Small Screen Seagulls; In the Spotlight at Withdean

Small Screen Seagulls 2000sDuring our twelve-season tenancy at Withdean the club was extremely successful. Three League championships were won, with a fourth promotion via the Play Offs. The Albion arrived in the lower half of the lowest League, Division Three, before consolidating, improving and taking the fast track up to Division One. Two relegation seasons in the dozen years saw some of the lower on-field moments, but the club were determined to be in the second tier by the time the new home was in place. The fairytale story was completed with the League One title secured prior to the final match in April 2011. As the success grew, television naturally came calling that little bit more. Here, look back at some of the programmes that showcased the Seagulls players and surroundings on screen whilst at Withdean. The piece begins with a cult Saturday morning football show on Sky in December 2004.

1

SOCCER AM (18th December 2004) Sky Sports 1

SAM Ident SAM Sponsor SAM Titles

To get you in the matchday mood you had Football Focus in the 1970s. Saint and Greavsie dominated the 1980s. Fantasy Football took the mid-1990s by storm. And as the 20th Century drew to a close, a small budget early morning entertainment programme on satellite was beginning to make big waves in the footballing community. Soccer AM began life on Sky Sports in 1995 as a four-hour discussion and phone-in show with Russ Williams and Jane Hoffen at seven in the morning, before Gary Stevens and Helen Chamberlain joined later on. It was a bit bland, a bit straight but it filled up lots of hours of Sky’s schedule when there was little chance of Live sport. When Tim Lovejoy came on board as producer and presenter in 1996 he changed the show beyond recognition and took it to new heights, with the aim being to replicate the excitement and build up that the Cup Finals of the 70s and 80s got on the telly. They built up a small but loyal following over the next couple of seasons on Saturday mornings, inviting viewers into their world of silly costumes, funny sketches, games, goals and star names. Soon everybody was clambering to be on the show, from the likes of Ray Winstone and Chris Evans, through Noel Gallagher to Rio Ferdinand and Paul Gascoigne. It was the place to be and soon became one of Sky’s most talked about shows. By 2004 it was a staple of the football coverage; for three hours each and every Saturday morning forty weeks a year from 9am you would tune into Soccer AM to see Tim and Helen, along with crew members Fenners, Sheephead, Tubes, Rocket, Robbie and co, entertaining you ahead of the big matches over the weekend. The show was sponsored by Yorkie, during the chocolate bar’s “It’s not for girls” campaign. With Brighton’s promotion into the Championship via the 2004 Play Off Final, media exposure was on the rise. On 18th December 2004, having played (and lost to Stoke one-nil) on the Friday night, three of Albion’s finest were invited onto the famous orange sofas to talk all things Brighton. They were striker Leon Knight, winger Nathan Jones and midfielder Charlie Oatway.

SAM Presenters SAM Sofas

With the show being three hours long at this point, the first hour was usually spent looking back at some of the best goals of the week along with funny moments, features and sketches. Particular highlights included Boston Goals, a parody of the unusual phrases American commentators use for football, showed the goals from Boston (in Lincolnshire as opposed to New York!), there was Northern 1970s style comedian Big Stan Hibbert (“I’m here all week!”) telling a classic gag and crew member Sheephead with his Topless Weather, once again pointing out down South there was “light drizzle!” These things sound ridiculous in isolation but once you joined in with the world Soccer AM created in that Isleworth studio, you were hooked and part of the gang. The second hour of the show was all about the guests and there were a whopping 7 (seven!) of them on this episode. As well as the Albion trio, joining later was former Spurs and Chelsea man Jason Cundy and three members of The Charlatans, backed by the noise of the Fans of the Week from Oxford United. When introducing them all at the top of the show, Lovejoy asked Chamberlain, “What’s Charlie Oatway like, Helen?” To which she replied, “He’s brilliant. He’s hard as nails so don’t upset him!” And the final hour, with the guests still present on the sofa, would go up a gear as the big hit features came out. The likes of Third Eyes, Showboat, Crossbar Challenge, Soccerette, Live link-ups to a ground and the locker sketches were amongst the most popular items before the show culminated with the fans kicking footballs through a hole in the end game. We’ll return to that last one later.

SAM Guests SAM Stoke game SAM Trio

Tim Lovejoy introduced the Brighton boys onto the show for their main interview with the line, “Our first guests have got their Christmas party tonight so are getting very excited. Please welcome Brighton’s Leon Knight, Nathan Jones and Charlie Oatway.” After the opening pleasantries they showed Ade Akinbiyi’s decisive goal from the previous night’s loss at Withdean to Stoke as well as Oatway’s chance towards the end, his miss getting a ribbing from the other Seagulls. That was going to be the order of the day, it was just a chance for each of them to take the mickey out of the other. Helen Chamberlain brought up Knight’s yellow card during the game, his fifth of the season, for an apparent dive. Both Knight and Chamberlain protested it should have been in fact a penalty, whilst a researcher frantically trawled through the tapes in order to find the incident. No sympathy from Jones though; “Ask him what his other four bookings were for though?” with Oatway adding “Exactly the same thing!” As Lovejoy mentioned in his intro, it was the Albion Christmas party that night and each of the boys drew out a famous name to dress up as. Knight got the short straw, his own words, and ended up as a lion, Jones got Dolly Parton and Oatway had probably the best you could get, Freddie Mercury. They talked about the Play Off Final victory in Cardiff, where the club produced a DVD using Charlie Oatway’s self-filmed footage behind the scenes that day. A clip of him imitating boss Mark McGhee running away from the fans during the Semi Final pitch invasion was shown and Oatway revealed the money he received from that would go to an unnamed player who recently had to retire due to illness.

SAM Jones press ups SAM Jones Soccer Skills SAM Basil Fawlty SAM Bus Stop

A feature of the show during the 2004/05 season was a footballer would do press-ups as the end credits rolled. The previous week had seen Nathan Jones’ attempt, which was controversially discounted as the arms didn’t lock back on the way up, enabling him to do more quicker. As he pointed out after seeing a clip, “Brian Jacks won Superstars with them!” In a bid to rectify that, Jones agreed to do press-ups Live at the end of the show, and Leon Knight being the competitive type decided he’d go head to head with him. It wasn’t the first time Jones had been featured on the show though, as a couple of years earlier his tricks earned himself its own item called ‘Nathan Jones’ Soccer Skills School’. In it, Fenners voiced a heavily exaggerated Welsh accent over the top of three of Jones’ tricks. The first, entitled the ‘Basil Fawlty’, saw him hugely overestimate a step and stretch his leg out in the style of Fawlty impersonating a German (above, bottom left). He actually won a penalty with the move. The second was the ‘Exaggerated Rhondda Valley Stepover’, in which he comically feigned a stepover. And the final one came in the same passage of play, after he did the stepover and sent the defender in a spin he just stopped and put his hands on his hips, AKA the ‘Bus Stop’. All set to the tune of The Entertainer. Afterwards, Jones revealed, “To be honest with you, it’s a bit detrimental because I used to get booted.” During the week, the guest researchers would phone the players up to get some idea of stories for the show and the Brighton players just used this as an excuse to wind the others up. As a result, Leon Knight was accused of having the driest shins of any footballer, Nathan Jones was revealed to be obsessively neat and tidy yet never washed his clothes and Charlie Oatway used and abused his local trainer store by returning each pair after he wore them. “I had that shop in the bag, now you lot have killed it!” he laughed. At which point the interview came to an end but the trio would still be hanging around in the studio for the rest of the morning.

SAM Stools SAM Knight Crossbar

A little bit later on the crew had dug out the Knight penalty incident from the Stoke game which saw him pick up his fifth caution of the season. After seeing it twice, it seemed only Knight and Chamberlain still thought it was a penalty, with the rest laughing at the comical fall. Lovejoy recommended he got Chris Kamara to highlight it on Goals on Sunday, as he often did with incorrect refereeing decisions. Fast-forwarding some more past next guest Jason Cundy’s chat and it was time to bring out the band. In order to accommodate The Charlatans on the sofa for their chat, the other four guests had to relocate. They were placed on stools behind the sofa, which gave the team a huge laugh as they knew what was coming next. A pan up of the camera was accompanied by a burst of the “Fool Again” chorus by Westlife, with the boyband famous for just sitting on stools when performing. It was so funny they did it every chance they could! The Charlatans were unable to stay for the whole show so the stools were only utilised for a few parts unfortunately before the boys returned to the sofa area. Fun whilst it lasted! The previous week it was Brighton’s turn to feature on the Crossbar Challenge, where all they had to do was hit the crossbar with a shot from the halfway line. It proved harder than it sounded. We saw our three guests attempts again this week (above, top right), with none of them able to get anywhere near. “Bit far” was Jones’ excuse.

SAM Oxford fans SAM Oatway Kick SAM Press Ups

The traditional climax to the show was outside in the Frank McAvennie car park where the Fans of the Week had sixty seconds to score as many balls through the hole as possible, with the caller guessing nearest winning a t-shirt and other merchandise. This year, as last, the show was celebrating Sky’s purchase of UEFA Champions League football rights with the game “We are the Champions League”. The target was the star-shaped hole in the middle of the ball logo, with the guests acting as ballboys for them before it was their own turn to have a kick. The Oxford fans were not very good at all, only managing two. Of the four guests, only Charlie Oatway was able to convert his kick (above, top right). They all rushed back inside to close the show with the head-to-head press-up challenge as Knight took on Jones, Live! The credits rolled along the bottom of the screen, along with the joke names and gags, whilst a version of Santa Baby played, given the time of year. Nathan Jones’ press-ups didn’t seem to dissimilar to the ones he executed (badly) previously but even so, he couldn’t keep pace with Leon Knight over the minute and the striker took it 71 to 61. And another excellent show came to a close. It was the first taste of a big light-entertainment show featuring any of the Withdean crop and they did well. The club got plenty of mentions, came out of it looking like they were up for a laugh and joined in with all the craziness that went with Soccer AM.


