Andrew got the winner. This was backed up by a crucial point at Huddersfield, who had veteran Andy Booth still firing strong and on the scoresheet. Again, Andrew and Owusu netted. These results lifted Albion out of the relegation zone and meant that a win in the final match of the season at home to Stockport would be enough to complete what was unthinkable just a few short weeks ago; stay in the Division. Could the Seagulls hold their nerve for one more match?

4

FINAL DAY SURVIVAL (2nd May 2009) League One

Big League Weekend, Sky Sports 1; Brighton 1-0 Stockport

Stockport Titles Stockport Gavin

Sky Sports previewed the final weekend of the Football League season with their usual Friday night magazine show Big League Weekend 1. This replaced the old Football League Review show on Thursday nights in previous seasons with a Friday preview and a Monday review show under the Big League banner. This was introduced for the 2007/08 season. George Gavin was the main man fronting it in the presenter’s seat. Gone are the days of having to stand around that podium for an hour! Graphics and titles were the same as used on the Live matches. For this edition, Gavin was joined in the studio by Brentford manager Andy Scott and Sky Sports pundit Scott Minto.

Stockport Slade dugout Stockport Studio 1  Stockport table before match Stockport Fixtures

The studio team looked ahead to the intriguing battle at the bottom, where five teams were battling to avoid the drop; Crewe, Carlisle, Northampton, Hartlepool and, of course, the Albion. Crewe had the unenviable task of playing Champions Leicester and even a win might not have been enough for the Railwaymen to avoid joining Hereford and Cheltenham. Perennial escape artists Carlisle could do it again as they hosted Millwall, the Lions with nothing much to play for but pride having already secured a top five spot. Hartlepool headed South West to Bristol Rovers knowing a point would be enough for them. Northampton faced a tricky tie at Play Off bound Leeds, where coming away with anything is usually tough. And at Withdean, Stockport were dragged down towards the battle after a ten point deduction for going into administration. However, with their positive goal difference it was almost impossible for Carlisle to overturn that swing so effectively were safe. Brighton knew a win would secure the great escape for Russell Slade having only taken the reins in March. Reporter Dominic Johnson voiced a package interviewing someone from all the clubs involved in the relegation battle. Slade said “That was my biggest worry, that there wasn’t a lot of game to be played and to turn it around in such a short space of time.” Pundit Scott Minto thought Northampton and Crewe would be the two to drop, with tough final day fixtures for the pair.

Stockport Titles 2 Stockport Studio 2 Stockport Withdean merchandise Stockport Knight

The Monday after the Saturday before, Sky Sports broadcast their ninety minute weekend round-up of the Football League in Big League Weekend 2, presented by George Gavin with Birmingham’s Kevin Phillips and Burnley’s Robbie Blake. Tony Lockwood voiced a report detailing the season’s conclusion at the foot of League One, having discounted Crewe after their defeat at Leicester sent them down. Four teams remained trying not to get that final spot. The package began on the South Coast with the sun shining at Withdean as the fans and staff went about their preparations. Chairman Dick Knight was interviewed pitchside prior to kick off putting an excited, positive spin on the events. “It’s actually why we come to football, days like this, a wonderful, exciting day. We’re very optimistic, we’ve got a full house, record crowd that’s ever been here.” 8,618 turned up to the pack out the athletics ground, fully expecting a good result for Russell Slade’s miracle men.

Stockport Intro Stockport Forster goal Stockport Full time Stockport Forster

Things didn’t get off to the best of starts though as an early goal from Graham Kavanagh put Carlisle one up in their match and with the Albion level with Stockport, the goal put Brighton into the relegation zone. However, that position didn’t last for long as a Leeds goal against Northampton sent the Cobblers dropping instead. As things stood, Brighton and Carlisle were safe, Northampton were joining Crewe, Cheltenham and Hereford in League Two. Carlisle extended their lead against Millwall to save them from the drop and Leeds soon doubled their advantage against Northampton. A third goal for the Yorkshire team secured Northampton’s fate late on. With seventeen minutes to go, Brighton made sure of it when Nicky Forster pounced to score the sort of poacher’s goal he was famous for (above, top right). On loan Gary Dicker’s volley on the edge of the box was parried by goalkeeper Conrad Logan but only as far as Forster who tapped home from five yards. It was enough to get the win, with the final whistle a cue for a pitch invasion to celebrate (above, bottom left). Afterwards, Forster (above, bottom right) was full of praise for the support; “It was a fantastic atmosphere, the fans came in force and that was definitely key to the day.”

Stockport Slade Stockport Celebrations Stockport Player of the Month Stockport Owusu

Russell Slade told Sky Sports “The lads have responded exceptionally well in recent weeks and I think they deserve it.” The boss was carried on supporters’ shoulders (above, top right) on the pitch, enjoying every second of this magnificent achievement. It’s easy to underplay it in hindsight but when he arrived the club morale was low; the home form was abysmal and it was difficult to see where the next win would come from. A couple of loan signings and some fresh thinking from the manager galvanised the side into promotion form in the final third of the campaign, ending with a five-match unbeaten run taking thirteen points out of fifteen. Six goals from striker Lloyd Owusu earned him the Powerade Player of the Month award for April (above, bottom left and right). He rejected the offer of joining permanently in the summer, but there was better news (initially) for Russell Slade, who was offered the job on a two-year deal. The final table (below) actually saw the Seagulls leap up to sixteenth position, three points clear of the drop zone but four places. As Scott Minto predicted on the Friday show, it was Crewe and Northampton who joined the already relegated two on their journey down to the basement League. It could so easily have been Brighton were it not for good old Russell Slade. It was a shame that his good impact didn’t stretch into the 2009/2010 season where a terrible start saw him dismissed in November to be replaced by former Chelsea midfielder Gus Poyet for his first managerial role. The rest really was, as they say, history!

