#57: Brighton 0-1 Millwall 12/12/2014

#57 BRIGHTON 0-1 MILLWALL Championship
Friday 12th December 2014 Image result for

57MIL Titles

PRESENTER Natalie Sawyer GUESTS David Prutton & Keith Andrews
COMMENTATORS Daniel Mann & Garry Birtles REPORTER David Craig
7.45pm Kick Off; The Amex     7.30-10pm FL72 Live on Sky Sports 1

57MIL Intro

CONTEXT OF THE MATCH

It was proving to be a very difficult introduction to Sami Hyypia’s managerial career in England. Back-to-back Championship defeat sent the Seagulls into the drop zone in the opening weeks but had plateaued to just above there after that. However, defeat at home to Fulham at the end of November saw the team sink back into the red again where they sat ahead of tonight’s crunch clash with fellow strugglers Millwall. Time and patience were wearing incredibly thin, with supporters already calling for the manager’s head. Hyypia had just three League victories in the campaign to his name; away at Leeds and home to Bolton back in August was followed by an eleven-match winless streak.

A one-nil defeat of Wigan Athletic in the first midweek of November, thanks to a first-minute Gary Gardner strike, provided three absolutely vital points but five weeks later and it hadn’t been matched. Two draws and two abject defeats followed to place Brighton in twenty-second. The problem wasn’t necessarily losing matches, it was the sheer number of draws which hampered progress. Nine of the last sixteen fixtures ended all square, with a real lack of potency in the final third clear to see. The club didn’t replace Leonardo Ulloa when he was sold up to Leicester in pre-season, instead investing the £8million fee somewhat cheaply on unproven Championship strikers Sam Baldock, Adrian Colunga and Chris O’Grady. Between them the trio had scored just three goals, whilst centre back Lewis Dunk led the way on five in all competitions.

A whole host of loan players were brought in as a bid to improve performances, but the rules stated a maximum of five were allowed in the matchday squad at any one time, forcing certain players to miss out. The combination of not owning much of your squad with a huge number of injuries spelt trouble for a club that went so close to the Premier League in each of the previous two campaigns. Not many had anticipated such a drop in results.

Tonight’s opposition Millwall however, were far more used to this. They only narrowly survived the drop last time, changing managers half way through in the process. The 2014/15 season began far brighter with three wins in the opening five games, and progression to the Second Round of the League Cup. Form dropped off completely in September, losing four out of five. Going into the clash at The Amex, Millwall were in a dreadful run of form having won just once in fifteen. Sky Sports, perhaps in gallows humour, selected this fixture for Live broadcast on a cold, Friday night in December.

 

THE TEAMS

57MIL Brighton

Goalkeeper David Stockdale transferred from Fulham over the summer to come straight in as first choice following the release of Tomasz Kuszczak. However, he was forced to miss much of last month through injury. Spanish right-back Bruno missed even longer, as injury set him back six weeks but was fighting fit again. Today’s captain Lewis Dunk was partnered by former Colchester and Portsmouth centre-half Greg Halford. He was drafted in on loan from Nottingham Forest and made his Albion starting debut tonight covering in Gordon Greer’s absence. Left-back Adam Chicksen made the move from MK Dons eighteen months ago but struggled to maintain a first team place; behind Stephen Ward last season and Joe Bennett this. Chicksen went out on loan to Gillingham to gain playing minutes but was recalled prematurely just the day before tonight’s clash. With the maximum of five loan players in the starting line-up, Joe Bennett had to be left out.

Jake Forster-Caskey only missed one League match thus far in the middle of the park, whilst Liverpool loanee Joao Teixeira hadn’t started since the last win; against Wigan in the first week of November. Elliott Bennett won the League One title with the Albion back in 2011, earning himself a place in the Divisional Team of the Season en route, but then left Sussex for Premier League Norwich. After initial success there, injuries impacted his place; starting just twice during the Canaries relegation season in 2014. With spots limited, he re-joined Brighton on loan after the televised Bournemouth defeat. Winger Solly March started half of last season’s League games but didn’t feature in the side this campaign until last time out in the defeat to Derby due to a back injury.

The man charged with stopping the Seagulls rot in front of goal was the experienced Darren Bent. The Villa forward came in on a month’s loan and scored on debut in the defeat at Fulham two weeks ago. His top flight experience with the likes of Ipswich, Charlton, Tottenham and Sunderland, as well as thirteen senior England caps, provided contrast to a fairly youthful side. The bench included Adrian Colunga, who had just two goals to his name to date, and Paddy McCourt, a summer transfer from relegated Barnsley.