2

COCA COLA’S ‘WIN A PLAYER’ PRIZE (30th May & 30th June 2005) Sky Sports

WIN Group

The Football League went through its biggest rebranding since 1992 when it renamed the three Divisions in 2004. Division One became the Championship, whilst Two and Three became League One and League Two respectively. A new sponsor was gained in the form of fizzy drinks giant Coca-Cola, replacing Nationwide on the titling. As part of their sponsorship, Coca-Cola went into marketing overdrive. Their iconic red logo was adapted into the colours of each and every one of the seventy-two League clubs for use in the stadium, in the programmes, online and in print. The new logos were everywhere. They even redesigned the lower League and Play Off trophies into what looked sort of like a drinks bottle. But the most memorable campaign came towards the end of that first season of sponsorship when they launched their ‘Win a Player’ promotion. In exchange for buying a bottle of Coke, fans could enter into a prize draw where their football club would receive £250,000 to go towards a player, or players. The winning fan would also receive £10,000 for themselves. It was a simple yet brilliant idea, with a quarter of a million being a deciding factor in whether or not a club with little to no money could afford to actually spend money in the transfer market. For the lower League clubs this could be season changing. Even though the Albion were now competing in the Championship, finances were all being poured onto the campaign for Falmer which was still ongoing at this point. So this money would be a wonderful addition in order to welcome a new face to the club. The Terms and Conditions allowed for entries for multiple supporters from the same club rather than just one chance in seventy-two. The clamour for Coca-Cola bottles was on up and down the land!

WIN Cheque WIN Aaron Berry WIN McGhee WIN Studio

After eighty days of the promotion, a winner was drawn from the hat and would be revealed during the pre-match build up to the Coca-Cola Championship Play Off Final at the end of May 2005. Sky Sports televised the match Live between Preston and West Ham United at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. Reporter Chris Kamara, who had been heavily involved as one of the faces of Coke’s promotion, was standing by the centre circle with the winning fan along with their club’s manager and chairman. Over one million entries were received. So imagine the delight when up pops Dick Knight and Mark McGhee next to Kamara. They were joined by the winning supporter, Albion fan Aaron Berry, all behind the giant cheque confirming a quarter of a million pounds was heading to the South Coast. The rules stated the money had to go towards the transfer and/or wages of players and couldn’t just be pocketed by the club and that £250,000 needed to be spent by the end of August that summer. This gave Coca-Cola the opportunity to market the player for the new season. During the Live Sky Sports interview, Dick Knight joked that the winnings could afford Mr Berry to become the chairman now! Knight spoke of how this would “double the playing budget” and would invest wisely. Always alert to the bigger picture, he of course stressed the need for a new stadium, really taking that television opportunity to remind everyone watching – and especially John Prescott – once more. He, thankfully, never missed a trick in promoting the needs of the club. Manager Mark McGhee responded to Kamara’s question of how he would spend the money simply with one word – “Wisely!” He added, “We’ve now got a budget!.. It’s a fantastic windfall for us. It really could be the difference between us staying in the Division and being relegated.” Up in the studio, host George Gavin and his guests George Burley and Paul Jewell echoed the chairman’s words regarding a new home. Gavin said, “All the problems they’ve had, I’m not sure any fan in the country would begrudge Brighton having that money if they couldn’t have it.”

 

WIN Sky Sports News WIN Kazim-Richards

A month later, on 30th June 2005, Brighton used the whole £250,000 windfall to sign eighteen-year-old striker Colin Kazim-Richards from Bury (or you could say Berry, after winning fan Aaron) on a three-year contract. Sky Sports News reporter Jeremy Langdon was there to cover the story as Kazim-Richards posed with Berry, Knight and McGhee for Coca-Cola’s promotional material. The new signing was immediately dubbed “The Coca-Cola Kid”, a tag which he would always be remembered. Speaking on the moniker, he said “I’d rather just Colin! But it’s nice for someone, anyone, to just know who I am.” Mark McGhee hoped that is exactly what he’d be known for as opposed to anything else. Whilst the chairman explained Kazim-Richards had been on their radar for some time, even before the money, fighting off competition from the likes of Wigan and Leicester. Signed as a prospect for the future, he lasted just one season at the Albion before being shipped on at his own request, but did score a memorable last-minute equaliser in the Live televised match at Sheffield Wednesday which was probably one of his highest points with the Seagulls.


3

THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE SHOW (1st January 2011) BBC One

FLS Potted History FLS Clem Goldstone FLS Wembley 83 FLS Goldstone Retail Park

The spotlight dimmed when the Albion were relegated from the Championship in 2006 and took a few years to find their feet in the third tier. By the time the BBC took over highlights of the Football League in 2009, their Saturday night programme The Football League Show had extended coverage of a couple of the day’s matches, all the goals from all the rest of the games and a report or feature. The latter involved their reporter Mark Clemmit providing a ‘Potted History’ of a club, looking at some of the key moments and achievements of a team’s past. He would also report from a selected match from the three Divisions to take a closer look behind the scenes and interview players and managers. Clemmit was a familiar voice on BBC Radio Five Live and in his native Middlesbrough and transferred to television with this programme. On the 2011 New Year’s Day edition, Clemmit’s potted history was on Brighton and Hove Albion. Soundtracked by ‘Sussex By the Sea’, the report began with shots of the home at the time; Withdean Stadium before a note on the formation of the club in 1901 and subsequent move to the Goldstone Ground a year later. He appeared from behind the gold rock (above, top right) located in Hove Park from which the stadium took its name. He then moved on to 1920, when the club first joined the Football League, before looking back at the Albion’s main piece of national notoriety; the 1983 FA Cup Final appearance (above, bottom left). By law, any mention of that match must then include Gordon Smith’s chance to win in in the last minute of extra time. Twelve years later the bitter row between the inept board and the heroic fans was chronicled, as the iconic Goldstone Ground became just another retail park (above, bottom right) when the site was sold for redevelopment. Clemmit touched upon the final day relegation escape at Hereford in 1997 and the subsequent two-year ground share with Gillingham as the 1990s drew to a bitter close.

FLS Goldstone now FLS Goldstone then FLS Withdean FLS Withdean North Stand

The Goldstone now (above, top left) and then (above, top right) were compared and contrasted before moving to the current situation of playing at Withdean Stadium, the temporary home since 1999 (above, bottom left and right). “The athletics stadium, formerly a zoo, was supposed to be a temporary one. By the time they move to their £93 million new home next season, they’ll have been here twelve years.” He told how the club’s nickname changed from the Dolphins to the Seagulls in 1976, in direct response to rivals Crystal Palace and their Eagles moniker. The potted history concluded with shots of the pier (below, left) as he gave details about the club song Sussex By the Sea; it “was written in 1907 as a military march. It was a favourite of former Brighton director, the late Norman Wisdom.” Following the report was a quick round-up of the Albion’s match that day against Leyton Orient. The result was a comprehensive five-nil victory over Russell Slade’s side, the man who kept the Seagulls in the Division just eighteen months earlier. Dave Beckett voiced the action, starting with Glenn Murray netting courtesy of a Chris Wood cutback. Wood, on loan from West Brom, crossed from the left less than two minutes later and saw it fumbled into the net by goalkeeper Jamie Jones to double the lead. In the second half, Liam Bridcutt was sent through on the near side. He fired it low across the box for Murray to finish first time for three-nil. His hat-trick was complete on the hour mark when Elliott Bennett slid a pin-point ball through the defence and extend Murray’s excellent goalscoring form. A fifth was added by Ashley Barnes when he latched on to his own headed flick, with the Orient defence giving him acres of space. A five-star performance for manager Gus Poyet and his League One leaders, who said afterwards; “Passing the ball, moving around – it’s a pleasure. As a manager to achieve that with the players that we’ve got in this Division is absolutely fantastic.” Almost five months later the Albion were crowned Champions as their time at Withdean, finally, drew to a close.

FLS Piers FLS Scoreline


4

TAKE IT LIKE A FAN (21st January 2011) Sky Sports 2

TILAF Titles TILAF Presenters

After leaving Soccer AM with Tim Lovejoy and half the crew in 2007, Fenners returned to Sky Sports three years later to do some interviews for Soccer Saturday and then co-host his own weekly football quiz show on location; Take It Like A Fan. The show was new for the 2010/11 campaign and aired on Friday nights, usually following the Live Football League match. Fenners, AKA John Fendley, and co-host Charlotte Jackson from Sky Sports News would present the show from a football ground each week, playing various games and quizzes in order for fans to win money. In January 2011, with the club going very well at the top of League One in the final season ahead of the move to Falmer, the programme came from Withdean Stadium around the Peterborough match. Fenners and Jackson would ask various questions in rounds before and after the match, and a special prize for one of the fans would be to take a penalty kick at half-time in order to win big. Welcome to Take It Like A Fan! They had a cracking theme tune too, Hunger by Frankie and the Heartstrings.