Stockport Final Table


5

THE FINAL MATCH (30th April 2011) League One

The Football League Show, BBC One; Brighton 2-3 Huddersfield

Huddersfield Titles Huddersfield Studio

When Gus Poyet was appointed Albion boss in November 2009, the club were just above the relegation zone in League One. His first match was televised Live on Sky Sports and the terrific three-one away victory at Southampton was a taster of results to come. It wasn’t all rosy though and the first few months were hit and miss. Gradually as the campaign wore on, he went about adjusting the playing style to a more fluid, passing one. He got the best out of the likes of Adam El Abd at the back, Matt Sparrow in the middle and Ashley Barnes up top alongside Glenn Murray. There was a clear identity about the club again. That season ended with the club climbing the League table from twentieth in January up to thirteenth in March, where the club would finish. The second half of the season was more like the Brighton we would come to see during the 2010/11 campaign; our final year at Withdean Stadium. With a new look structure of Tony Bloom as chairman and Gus Poyet as manager, the Albion stormed League One from the off. Just one defeat in fifteen saw them in the top six places and they would never look back. A terrific run of eleven wins out of twelve in March and April saw firstly promotion clinched with a four-three defeat of Dagenham, then the title secured with a three-one scoreline at Walsall. The foot eased off the gas a little towards the end of the season, the first home defeat was inflicted by Southampton at the end of April before a comedic own goal at Colchester, Live on Sky, saw further points dropped. The target of one hundred points was just slightly out of reach. And so the final match after twelve long, hard seasons at Withdean was upon us. Huddersfield were the visitors, themselves needing the points to join Albion in the Championship next season. Terrestrial highlights had switched from ITV to BBC in 2009 so The Football League Show presented by Manish Bhasin in the studio with Steve Claridge was where we could witness the best of the action.

Huddersfield Intro Huddersfield Barnes Huddersfield Sparrow Huddersfield Winner

It was only right that Dave Beckett, a Brighton supporter and voice of the Football League for more than a decade, got to narrate the final ever Albion match at Withdean. Beckett was there throughout the entire story of the sale of the Goldstone and playing at Gillingham, where he reported for ITV Meridian News. He was the presenter of ITV’s Football League Extra in the early years at Withdean before providing the reports for The Championship when that began in 2004. And when the BBC gained the League highlights he became one of their principle voices on the round-ups. He summed up the departure of Withdean nicely, beginning his report with “No electronic scoreboard at Withdean’s humble surroundings, a ground Brighton’s fans are delighted to say goodbye to after twelve years, even if it has seen some excellent seasons.” Huddersfield provided a guard of honour for the Champions but soon took the lead after just eight minutes. Benik Afobe swivelled to sell Gordon Greer a dummy in the area before slotting the ball under Peter Brezovan’s dive and into the back of the net. Brighton had their chances to equaliser, immediately with Ashley Barnes thwarted then later with Chris Wood, who saw his header crash against the crossbar. The Terriers lead at the break but just two minutes into the second half there was a chance of an equaliser when Elliott Bennett was fouled for a penalty. Up stepped Barnes. Goalkeeper Ian Bennett guessed the right way to keep it out but couldn’t do anything about the rebound, as Barnes stooped to nod in (above, top right). With less than half an hour remaining, Huddersfield regained the lead through Afobe’s second. He was presented the opportunity from a mistake by right back Inigo Calderon, whose chest back to Brezovan did not reach the intended target and Afobe nipped in to finish smartly. Eight minutes later and the Seagulls were on level terms again. A terrific through ball from Greer was dummied by Gary Hart to allow Matt Sparrow to latch onto it. Through on goal, he took two touches before finishing into the far corner for two-two (above, bottom left). That wasn’t the end of things as Danny Ward won it for Huddersfield in stoppage time when he put two Albion defenders on their backsides with one simple touch before firing past Brezovan at the near post (above, bottom right). Three-two the final scoreline for the final match.

Huddersfield scoreline Huddersfield Table Huddersfield Poyet Huddersfield Brighton Champions

That win for Huddersfield kept alive their hopes of joining Brighton in the Championship via the automatic promotion route, going level on points with Southampton in second place. The Saints also won that day, a three-nil scoreline at Brentford, but with a game in hand they were still favourites to go up. That’s exactly what happened, with Huddersfield having to try their luck in the Play Offs. For Brighton fans, the final ninety minutes was just a sideshow for the main event of the day – saying goodbye to this peculiar stadium in style with the presentation of the League One trophy. Captain Gordon Greer held the silverware aloft as the champagne flowed and the celebrations began. Manager Gus Poyet was lapping it up with the supporters (above, bottom left). It capped off a remarkable last season there, blowing away the rest of the competition and ending up on a hugely impressive 95 League points. The second tier would be where Brighton would begin life at Falmer in. The 2011/2012 season would not only see a change of Division, but also a change of home. At long, long, long last! Goodbye Withdean, and thanks for the memories.


Huddersfield Goodbye

About Mark O'MEARA
I am Mark O'MEARA.

One Response to Withdean on Screen; Milestone Matches part 2

  1. Pingback: Withdean on Screen; Milestone Matches part 1 | Mark O'MEARA

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