57MIL Millwall 57MIL Subs

Ian Holloway returned to The Amex for the first time as a manager since that disastrous Play Off Semi Final in 2013, having taken over at Millwall in January. He guided the Lions to Championship safety in nineteenth, four points above the drop. He brought in striker Lee Gregory from Halifax and Everton midfielder Magaye Gueye over the break. Goalkeeper David Forde became the Republic of Ireland’s oldest ever debutant when he started in a goalless draw at Sweden in 2013, aged thirty-three.

Defender Danny Shittu won promotion to this Division under Ian Holloway in 2004, the year when Albion joined them via the Play Offs. Centre back partner Mark Beevers was targeted by Rotherham over the summer but their bid was rejected. Martyn Woolford was a regular in the middle having joined eighteen months ago from Bristol City. Spanish midfielder Angel Martinez was at Blackpool with Holloway and the pair were reunited at Millwall for his debut tonight. Substitute options included former Yeovil midfielder Ed Upson and Jamaican international striker Ricardo Fuller. Refereeing the contest was James Linington.

 

PRESENTATION TEAM

57MIL Sawyer 57MIL Studio

Natalie Sawyer was once again at the helm for Brighton’s Live Championship match, following her first Seagulls game last month. Having begun hosting Leagues 1 and 2 and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy coverage last season, her role expanded to include some Championship games this season as number two behind Simon Thomas. This was previously the job of George Gavin, who very occasionally still covered Live matches, but was more regularly used to voice round-ups and present FL72 Preview and Review programming.

Joining Sawyer in the studio at The Amex was David Prutton and Keith Andrews. Prutton was Sky’s new signing this season, having retired from playing following a short spell with Coventry. The midfielder began at Nottingham Forest, coming through the youth system, spending five years in the East Midlands before moving up to the Premier League at Southampton. He spent three years at both Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday, amongst other Football League teams, before bringing his career to a close over the summer. As well as punditing on Sky’s FL72 Live and magazine programming, he was an in-vision reporter on Gillette Soccer Saturday travelling around the country covering the lower Leagues.

Keith Andrews spent the whole of last season on loan with Brighton under Oscar Garcia, making thirty-five appearances. His solitary Albion goal came against Sheffield Wednesday in October 2013. He returned to parent club Bolton following our Play Offs defeat to Derby, but with first team opportunities looking unlikely, Andrews joined Championship side Watford on loan towards the end of July. The Republic of Ireland midfielder earned thirty-five caps for his country, including all three matches at Euro 2012 before being sent off in the defeat to Italy. Despite this, he was named Ireland’s Player of the Year for 2012. The 2014/15 campaign would be his final one before retirement.

57MIL Andrews 57MIL Prutton

In the commentary box were Daniel Mann and Garry Birtles. Mann was firmly second choice in the Football League behind Bill Leslie, but with Leslie also covering some top flight Live action, Mann’s opportunities increased each season. He was Sky’s voice of 3D commentaries for the previous four years, but the project was quietly dropped by Sky now due to a lack of uptake. Garry Birtles had been involved in Sky’s League commentaries for over a decade, dating back to the opening day of the 2003/04 season. Whilst he had been overtaken by the likes of Don Goodman and Andy Hinchcliffe in recent seasons, Birtles still did a wide range of football including Premier League 3pm world feed matches, La Liga and international matches. He also was a regular in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and Leagues 1 & 2.

The final member of the on-air team for tonight’s clash was reporter David Craig. He was a long-standing part of Sky’s reporting roster, primarily for Sky Sports News. This expanded to Live match interviewing as of last season, reporting on Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and under-16 international Victory Shield games, as well as the second choice on the Football League.

 

THE COVERAGE

57MIL Ident 57MIL Sponsor

Friday nights were a regular slot for Live FL72 action, as well as Saturday 12.15pm to go head-to-head with BT Sport’s top flight lunchtime games. The programme began fifteen minutes prior to the 7.45pm kick-off, hosted from the stadium studio at The Amex towards the corner of the North Stand. Throughout the month of December, Sky Sports used special Christmas themed idents, as was now tradition for them. The famous animated snowmen of yesteryear were a distant memory, instead focussing now on snow-topped streets with the logo prominently place and commentary from a classic match over the top. Lights displayed the message “Merry Christmas”. After the Screwfix sponsor bumpers and the “Run Boy Run” title sequence, new for this season, the programme was underway.