TILAF Round One TILAF Zamora goal TILAF Zamora question TILAF Zamora guesses

The show began with the round borrowing from a famous line of commentary; “There’s Some People on the Pitch”. So-called because the spot from where they film from is based on a famous moment on that pitch. After showing Kazenga LuaLua’s spectacular strike against MK Dons earlier this season and the incredible comeback against Swindon in the 2004 Play Off Semi, it was then decided as to where our first quiz would be taking place. For this Withdean special it came from the spot within the penalty area where Bobby Zamora volleyed a superb goal past the Halifax goalkeeper back in March 2000. After seeing the goal, we met the two contestants who were going head-to-head to win the chance to take a penalty at half-time and win £500. Playing today were Albion fans Christos and Joel. They were asked to write down how many of Zamora’s 117 goals thus far were scored for Brighton, the nearest would take the spot kick later. Unfortunately for Christos, the answer was 76 and so Joel Kaltz would be stepping up to test his shootout skills.

TILAF Dugout TILAF Home or Away 1 TILAF Home or Away 2 TILAF Oatway

Our hosts caught up with manager Gus Poyet in the dugout as he went about his pre-match routine. He pointed out it was the half-way point of the campaign, unbeaten at home so far but too many games were played at this level. They also mentioned his son, Diego, who had represented England – and not Uruguay – at under-16 level recently. Before leaving they tested him out with one of the quiz questions; Which Spanish club are nicknamed El Submarino Amarillo (the Yellow Submarine)? Quick as a flash he named Villarreal and won £10, sent straight to charity. The next round was Home or Away, very much not the same as the round in A Question of Sport as the ‘Back off Barker’ campaign from the show attempted to make clear so Sue doesn’t sue. Joel’s brother Jake took part in this one, with the aim of the game being to answer three questions correctly about either today’s home team – Brighton – and win a tenner or, for fifty pounds, the away team – Peterborough. He went with the home option for the first question, shown above top right, which he correctly bagged ten pounds. For the remaining two he went away, getting the second correct but unable to name which of Mark Wright, Terry Butcher and Tony Adams had a spell managing today’s visitors. After the three, there was the option to go double or quits and answer question four, shown above bottom left. He got it right and doubled sixty quid to one-hundred-and-twenty English money pounds. First team coach Charlie Oatway popped up pitchside before the warm up to give Fenners some grief about his jacket choices and answer the following question, somehow, correctly; ‘Which club did Manchester City sign Eden Dzeko from?’ So off he went ten pounds richer.

TILAF Fenners Tenners TILAF Tenners TILAF Players TILAF Goal

Tenners galore were up for grabs in the next round, where our contestant was hairdresser Adam who had sixty seconds to get as many questions right to stack up the cash. Amongst the teasers he got were; ‘Who are the only non-League club left in this season’s FA Cup?’, ‘What is Cesc Fabregas’ squad number at Arsenal?’ and ‘Which club play their home games at The Lamex Stadium?’ He got eight correct within the minute and tried to double it with this killer question; ‘Who has scored more goals for Liverpool – Robbie Fowler or Kenny Dalglish?’ He guessed correctly and pocketed a cool £160 before it was time for the adverts. Part two kicked off with three of the Albion squad members, above bottom left, answering a mini thirty-second edition of Fenners Tenners. Their questions included; ‘Which Scottish club play their home games at Hampden Park?’ and ‘Who knocked Newcastle out of this season’s FA Cup?’ They scored a fantastic seven correct, bagging seventy pounds, before blowing it all in the double or quits question when guessing Olof Mellberg’s current club incorrectly. Charlotte Jackson caught up with camera-shy Barry Fry, Peterborough’s Director of Football and former manager before we saw the goals from the big match as the Albion hosted the Posh. Chris Wood opened the scoring after twenty-five minutes with a near post header before Elliott Bennett doubled the lead two minutes later with a nice curling effort from just outside the penalty area (above, bottom right). And that led us nicely onto the next segment at half time.

TILAF Penalty TILAF Penalty Miss TILAF Full Time TILAF Where on Earth.

It was time for earlier winner Joel Kaltz to take his penalty. The opponent in the sticks was Brighton academy ‘keeper Josh James. If Joel netted, and he was confident, he’d take home the £500, if it was saved he’d get nothing. He stepped up and struck it low just left of centre but James guessed the right way and gathered well to keep it out (above, top right). “Fluffed it” was Joel’s reaction before adding, “Had a ‘mare!” Josh James’ reward for saving the show £500 was a ton himself. Back to the match and the second half continued where we left off, with Albion adding a third through Wood again, this time bundling in Glenn Murray’s cross. Peterborough pulled one back through Lee Tomlin with twenty-four minutes remaining but it was just a consolation, the final score ending three-one. Next up was back to the quizzing, with Sean taking on the ‘Where on Earth?’ round. He was shown a series of cards with players on, he just needed to name the country they were from. For every one right he’d receive ten pounds and had sixty seconds to pick up as many as possible. Examples included Eden Dzeko (that man again!), Alexander Hleb, Ali Al-Habsi and Dani Alves. He managed eleven correct but threw it all away by incorrectly answering where on Earth Brede Hangeland was from. He was not Swiss.

TILAF Wood TILAF Trackside

The programme ended with a quick natter Posh boss Darren Ferguson before hearing from two-goal hero Chris Wood (above left), both speaking to Charlotte Jackson. He joined on loan from West Brom in November until the end of the season, scoring on his debut as well in the recent Cup win over Portsmouth. And finally, the last word from Brighton went to gaffer Gus Poyet, who had something to say about the referee during the match, as often the case. Poyet said the show was welcome back anytime now that they won the match, with them hoping to return the following season in the new surroundings at The Amex. With that, our presenters Fendley and Jackson bid us farewell and onto the next show at another football stadium next week. Brighton continued the terrific form and stayed on their lofty perch at the top of League One for the foreseeable.


5

LATE KICK OFF (18th April 2011) BBC One South

LKO Ident LKO Titles LKO Richardson LKO Murty and Rosenior

The Seagulls soared to the top of League One and never looked back during the 2010/11 campaign. Promotion was secured with a sensational four-three win over Dagenham and Redbridge and that was followed up four days later with a superb three-one victory at Walsall. That was enough to secure the League One title with four matches to spare and two of Albion’s heroes all season – Tommy Elphick and Elliott Bennett – appeared in the BBC South studio on the Monday evening to celebrate. Late Kick Off was the BBC’s weekly regional Football League magazine programme. It launched in January 2010 to cover the second half of the season, the BBC’s first as League rightsholder in the deal, and returned for the second half of this 2010/2011 season too. The country was split into seven regions and Brighton were predominantly served by the South, West and South West version which also covered Bournemouth, Southampton, Portsmouth, Reading, Bristol City, Bristol Rovers, Swindon, Exeter, Plymouth, Aldershot, Oxford, Cheltenham, Torquay, Wycombe and Yeovil. To complement the main highlights programme The Football League Show on Saturday nights, Late Kick Off aired on Monday nights showing the goals from the region as well as reports, interviews and analysis. Match of the Day commentator Jonathan Pearce presented our region’s first season but did not return for this one. His place was taken by former Channel 4 Football Italia host and king of wit and wordplay, James Richardson (above, bottom left). Joining him in the studio were regular pundits Graeme Murty and Leroy Rosenior (above, bottom right).

LKO Trophy in studio LKO Inflatable trophy LKO Going Up

The programme began with Richardson introducing his two guests, Elphick and Bennett, sat on the sofa who temporarily displaced the usual pairing of Murty and Rosenior. The latter would be back towards the end of the show. The shiny League One trophy was also present, with Brighton not able to get their hands on it for real until the final home match against Huddersfield in just under two weeks’ time. By Tommy Elphick’s own admission, the players had been partying almost non-stop since securing the title on the Saturday so any croakiness of voice would surely be forgiven here. A VT montage played of the two matches over the past week which secured firstly promotion followed by the championship, cut with the scenes of jubilation and celebration. It was set to Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days are Over”, appropriately enough. Thoughts immediately turned to next season and the Championship Division. Elphick responded to Richardson’s question of nerves with, “I think with the way the club’s going and everything, that we should be well in hand for next year and prepared.” He praised the people in charge at both the club and manager level.

LKO Elphick LKO Bennett LKO Bennett goal LKO Studio

Brighton had three players named in the PFA Team of the Year for League One, with defenders Inigo Calderon and Gordon Greer joining Elliott Bennett. Perhaps harshly overlooked was striker Glenn Murray, with Bennett arguing his case; “Top player, he’s scored over twenty goals this season. Hopefully the club can tie him down to a long contract and he can score some goals next year as well.” He provided Murray with a lot of assists but it was the winger who scored the final goal in the weekend’s match at Walsall (above, bottom left), a cracker from twenty-five yards that flew past the ‘keeper in the final minute. Elphick added of it, “We see it every day in training. Nothing surprises the lads when he pulls one of them out the bag.” The trio also discussed manager Gus Poyet, with plenty of superlatives for him as a person and coach. Elphick told of the changes he brought about to transform the club from the bottom end of the table to the very top within eighteen months. “He brought a real winning mentality to the squad. Everything we do in training, whether it be a five-a-side or head tennis, it’s all down to winning whatever way you do it. I know we’ve done it the right way and passed the ball a lot but we have got the other side to the game as well which I think does make you Champions.” Elliott Bennett confirmed the next target of theirs was to go for the one-hundred points marker. He also played down his PFA accolade, saying it could have been any one of the team included, which presenter Richardson wasn’t quite buying the modesty! Some of his goals were shown as they discussed the achievement, in the process almost creating his own ‘Goal of the Month’ compilation they were that good.