Host Natalie Sawyer emphasised the contrast in fortunes for supporters of the Seagulls who, for the past two seasons, were more used to the battle at the top than avoiding the drop. Millwall, on the other hand, had appointed a manager more used to getting teams out of this Division but were desperately fighting just to stay in it this time. A glance at the League table showed the precarious positions for both, with Albion in the drop zone in twenty-second place and two points from safety. Millwall had twenty points from twenty games, sitting prettier in twentieth spot. “This time last season, Brighton were thirteen points better off and just outside of the top six,” Sawyer compared.

She was joined in the box by guests Keith Andrews and David Prutton. Andrews experienced the Albion during the previous campaign, reaching the Championship Play Offs. The current Watford man was asked what the downturn in form could be attributed to; “You can bring it back to a few seasons of turbulence off the pitch – managerial changes for the last three summers. There’s huge ambition at this football club and it is set up for success and long-term sustainability, but I just think it’s caught up with them a little bit.”

57MIL Bent 57MIL Split screen interview

The studio team picked out a couple of key players to watch out for, including Brighton’s newest striking option Darren Bent. Keith Andrews was expecting Bent to do well at the club, citing “wherever he’s been he has got goals”. David Prutton believed the Albion were “in essence a great team”, with decent possession stats and passing football. Due to the amount of loan signings, they were needing players who could gel quickly. As for Millwall, their key man was signed out of non-League; Lee Gregory from Halifax. The question of if he could make it in the Football League out of the National League was answered using examples that had gone on to better things; Andre Gray at Brentford and Jamie Vardy at Leicester, who also came from Halifax to move up. The pundits both expected the home side to be a threat and have enough to defeat Millwall tonight. With the previewing done, it was time for a quick ad break before the teams were in the tunnel and raring to go.

Just before kick-off, both managers were interviewed by reporter David Craig. Sami Hyypia was asked about the expectation of the job after such a poor start to his reign; “In my playing career, you play under pressure. I think pressure is good to be there.” Ian Holloway explained he made five changes to freshen the squad up after a humiliating defeat the previous week; one which Holloway described as his “worst day in football”. Then it was over the commentary team of Daniel Mann and Garry Birtles to talk us through the first half action, with ‘Sussex By the Sea’ ringing round as the teams walked onto the pitch.

57MIL Coming Up 57MIL Proposal

The half time analysis centred around the goal from Lee Gregory. Pundit David Prutton pointed out the number of players Millwall were getting forward was much greater than when Brighton attacked. When Gregory struck for the goal, there were an additional five yellow shirts in the penalty area. There was praise for Lewis Dunk from Keith Andrews, blocking shots and being “a real leader at the back”. The only success for Brighton probably came away from the game, as a half time proposal from one of the fans made it onto the Sky coverage. Natalie Sawyer name checked them as Kristina Sinclair and Jamie Howell, so congratulations to them. She did say “yes”, by the way.

Straight after the final whistle, reporter David Craig was on the pitch speaking with Man of the Match and Millwall captain, Danny Shittu, alongside goalscorer Lee Gregory. “That’s what this League’s all about. You’ve gotta fight!” said Shittu. After the adverts, around eight minutes or so of the programme were left to wrap things up. The stats presented a slightly different picture than what the scoreline did, with Brighton having more possession, attempts and shots on target. But the lack of bodies in the box and clear-cut chances cost the Albion. The studio team spoke over a montage of half-chances created, with Keith Andrews adding “they lack real clinicalness and ruthlessness. They did create some decent chances, but the confidence is clearly low.”

During his interview with David Craig, Millwall boss Ian Holloway echoed the point about confidence; “It’s all about believing and your performances are what you work for. The last one was awful but we’ve got massive character at this football club, let’s keep going.” Once again, there wasn’t time during the Live broadcast to hear from Sami Hyypia, with Natalie Sawyer directing us towards Sky Sports News for that later on. That is where the broadcast concluded, on a very bleak evening for the Albion. Change was needed. Change would arrive very shortly.

57MIL Stats

 

STORY OF THE MATCH

57MIL Kick Off 57MIL Comms

The visitors, in their change kit of all yellow, kicked off playing from right to left in the first half. Darren Bent was quickly showing what a good player he was, better than this level of football, with intelligent flick ons and lay offs. Unfortunately, a nice move down the left grounded to a halt when it was played back inside to Solly March, who opted for the wrong man in trying to loop it over the defence for Teixeira. Millwall enjoyed a couple of good moves of their own early on too, forcing the defence to work hard to clear the danger. Just before the quarter-hour mark, the Lions broke the deadlock to take a deserved lead through Lee Gregory. Brighton struggled to properly clear from Malone’s cross on the left. It eventually went to Gueye who shaped to shoot on the edge of the box. He got into a tangle and dragged it but it fell kindly into the path of Gregory. With his marker Dunk on his backside, space opened up for Gregory on the right of the six-yard line to just lift it over David Stockdale charging out and nestle into the corner (below left image). Millwall had their opener as the boos began to creep in at The Amex.

The atmosphere worsened as the game went on. Misplaced passes were booed, groans were very audible and patience was wearing thin. Brighton were shading the possession but there was nothing to show for it. Ten minutes after the goal, the Albion tested Millwall ‘keeper David Forde twice in quick succession. Jake Forster-Caskey hit a low drive from almost thirty yards to force Forde into palming away down to his left. The rebound saw Bruno’s cross along the ground couldn’t quite reach Darren Bent, as Forde again got there to deny Brighton. It was the first sign of any intent. Much of the Albion joy was coming from the left, with Teixeira key and Adam Chicksen supporting well. But finding Bent was proving difficult. Indeed, it was the Portuguese winger who made Forde produce another save, stopping his shot from the right this time. Real clear-cut chances were few and far between and at the break, it remained one-nil Millwall.

57MIL Goal 57MIL Sub

A chorus of booing greeted the half-time whistle, whilst a banner was unfurled suggesting Hyypia’s time was up. It also criticised the role of David Burke, the ‘head of football operations, who had been at the club for three years. He had been tasked with recruiting players and his results were, at best, mixed. Under both Hyypia and previous coach Oscar Garcia, high profile stars had been sold on but these were not adequately replaced, consequently making the squad worse. If Brighton had overachieved last season, the reality under Burke was hitting hard this time. Burke was dismissed from his role less than two weeks after this match. The booing continued into the second half, whenever the ball went out of play and Sami Hyypia touched it. Certain sections of the home support wanted their dissatisfaction to be heard. Loudly.

Having been warned about taking his time very early on, Millwall goalie David Forde was booked for timewasting ten minutes after the restart. But it was he who was keeping the Lions in the lead. Brighton’s best chance so far though, a couple of minutes later, required no action from Forde as Solly March blazed a brilliant opportunity high and wide. Adam Chicksen put in a terrific first time cross from the left. It found March unmarked twelve yards out, in line with the near post. He got his shot all wrong as he leant back and allowed it to cannon off his calf to sail over. The England under-21 international really should have done better with that. After sixty-five minutes, March was replaced by Adrian Colunga, back following suspension for his sending off in the defeat here to Fulham.

57MIL Banner

Millwall had very little by way of attack in the final third throughout the second half. They did muster a tame shot with twenty minutes remaining which should have been easy for Stockdale to gather. But, perhaps due to the lack of confidence around the team, he spilled it and had to be quick to gather the loose ball. Albion made a second change, bringing on, according to commentator Daniel Mann, “the maverick talents” of Paddy McCourt, replacing Elliott Bennett in midfield. Within minutes he almost assisted an equaliser. McCourt’s free kick was sent in dangerously towards the back stick. Gary Gardner got his head to it to float it towards the other post but Beevers was there for Millwall to clear in front of the goal line as Bent was waiting for the tap in. The possession was again edged by Brighton, much like in the first half, but that was not being converted to the scoreline. The chants of “We want Sami out!” were audible over the television pictures.

Five minutes were added on at the end of the ninety. A corner presented an opportunity for everyone, including goalie David Stockdale, to get in the box and apply the pressure. Teixeira’s kick woefully didn’t get above waste height and was cleared by the first man. A crossing chance for Adrian Colunga arrived a minute later, with five in blue and white waiting. The cross was too deep and alluded everyone. Frustrations were clear for all to see and hear. It petered out into a sorry, one-nil defeat. The final whistle blew, the boos rang louder than before. “More anguish at The Amex for Brighton”, said Daniel Mann.

57MIL Table

BRIGHTON 0 MILLWALL 1
Gregory

57MIL Replay.JPG

PREVIOUS; #56 BOURNEMOUTH 3-2 BRIGHTON 01/11/2014

NEXT; #58 BRIGHTON 2-3 ARSENAL 25/01/2015

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

2 Responses to #57: Brighton 0-1 Millwall 12/12/2014

  1. Pingback: #56: Bournemouth 3-2 Brighton 01/11/2014 | Mark O'MEARA

  2. Pingback: #58: Brighton 2-3 Arsenal 25/01/2015 | Mark O'MEARA

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