LKO Group shot

The opening third of the programme focussed entirely on the Albion and the two studio guests before continuing almost as normal with reports and goal round-ups. Graeme Murty was sent to Southampton on an access-all-areas mission to provide an insight into what the day is like from a player’s perspective before he, Richardson and Leroy Rosenior voiced over all the goals from the region’s clubs from the weekend. Elphick and Bennett moved back to the sofa for the final few minutes of the show, along with the regular threesome to form a packed studio. Richardson quipped, “It’s kind of like a before and after, isn’t it, of footballing careers and the effect it can have on your body!” The long goodbye to Withdean Stadium and the move to Falmer was touched upon. Elphick saying “I believe it’s the biggest pitch in the Football League” before appealing for Murty to come down and film one of his tactical reports that he filed for the show earlier. He also said he was not sad to be bidding farewell to the athletics stadium; “We’ve obviously had some great nights there and some good games but I think for the club to progress the way it wants to we’ve definitely got to get out of there.” And that was just about that as they closed the show for another week. The Albion didn’t go on to win the last Withdean game, or indeed any of the final four fixtures missing out on the century of points. But who cares now?! A new Division and, most importantly, a new stadium was on the horizon. A home the Seagulls could finally call their own. What a time to be a Brighton fan.


Twelve seasons at Withdean Stadium began in the basement Division, scrambling for survival in the Third, and ended up flying high with the League One title and a place in the Championship upon arrival at the magnificent new home in Falmer. It was a rollercoaster ride from start to finish; with the uncovered stands, the shoestring budget, the battling on and off the pitch and some remarkable afternoons and evenings that supporters will never forget. For the players, appearances in the spotlight on the likes of Soccer AM brought the sort of exposure you only really get as a footballer at a certain level the higher up the Leagues you go. The history of the club and the fight for a home became a story told on an increasingly frequent basis as the years at Withdean went on. National coverage of it was always welcomed. Things would go up, in all areas, several notches by the summer of 2011 and the opening of the American Express Community Stadium. The Withdean years, though, should never be forgotten.

Withdean on Screen; Milestone Matches part 1

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. Our story begins on a sunny Saturday afternoon back in August 1999.

SUN Commentary Box

OPENING IN STYLE (7th August 1999) Division Three

Soccer Extra, Sky Sports 2; Brighton 6-0 Mansfield 

Mansfield Titles Mansfield Lorenzo

The long-awaited first League match back in Sussex could not have gone any better for Brighton and Hove Albion and their supporters. The two years sharing with Gillingham saw a continuation of the poor performances on the pitch, finishing 23rd and 17th at the foot of the English League structure. There was hope upon moving to Withdean that this would galvanise the fans and the team and finally start to turn the fortunes around. This six-nil thumping of Mansfield poured fuel to those fires. In the 1999/2000 season, lower League highlights were shown in the middle of Monday night on ITV’s Nationwide Football League Extra, regionally on the local ITV station on Sunday afternoons and on the Saturday evening news bulletins depending on how quick they could turn it around. Sky Sports held the exclusive Live rights, and with that they could show goals from all the other matches too. This took the shape of a weekly Football League Review studio show and Sunday morning goals round-up Soccer Extra, essentially the forerunner to what became the Chris Kamara-fronted Goals on Sunday. In this clip we have the goals from Soccer Extra presented by former ITV World Cup anchorman Matt Lorenzo, back on Sky fronting all sorts of magazine shows and the odd Live match, having rejoined in 1997. Nick London voiced the goals report.

Mansfield Intro Mansfield Lynam Mansfield Freeman first Mansfield Thomas

New ITV signing Des Lynam was in attendance (above, top right). His transfer away from Match of the Day meant he could now attend more Albion games with his Saturday afternoons freed up. The visiting team got off to a dreadful start when David Kerr was sent off after eleven minutes for use of the elbow in a challenge with Jamie Campbell. The rest of the day’s headlines were stolen by new boy Darren Freeman, who would forever be remembered for this debut hat-trick. His first came two minutes after the red, when the ball dropped nicely for him on the edge of the six-yard box following a free kick. He lashed it into the roof of the net from close range (above, bottom left). His second goal six minutes later came after a defensive mix up enabled him to nick the ball and get behind them. He rounded the goalkeeper for a cool finish. Into the second half, Rod Thomas made it three with a superb strike just inside the area (above, bottom right). The winger was signed ten months earlier from Chester after fans contributed money towards a ‘Buy a Player’ fundraiser.

Mansfield Freeman hat trick Mansfield Six

Freeman got his hat-trick after a neat through ball left him one-on-one with goalie Richardson. As he came rushing out, Freeman kept his nerve to slide it past him and hurdle the challenge. The covering defenders could only run back and watch as the ball rolled into the far corner for four-nil (above, left). The scoring didn’t end when Freeman was replaced, as substitute Aidan Newhouse bagged a brace in the final quarter of an hour. Newhouse joined from Swansea in the week of the game on a monthly rolling contract and wasted no time in opening his account. David Cameron battled on the far touchline to win the ball back and burst into the box. His cut back was hit first time into the roof of the goal for five. And the rout was complete when the same pair combined for Newhouse’s header to loop up over the goalkeeper and in. Six-nil! What an incredible result for Micky Adams and his men. They went on to finish eleventh in Division Three that season, the highest since relegation to this level in 1996. It was dubbed ‘the season that ended too soon’ though, as a push for the Play Offs was left just too late. As the profile grew, fans of many other clubs soon got to see for themselves the charms that Withdean had to offer during a march up the Divisions.


2

SECURING THE LEAGUE TITLE (1st May 2001) Division Three

Football League Review, Sky Sports 1; Brighton 1-0 Chesterfield

Chesterfield Intro Chesterfield aston

In Brighton’s second Withdean season, the club kicked on from the good end to the last campaign to surpass even the most optimistic of supporter’s expectations. After an indifferent opening month, a six-two victory over Torquay was the catalyst for a ten match unbeaten run. In fact, the only defeat in nineteen matches came at the hands of Chesterfield when a last minute goal sunk ten-man Albion. Form in the New Year continued well, with just one defeat in each of February and March, and the club found themselves in with a shout of one of three automatic promotion places available at the top of Division Three. Chesterfield and Cardiff were also going very well. Promotion was secured on Easter Saturday with a two-nil victory at Plymouth, now the Seagulls set their sights on the title. Brighton and Chesterfield had battled it out all season at the summit, forming a rivalry this campaign. However the Spireites were docked nine points and fined £20,000 for breaching financial regulations over the transfer of striker Luke Beckett from Chester. The deduction was applied in late April, taking them off the top of the table to be replaced by Brighton. On the Tuesday before the final weekend of fixtures, the top two met at Withdean in a match which would decide, once and for all, the destiny of this year’s Division Three championship. The Albion also wanted to prove a principle that they didn’t require the points removal in order to win the trophy, they wanted that gap to be more than nine points. Going into this clash, the final match of the year at Withdean, Brighton sat top on 88 points with three games left whilst Chesterfield were second on 86 and two to play, but that would go down to 77 points when the penalty’s taken into consideration.

Chesterfield Goal Chesterfield Scoreline Chesterfield trophy Chesterfield celebrations

Rights holder Sky Sports rounded up all the final midweek action with their Thursday night magazine programme Football League Review, which was voiced out-of-vision by number one Live match host Marcus Buckland. The reporter for Brighton versus Chesterfield was Nick London. Brighton were romping home, unbeaten in ten with seven of those as wins, and on course for more than ninety points. Stark contrast to just three years earlier when consecutive 23rd placed finishes made for drab viewing and on the verge of going out the League at the other end. They found things a little tougher up against Chesterfield in this match, with Bobby Zamora unable to take a couple of decent chances. Kerry Mayo also went close to a collector’s item goal after a mazy run from the halfway line. Step forward Danny Cullip to secure the win when his powerful header went in (above, top left), via a deflection off Chesterfield’s David Reeves, with twelve minutes left on the clock. They’d done it, Micky Adams and his men could celebrate promotion and the League title to boot. The trophy was presented there and then on the Withdean pitch, our first silverware since winning the equivalent Division in 1965! What a fantastic achievement for the Seagulls, flying high once again.

Chesterfield Adams Chesterfield Goalscorers chart Chesterfield final table

Micky Adams was full of praise for his squad afterwards, telling Football League Review; “Give them the credit they deserve because they’ve worked their socks off.” Bobby Zamora in particular did, ending up the Division’s top goal scorer with thirty-one in League and Cup. The final League table the following Saturday confirmed Albion’s place at the very top of the League for all the history books to show, and they did finish more than those nine deducted points ahead of Chesterfield, legitimising the win further. They ended up third some twelve points back, with Cardiff sandwiched in the middle. An average of exactly two points per game for the Albion is a phenomenal record and a real confidence booster for the players and supporters who were languishing around the mid-to-lower half of the table for the previous few years. Perhaps this temporary home was going to be alright. The momentum gained from this outstanding season was carried over to the 2001/2002 campaign where back to back championships were secured. Even a change of manager, with Micky Adams departing for Premiership Leicester early on to swap the South Coast with the departing Foxes boss Peter Taylor, couldn’t hamper the Albion’s rise up the Leagues. Extended highlights of the match with Swindon, and the subsequent title party, when the Division Two title was secured twelve months later is covered in a separate post. Within three Withdean years, Brighton had jumped from fourth tier to second and a place in Division One awaited in the 2002/03 season. The next aim was to stay up there.


3

AVOIDING AN UNWANTED CLUB RECORD (2nd November 2002) Division One

Football League Extra, ITV1; Brighton 3-2 Bradford City

Bradford Titles Bradford Division One

Following a season of exclusive Football League rights belonging to ITV Digital, it all ended rather sour. The company went into administration at the end of the first of a three-year deal, meaning emergency contingencies had to be put in place. This hugely impacted the finances of many lower League clubs who were banking on the vast amounts of money ITV had promised but would never materialise. Consequently on the broadcasting side, Live rights transferred back to Sky Sports and we were without a highlights deal for the first three months of the 2002/03 campaign. Brighton had won back to back League titles to rise from Division Three to Division One here but got off to a disastrous start. After a fantastic opening day win away at Burnley, things went from bad to worse to the verge of an unwanted milestone. A draw in the first home match of the season was followed by an incredible twelve League defeats in succession, culminating with the worst of the lot – a five-nil scoreline at arch rivals Crystal Palace in midweek, the first meeting for thirteen and a half years. Saturday 2nd November saw the visit of Bradford City to Withdean, where another defeat would be a club record. Manager Martin Hinshelwood paid the price for the poor form early on, with former Palace and Manchester United boss Steve Coppell now in charge at the Albion on a one-year contract. This was his third game at the helm.

Bradford Scoreline Bradford Penalty  Bradford Rodger Bradford Foul

This match marked the start of a new highlights deal which saw the welcome return of ITV’s middle-of-the-night goals programme Nationwide Football League Extra, which had covered the best of the action in a concise forty-minute slot since 1994. For this return, Tom Skippings led the voiceover round ups of our match and the rest of the second tier; assisted by Tony Jones and Trevor Harris each taking one of the other two Divisions. Brighton made a dream start when Bobby Zamora tucked away a penalty in the tenth minute. Gus Uhlenbeek tripped Paul Brooker in the box, allowing Zamora to convert low to the goalkeeper’s right (above, top right). Albion raced into a two-goal lead three minutes before the break. Zamora laid the ball off for midfielder Simon Rodger to hit a scorcher from twenty-five yards (above, bottom left) which flew into the top corner of the goal. Into the second half, the dream start got a bit nervier when Andy Gray halved the deficit with a stooping header from Paul Evans’ inswinger. Just six minutes later the two-goal cushion was restored, courtesy of Wayne Jacobs’ foul on Albion’s on-loan striker Graham Barrett (above, bottom right).

Bradford Kuipers Bradford table

Up stepped Zamora to convert another spot kick for three-one. This was the sixth penalty Bradford had conceded in their last six games, with ‘keeper Steve Banks saving one in each of the previous two games. He had no chance with this one, Zamora sent him the wrong way. In the final minute of the match, the man between the Albion posts rushed out of his goal all the way to the edge of the box and upended Stephen Warnock to give Bradford a penalty (above left). Kuipers received his marching orders from referee Brian Curson, with Andy Petterson coming on to keep goal. He couldn’t stop Andy Gray’s penalty to make it three-two. The Seagulls survived stoppage time to finally put that record behind them and begin to pick up Division One points again. Further joy came against Preston, Derby and Live on Sky against Wolves as the gap at the bottom started to close. However, by the end of the season it was just a little too much to do and the club were relegated back to Division Two on the final day following a draw at Grimsby, also Live on Sky. It was a topsy-turvy few years for the club as we yo-yoed around the Divisions but it was certainly never dull!


4

BEATING YOUR RELEGATION RIVALS (4th December 2004) Division One

The Championship, ITV1; Brighton 1-0 Rotherham

Rotherham titles Rotherham Intro

Mark McGhee took over as manager in October 2003 after Steve Coppell’s departure to Reading. In that season McGhee guided the club up via the Play Offs with a Final victory over Bristol City Live on Sky to gain entry to the newly rebranded Championship. The new name brought with it a new highlights programme to accompany Sky’s Live coverage, with ITV again the broadcaster. Their programme, imaginatively named The Championship, was broadcast at 10.30am on Sunday mornings and consisted of one featured match, usually two additional reports and a goals round up of the rest of the Leagues at the end. Brighton started life back in the second tier much better than when we were last at this stage in 2003, with four wins in the opening two months. Form in October and November had dipped and the club found themselves in the (realistic) position in the bottom third of the table. We would be in for another relegation battle this season but with that bit more experience, things were hopeful of turning out differently. And they didn’t come much more experienced than thirty-eight-year-old striker Steve Claridge, who joined the Albion on a month’s contract. Prior to this he had been player-manager at non-League Weymouth after a long playing career which dated all the way back to 1983 and Fareham Town. He enjoyed spells at Cambridge, Birmingham and Portsmouth as well as linking up with McGhee at Millwall where they missed out on Premiership promotion in the Play Off Semi Finals in 2002. His move to Sussex garnered the interest of ITV’s highlights show, which sent Andy Townsend down to Withdean for his first visit. Regular presenter Matt Smith hosted the show from the main game at the Stadium of Light – for Sunderland against West Ham – and linked to our report after highlights of that clash.

Rotherham Townsend Rotherham Claridge Rotherham McGhee Rotherham Claridge playing

Townsend’s report began in the temporary stand behind the goal at Withdean as he introduced the piece before zooming out to reveal just a handful of fans dotted around him. The main focus was on Steve Claridge, whom he interviewed first in the tunnel. The pair had a chuckle at the surroundings before Townsend asked Claridge if he still felt the same about the game or if it had started to wane; “I don’t see how it ever does if you’re fit and you can play and can do a job, just take the enthusiasm for granted because I don’t think that ever goes.” Manager McGhee told Townsend that Claridge was “one of the fittest players you’ve ever seen, either as a player or as a manager… He’s made a big difference.” They touched upon the contract situation, with him only signed up for a month which was due to expire after the match the following week. McGhee stated he wanted to extend it but the club may say otherwise due to the costs and the financial constraints the stadium situation placed upon them all. Before showing the best of the action, we returned to Claridge who outlined the importance of this match; “We’ve lost a couple recently, it just puts a bit of difference between us and the bottom three if we can win today.” You have to beat the teams around you in relegation battles and failure to do that cost the Albion last time in this League.

Rotherham Harding Rotherham scoreline

Rotherham were right down at the foot of the table, with just one win in the last twenty-one matches. That came in the previous game so were in buoyant mood ahead of this crucial clash. Townsend voiced the footage which used pitch-level cameras and jaunty angles, a trademark of this type of report on The Championship. Townsend highlighted Claridge’s first half performance as the biggest threat, constantly looking lively and dangerous as we saw two of his shots saved by goalkeeper Mike Pollitt. Into the second period it was Leon Knight who looked liveliest now, having an effort cleared almost off the line by Ronnie Moore’s defence. The clock ticked away quickly with neither side quite doing enough. That was until the 82nd minute when left-back Dan Harding netted his first for the club (above left). A free kick bounced around the area before dropping to Harding on the left of the box to strike from seven yards. It crept into the far corner for a priceless goal and all three points. The VT ended with Claridge explaining his final match for Brighton was due to be in the upcoming Millwall trip but he was on his way in to see the manager now for clarity. It turned out that his contract wasn’t extended. But that was not the end of his Football League career as, remarkably, he went on to play for a further seven League clubs over the course of the next three years! The result sent the Seagulls seven points clear of the drop zone, now a few games past the half way stage of the season.

5

AND AGAIN (26th December 2004) Division One

The Championship, ITV1; Brighton 2-1 Gillingham

Gillingham titles Gillingham Smith

Three weeks after the victory over bottom of the table Rotherham came another crucial clash in the relegation battle; Gillingham were the visitors to an icy Withdean on Boxing Day 2004. The Gills were below the Albion in the standings but Brighton suffered back to back defeats following that Rotherham win. A two-nil loss at Millwall was followed by Stoke claiming all three points on the South Coast. As the country suffered another cold wintery Christmas period, Withdean was usually one to fare particularly badly. A number of games had been postponed since arriving at the athletics track in 1999 due to the weather, with rain causing waterlogs and ice or snow taking its time to clear. Presenter Matt Smith was wrapped up warm with a big coat and scarf as he introduced the day’s festive football from the featured match Coventry versus Sheffield United. Voicing the goals and incidents in our match was fellow Brighton fan Dave Beckett, who sounded a little bunged up no doubt due to the weather.

Gillingham intro Gillingham Crofts Gillingham Carpenter equaliser Gillingham Virgo winner  

The report began by mentioning Stan Ternant’s Gillingham side’s cause for concern about the state of the pitch, with a white sheen present brought about ice. But it was they who broke the deadlock thanks to future Seagull Andrew Crofts. He latched onto Nicky Southall’s cross, appearing to burst in from nowhere and more determined than anyone. His header burst the net and flew through goalkeeper Kuipers, Crofts leaving his marker Paul Reid flat footed (above, top right). It looked like it was going to be a frustrating Christmas for Seagulls supporters all the way until the 78th minute when up stepped Richard Carpenter. As a headed clearance fell to him, he took one touch to set himself before hitting a divine half-volley from almost thirty yards (above, bottom left) which skipped off the turf and slid right into the bottom left hand corner of the net. A fantastic way to equalise but more was still to come. A Mark McCammon header was saved well by Paul Gallacher. But he wasn’t to deny Adam Virgo, who turned home the winner three minutes from time. A long throw in was flicked on by McCammon with Virgo arriving in the centre. He made connection before his marker and struck past Gallacher, who managed fingertips to it (above, bottom right).

Gillingham scoreline

Another terrific result for Brighton who were managing to get the better of the teams around them at the bottom. This ensured they did the double over the Gills and entered the New Year a whole seven points clear of the drop zone. The form continued into January taking ten more points from the next six unbeaten matches. A fantastic victory over leaders Sunderland followed in February, as featured as the main game on The Championship, and come the final day of the season just a point was required to maintain their Championship status. That’s exactly what happened when Adam Virgo netted in a Sky Live one-all draw with Ipswich in May. Brighton would remain in the second tier for another season under Mark McGhee. Though the 2005/06 campaign fared much worse and Brighton were relegated finishing bottom of the table, the more important result came off the field when permission for the new stadium site in Falmer was initially given the go-ahead by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in October 2005 and, after another legal challenge delaying the saga further, the stadium finally could at last begin building work in the latter half of the noughties with the club consolidating in League One.


This look back over Albion’s tenure at Withdean Stadium continues with part two which can be accessed HERE.

#15: Brighton 2-1 Plymouth 31/01/2004

#15 BRIGHTON 2-1 PLYMOUTH Division Two
Saturday 31st January 2004 Image result for

PLY Titles

PRESENTER George Gavin GUEST Steve Cotterill
COMMENTATORS Ian Crocker & Gavin Peacock REPORTER Guy Havord
5.35pm Kick Off; Withdean Stadium     5.30-8pm Football League Live on Sky Sports 1

PLY Ident PLY Sponsor PLY Intro

Context of the Match: After just twelve matches back in the Second Division for the Albion, there was a familiar sense of deja vu with yet another manager leaving the club. Steve Coppell was appointed Reading boss in October 2003 following their loss of Alan Pardew to West Ham. Speculation was rife about Coppell’s departure, with him clearly not happy with the facilities and the finances, or lack of. He signed on for a further year in the summer but these short-term deals were clearly an indicator that he didn’t want to commit himself on the South Coast too long unless guarantees could be made. In December 2003, the inspector’s report on the public inquiry into the proposed stadium site of Falmer was sent to Deputy PM John Prescott. In this, it was recommended that Mr Prescott should refuse planning permission, yet another blow to this long-running saga. A public inquiry was ongoing. By this time, former Wolves and Millwall boss Mark McGhee was appointed Brighton manager. The Scot came in at the end of October with good pedigree, having won this Division with Reading in 1994 and Millwall in 2001. The latter were going well in the First Division and many saw his departure there as a surprise, but rumours emerged of a falling out between McGhee and chairman Theo Paphitis, whilst McGhee seemed to suggest his time in South London had reached its natural conclusion. His reign at the Albion didn’t get off to the best of starts, with a draw away at Peterborough before a four-one thrashing at the hands of Bristol City. Back to back wins away at Notts County and home to Wrexham got them back on track and pushing up the League again just outside the Play Off places, having inherited a decent position in the first place from Coppell. December saw just one win, a four-nil thumping of Wycombe on Boxing Day. Last week’s victory over Barnsley was the first of the new year as points were being dropped too often, costing a top two place. Plymouth Argyle led the Division having lost just three times so far all season. Paul Sturrock’s men won nine of their last ten in the League and hadn’t conceded a goal for an incredible seven matches straight, since they went top of the table in mid-December. A seven-nil demolition of Chesterfield last time out showed they were ruthless in their pursuit of a return to the second tier for the first time in twelve years. Sky Sports selected the match for Live broadcast as January came to a close. An early-evening Saturday kick off at Withdean pitted two teams on course for top six finishes.

PLY Brighton PLY Formation PLY Plymouth

The Teams: Mark McGhee side enjoyed a win last week over Barnsley, which was separated by a Leon Knight penalty. The little striker had enjoyed an excellent season, firing eighteen goals in twenty-six League appearances thus far. The disparity was clear to see, with substitute Chris McPhee the next highest goalscorer this term with just four. Ben Roberts returned to the fold in goal of late, having missed around six weeks in the early stages through injury. Michel Kuipers deputised then but himself had been out for a long period following a horrific car crash a couple of months back. He was fit enough to take his place on the bench last week for the first time since that crash and continued to be Roberts understudy here. The back line of Kerry Mayo, captain Danny Cullip and Guy Butters was a tried and trusted solid defence. One change was made from last week, with John Piercy entering the midfield in place of McPhee. Adam Virgo made his first start of the campaign in that game, having been out all season with injury. Richard Carpenter and Charlie Oatway continued to do a superb job of protecting the back line as well as chipping in with the attacks. Striker Trevor Benjamin was the latest partner for Leon Knight up top. He joined on loan from Leicester earlier in the month, this his third start but yet to find the target. Gary Hart and Jake Robinson were waiting in the wings as substitutes if required. One man who was no longer available was Robbie Pethick, who joined Weymouth on loan under their player-manager Steve Claridge. McGhee’s fellow Scotsman, Paul Sturrock, relied upon twenty-year-old goalkeeper Luke McCormick in the sticks and has delivered with seven clean sheets in a row and more than ten hours and counting since he last conceded a goal. Both he and Paul Wotton came up through the youth system, with Wotton playing in his ninth season at Argyle. Defender Graham Coughlan was the club’s top scorer when they won promotion from Division Three in 2002. Left back Peter Gilbert joined in the summer from Birmingham and forged a regular place. Paul Connolly scored an own-goal in the reverse fixture, the thrilling three-three draw back in August. Both Hasney Aljofree and Nathan Lowndes were recruited from the SPL, leaving Dundee United and Livingston respectively. David Friio top scored from midfield with thirteen so far. The manager’s son, Blair Sturrock, straddled the bench alongside the terrifically named Marino Keith. Refereeing the action was Phil Joslin.

PLY Gavin PLY Cotterill PLY Studio

Presentation Team: This season Ian Payne presented all 12.30pm kick offs on the Saturday, be it Premier or Football League, with George Gavin hoovering up the rest of the Live games from the Three Divisions. With this match being a Saturday 5.35pm start, it was Gavin in the hotseat at Withdean. Often this slot would be presented from the Sky Studios as the day’s goals were shown after the match, but tonight they were on location in the South West corner behind the running track. Up on the makeshift gantry amidst all the scaffolding was our guest, Steve Cotterill. He’d been out of the game since he was sacked as assistant to Howard Wilkinson by Sunderland in March 2003. Prior to that he forged a successful early start to management with Cheltenham, his home town. He took them into the Conference in his first full season in charge, going on to lift them into the Football League two years later. Further success occurred when they beat Rushden and Diamonds in the Division Three Play Off Final in 2002, securing his third promotion in five seasons and a remarkable rise up the Divisions. Having taken Cheltenham probably as far as he could, he moved to Stoke that summer as they were promoted up behind the Albion into Division One. It didn’t work out in the Potteries as he surprisingly resigned after just thirteen matches and joined Sunderland as number two. As a player, he started his time in the non-Leagues with Cheltenham and Burton before top flight Wimbledon signed him up in 1989. In his four years there he didn’t really get a foothold in the team due to injury and actually spent eleven League matches on loan at Brighton in 1992, during which time he bagged four goals. He moved to Bournemouth to spend the final three years of his playing career, enjoying a better run in the team. More recently he has appeared in the media spotlight as a studio guest for Sky’s various lower League coverage. In the commentary box were Ian Crocker and Gavin Peacock. Whilst Crocker was the undisputed League number one commentator, Peacock was a new name to proceedings. Son of former Charlton player Keith Peacock, Gavin spent most of his career at Queen’s Park Rangers at the beginning and end. Spells with Bournemouth and Gillingham came before big moves to Newcastle and, probably most famously, Premiership Chelsea. The midfielder had an eye for goal, finishing top scorer for the Blues in 1995. When he retired in 2002, he moved into the media with the BBC across their various magazine shows and highlights as well as occasional Sky Sports appearances. He combined this with a strong Christian faith, preaching in his local church as his footballing time drew to a close. Completing today’s line up was regular reporter for Divisions Two and Three, Guy Havord. Having gained prominence as a commentator for the world feed 3pm Premiership matches for the final few years in the 90s, he also covered Live Spanish League games for Sky. A move to the ITV Sport Channel to lead their Football League commentaries followed before they went into administration and he ended up being made redundant. When he rejoined Sky towards the end of the 2002/03 season, he worked as a reporter for Sky Sports News and the League. From this season he took over from David Jones as the touchline reporter on top flight pay-per-view channel Premiership+, covering the weekly game.

PLY Theatre of Trees PLY Tunnel  PLY Coming Up PLY Div 1 goals

The Coverage: Saturday 5.35pm was the main Live slot for Sky’s Football League broadcasts since regaining the rights from ITV Digital in 2002. This season Sky would continue the broadcast until 8pm in order to incorporate the Division One goals from that day, as well as comprehensively wrapping up the analysis from the Live game. This particular start time allowed the scores to come in from the 3pm kick offs on Gillette Soccer Saturday, air some post-match interviews and get Jeff Stelling’s pundits reactions and round it all off before leaving at 5.30pm on one of the numbered Sky Sports channels, whilst they carried on over on Sky Sports News until 6pm. This did mean we were pretty much straight into the Live action when the Football League broadcast began, with less than five minutes for pre match build up. The theme tune, graphics and overall look were as they were when Sky last visited Withdean back in August for our two-one victory over a much-fancied QPR. Like with that match, just a five minute build up allowed very little time to talk up the game so host George Gavin and his guest Steve Cotterill barely said more than a couple of sentences before the teams were in the tunnel. That signalled it was time to hand to the commentary team of Ian Crocker and Gavin Peacock. At half time, the stats showed Brighton’s dominance in a deserved two-nil lead. Five out of six attempts were on target for the Seagulls. Guest Steve Cotterill put Plymouth’s disappointing half down to a lack of tempo on their part, believing Paul Sturrock would be mentioning that at half time. He was very impressed by Leon Knight’s “work rate, his hold up play” and pleased he got a good goal. After the final whistle and the post-match advert break, more than twenty minutes of the programme remained to wrap up this match as well as see some of the day’s goals. The full-time stats showed a more equal match than it read at the interval, with Brighton shading the attempts on target seven to five. Man of the Match was given to Danny Cullip, who spoke with reporter Guy Havord afterwards. He thought the first half was the decider; “It was important to start well, we played really well for forty-five minutes. It’s hard to keep that up for ninety minutes but we dug in at the end and got the result we deserved.” He played down the prospect of another promotion, saying there was still a long way to go in the season and they would enjoy this victory first and foremost. Back on the gantry, our studio team reviewed the key moments from the clash beginning with Trevor Benjamin’s opening goal. He was praised for his ‘tireless’ effort all day and showed superb strength to create his chance. Leon Knight impressed Steve Cotterill and believed that if Knight didn’t get that knock at the start of the second half, he may well have gone on to deliver further in this match. Manager Mark McGhee told, in his interview with Guy Havord, how good a game that was for his side; “I think the first half was the best performance since I came here. I think on a very difficult night we still tried to pass the ball. We knew we didn’t want to take Plymouth on in a sense just at their own game, they’re very good when they’re direct and physical, we didn’t want to just do that so we got the ball down.” He was also pleased with the character of the second half to maintain the advantage. Plymouth boss Paul Sturrock gave credit to the Albion, calling it “men against boys first half.” The final ten minutes of the show was given over to showing all the goals from Saturday’s Division One matches, as was the case in this slot all season. The studio pairing talked through the action and incidents. This included another win for high-flying Norwich over Sheffield United, an unfortunate own goal from West Ham’s Tomas Repka, Crystal Palace defeating Wimbledon in the ‘Selhurst Park derby’ and Steve Sidwell netting for Reading’s first home win in six. After a recap on the scores and Division One table, it was time to go as another broadcast came to a close.

PLY Kick Off PLY Comms PLY Benjamin goal PLY Benjamin

Story of the Match: Brighton’s task was a difficult one. Plymouth were top of Division Two and goalkeeper Luke McCormick hadn’t conceded in over ten and a half hours of football, dating back to December 13th. The wind swirled around Withdean on a dark January evening. The club needed the assistance of a tree surgeon on the day of the game to ensure the seats weren’t at risk of falling branches due to the gales. Never a dull moment at the Theatre of Trees. Cries from the crowd of “We want Falmer!” could be heard loudly around the ground as the Albion kicked off, shooting from left to right in the first half. Ben Roberts had to be sharp off his line after ten minutes to smother the ball, frequently getting caught in the wind, as Lowndes tried to latch onto it. But Brighton looked good early on down the channels, with pace and power in the shape of Knight and Benjamin causing the defence issues. And in the twelfth, that’s where the opening goal arose from. Virgo’s throw down the line found Knight, he shrugged off the defender amidst some shirt pulling to cross in with his left. A couple of Plymouth headers cleared only as far as Carpenter on the edge. He then used his head to nod it back into the danger zone. Trevor Benjamin expertly blocked off his opponent using his sizeable frame to turn and get a shot away. As McCormick rushed out, two covering defenders tried to get back towards the line. Benjamin’s low shot bobbled up off Connolly and into the net, bringing Argyle’s club record clean sheet run to an end. Co-commentator Gavin Peacock noted “It’s not a great strike, but he concentrates on getting it on target – that’s all he can do there, on his left foot, a little bit of luck to ricochets into the back of the net.” Confidence was up as John Piercy, absent for the previous three games through injury, tried his luck from long range; comfortable enough for the ‘keeper. The lead was doubled with just over ten minutes to go before the break. Adam Virgo showed nice trickery on the right wing to nutmeg his marker and escape down the flank. His low cross was driven into the centre, missed by Benjamin but following up at the back stick was Leon Knight. The little man was in the right place at the right time to slot home for two-nil Brighton. His shot went through ‘keeper McCormick, the pace just beating him on the way in. Commentator Crocker brought us the stat that “rather surprisingly it’s the first time he’s scored a League goal here from open play since October” for Leon Knight, netting for the twentieth time this campaign bolstered by his excellent penalty record. No better time to adjust that than the present!

PLY Knight goal PLY Knight celebration PLY Lowndes goal PLY Man of the Match

Leon Knight celebrated his goal by running towards the camera behind the goal, a celebration that would be used in future title sequences on both Sky and ITV’s coverage of the Football League. The half drew to a close with the Albion well on top, and deservedly so, against the League leaders. Outside of the two goals there wasn’t too much else of note from either side but Brighton looked decent playing the ball around and looking for opportunities. Plymouth made a double substitution at the break in order to salvage something from this, with Marino Keith and Steve Adams entering the fray. For the Albion, John Piercy picked up a little knock towards the end of the first period in a fierce fifty-fifty ball. He tried to run it off but was abundant at the resume of play that he could continue no longer. It was a shame for Piercy having just had a spell out injured already, he was replaced here by Gary Hart. A ball in the face affected Leon Knight for a brief spell, visibly hurt by the contact. Plymouth applied the pressure in the second half far more so than they did in the first, with greater spells of possession and half-chances being carved out. Ben Roberts almost contributed to them getting one goal back when he came way out of his goal in an attempt to claim a high cross on the edge of his box. He dropped the catch and couldn’t reclaim before Lowndes took it on. Thankfully there were two defenders waiting on the line to clear away when Lowndes tame effort trickled towards goal. With less than half an hour to go, it showed how quickly a game could turn out of nowhere. Sloppiness crept in to Brighton’s game, gifting possession away easily and a slip from Roberts almost presented a golden chance. Charlie Oatway and Danny Cullip defended resolutely throughout and were always there to help out though. Chris McPhee replaced Knight with a quarter of an hour remaining to provide some fresher legs and relieve the pressure off the defence. Brighton’s best chance in the closing stages fell to Guy Butters. A corner was taken quickly, short to Paul Watson. He whipped in a tantalising cross which was flicked on. Butters was stood at the far corner of the six-yard area and volleyed excellently. McCormick showed why nobody had scored past him prior to tonight in seven matches with a brilliant push onto the bar and over to deny what would have been a wonderful goal. The final few minutes became very nervy though when Nathan Lowndes finally did pull a goal back out of nothing. A long punt forward from their own half saw a flick on from Cullip’s head fly towards the Brighton goal. Ben Roberts dived down just managing to keep it out, but couldn’t keep hold of it. Lowndes reacted quickest to the loose ball to stab home from two yards out. Argyle were not to repeat their trick of the reverse fixture when two goals in the final nine minutes rescued a point for them at Home Park, tonight they ran out of time. It finished Brighton two Plymouth one and a huge result for the Seagulls in their push for another change of Division. The table left the Seagulls in fifth place after this win, whilst Argyle remained top of the shop and well placed for automatic promotion.

PLY Table

BRIGHTON 2 PLYMOUTH 1
Benjamin, Knight Lowndes

PLY Goal PLY Replay

PREVIOUS; #14 BRIGHTON 2-1 QPR 18/08/2003

NEXT; #16 SWINDON 0-1 BRIGHTON 16/05/2004

#19: Leicester 0-1 Brighton 30/08/2004

#19 LEICESTER 0-1 BRIGHTON Championship
Monday 30th August 2004 Image result for

LEI Titles

PRESENTER George Gavin GUEST Neil Warnock
COMMENTATORS Ian Crocker & Tony Gale REPORTER Greg Whelan
12.30pm Kick Off; Walkers Stadium, Leicester     12-2.30pm Football League Live on Sky Sports 1

LEI Ident LEI Sponsor LEI Intro

Context of the Match: Brighton bounced back to the second tier at the first time of asking with the victory in the Play Off Final back in May. A solitary Leon Knight penalty beat Bristol City at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium to enable Albion’s fourth change of Division in as many seasons. Amidst all the promotions and relegation in recent times, one constant has remained; the need for a new permanent home in Sussex. The team on the field were wildly outperforming the circumstances off it, with athletics ground Withdean continuing to house the club for the time being. With the running track pitchside and the leafy forest behind the South Stand, big clubs like Sunderland and Leeds were in for a shock travelling down. They could be forgiven for thinking they were on a pre-season friendly in Norway rather than vying for promotion to the Premiership. The fight for a new ground continued as we entered the 2004/05 season in the newly rebranded Coca-Cola Championship – the new name for the old Nationwide Division One. The Divisions below were also renamed; as Leagues One and Two, and received a shiny new trophy to compete for. Brighton’s early form in the new League hadn’t got off to the best of starts. The Seagulls lost three of the first four, including a home tie to fellow newly-promoted side Plymouth. Things were starting to pick up though, as the first win of the season came just two days before today’s clash, as Albion beat Preston at Withdean thanks to an own goal. Games were coming thick and fast as we travelled up to Leicester for an August Bank Holiday Monday fixture. The Foxes were relegated from the Premiership last season in eighteenth place under former Brighton gaffer Micky Adams. They too struggled to adjust immediately to the new League, also with just the one win thus far. They were defeated last time out at the Walkers Stadium, Watford winning one-zero. The squad wasn’t hugely different to that of the last campaign so bigger things were expecting of Leicester and Adams. All this garnered the interest of Football League rights holder Sky Sports, who selected the match to be broadcast Live at the earlier time of 12.30pm. Could Brighton get one over their old boss in front of the nation and secure a vital three points?

LEI Leicester LEI Brighton LEI Formation

The Teams: Goalkeeper Ben Roberts kept seven clean sheets out of eight to guide Brighton up to the Championship at the back end of last season, but a persistent back injury forced him out of this campaign and had to retire in 2005. Michel Kuipers returned to the first team in his place, having previously been number one for most of his time on the South Coast since joining in 2000. He spent time on loan at Hull last season where former Albion boss Peter Taylor was in charge, but a car crash put him out of action. On the bench today was local eighteen-year-old Chris May, a product of Martin Hinshelwood’s youth system. Hinshelwood’s nephew Adam was given his Albion debut two years ago, when we were last in this Division, making over twenty-five starts since and increasingly becoming a regular. Usually a defender, Hinshelwood played in the middle of the park alongside another youth product; Dean Hammond. Joining Brighton at the age of eleven, he first featured in an LDV Vans Trophy match in 2000 aged seventeen. Professional terms were agreed in 2002 but never really broke through consistently to the first team, spending time on loan at Aldershot and Leyton Orient before getting his chance in this midfield. This area was strengthened over the summer with two trialists signing on; former Wycombe playmaker Darren Currie, who was out of contract, and Chelsea youngster Alexis Nicolas on loan. The central defensive partnership of Danny Cullip and Guy Butters was so key to Albion’s rise up the table last season. Left back Dan Harding was sent off in the first home match in the League and had been out of the squad since, with long-serving Kerry Mayo keeping his spot. Adam Virgo was surprisingly being used as a makeshift striker, perhaps spurred on by his crucial headed goal in the Play Off Semi Final in May against Swindon. This opened up an opportunity for nineteen-year-old Adam El-Abd to come into the side for his first start this season at right back. Play Off Final hero Leon Knight was yet to get off the mark. New names on the subs bench since that Final included Maheta Molango – who scored just twelve seconds into his debut at Reading – and former Wimbledon winger Albert Jarrett. Mark McGhee took on Micky Adams, who left the Albion for Leicester in 2002. Following their relegation from the Premiership, there was much comings and goings in the transfer market. Former Aston Villa forward Dion Dublin, sent off on the opening day on his debut, partnered David Connolly, who lost in the Division One Play Off Final with West Ham in May. They had experience in ex-England goalie Ian Walker, European Championships winner with Greece, Nikos Dabizas, at the back, left-footer Danny Tiatto and Foxes favourite James Scowcroft. On the bench, defender Martin Keown and striker Trevor Benjamin both had loan spells with the Albion; Benjamin back at the beginning of the calendar year scoring five in ten before Chris Iwelumo joined, whilst Keown made his professional debut on loan with us twenty years ago before enjoying huge success at parent club Arsenal. Taking charge of this Bank Holiday clash was referee Keith Hill.

LEI Gavin LEI Warnock LEI Studio LEI Whelan

Presentation Team: George Gavin once again hosted Sky’s exclusively Live coverage of the Football League, with the Divisions now sponsored by Coca Cola instead of Nationwide. With Ian Payne no longer fronting Saturday lunchtime Football League kick offs, Gavin had pretty much a monopoly on the coverage this campaign as well as hosting the Thursday evening preview programme Football League Review from Sky’s studios. With the new branding to the Championship, a regular Sunday night edition was added, showing all the goals from all three Divisions linked by Gavin’s voiceover. This was Sky’s answer to the new networked ITV programme The Championship broadcast each Sunday morning replacing Football League Extra. Joining Gavin at Leicester’s Walkers Stadium today was Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock. The Blades weren’t in action until the following evening, giving Warnock the chance to scout the opposition as he’d be visiting here Leicester in two weeks’ time, and the Albion a further couple of weeks after. Due to his loud, brash character, Warnock found himself making regular television appearances throughout his career. He joined Sheffield United in 1999 and had since became the ‘nearly men’, taking them to an FA Cup and a League Cup semi-final and losing out to Wolves for Premiership promotion in 2003. He enjoyed Play Off success with an earlier club; Notts County, as Brighton fans remember all too well back in 1991 as we were defeated three-one at Wembley. In the commentary box were Ian Crocker and Tony Gale. This was the beginning of Crocker’s third season as the voice of the Football League, established when Sky regained control of the rights in 2002. At the same time, the Scottish Premier League contract was lost, of which Crocker had been lead commentator for four years. Last season he re-established his Scottish football credentials by commentating on Celtic and Rangers in the UEFA Champions League during Sky’s first year covering the competition. His co-commentator today was Tony Gale. During the course of last season, Gale became a regular voice on the Football League behind Chris Kamara and Garry Birtles. He covered the Division Three Play Off Final in May and was also behind the mic for our First Leg Semi Final one-nil win at Swindon. He won the Premiership with Blackburn in 1995 but is more remembered for his spell before that at West Ham. Reporting on the touchline was a new name to Sky’s Football League coverage, Greg Whelan. He joined the Live team at the start of the season taking over from Fraser Robertson. Whelan previously reported on Sky’s Live Conference football over the past three seasons. He also regularly featured in-vision on scores service Soccer Saturday providing updates on games around the country.

LEI Fixtures LEI Referee

The Coverage: The whole League rebrand to the Championship brought about new logos, which Sky incorporated into the same style title sequence from last year. The theme tune remained The Skids – Into the Valley with the flashing scoreboard end card, now featuring the words ‘Championship Live’ as opposed to Football League Live. The programme however was still referred to as the latter. Leon Knight’s celebration in the face of the camera during our Live match with Plymouth last season was now part of the opening sequence too. Coverage was sponsored by SkyBet, as before, with new sponsorship bumpers featuring an irate Alan Partridge style commentator who was voicing over real action as his bet lost. Host George Gavin and pundit Neil Warnock came on air at midday for this 12.30pm kick off, giving a full half an hour’s build up to set the scene for this match and all the other 3pm games. Coverage was hosted from within the Walkers Stadium. The top of the show told of the changes brought about at Leicester following the drop out of the Premiership; “Director of football Dave Bassett has helped Micky Adams bring in eleven players to Leicester but seventeen have gone since relegation.” Their form didn’t begin well in the new League either, with a very inconsistent start particularly at home. Speaking of inconsistency, the Albion haven’t played in the same Division two years in a row since the turn of the Millennium; “Brighton’s players have been either promoted or relegated in each of the last four seasons.” The new season brought about new graphics for Sky’s Football League broadcasts, adopting the same style red and blue 3D bars as the top flight coverage took back in February and which we enjoyed in the last Live game; the 2004 Play Off Final. However, this League set was more basic than then, with fades in and out as opposed to the stylish animation. The refresh was brought in at the beginning of the campaign when Leeds opened Sky’s Championship season against Derby three weeks earlier; the first of sixty regular season games to be broadcast Live in the third of a four year contract since regaining the rights in 2002. All graphics were now different to before apart from the scorebar which remained as last year. The replay transition had changed; still the beautiful Championship trophy but now ran diagonally and with a bright light glow. The club crests crashed in as before when a goal was shown. The main backing track when the table and fixtures were shown was now the excellent ‘Apache’ by Michael Viner’s Incredible Bongo Band.

LEI Baine & Samrah LEI Dick Knight LEI Division 3 Champions

Gavin and Warnock looked back over the best of the weekend’s action, with clubs doubling up playing Saturday and Monday over the Bank Holiday. This included showing the only goal of the game as Brighton secured their first win of the season at home to Craig Brown’s Preston. The former Scotland manager then got the boot after a poor start. There was also brief discussion about the news from the morning that Newcastle had sacked Sir Bobby Robson in what turned out to be his final managerial role. Attention turned to the Live match, as we crossed pitchside to reporter Greg Whelan who brought us the team news. One of the key stories over the past few years had of course been the Seagulls’ fight for a permanent home and Whelan compiled a report on the latest goings on in that long-running saga, which can be viewed at the bottom of the page. The piece linked Saturday’s win with a look back at the story of the pitch battles, with archive footage from 1996 and the invasion protest, through to the Gillingham years and now at Withdean. Amongst the most prominent supporters leading the charge for the new stadium were John Baine and Paul Samrah. They were both on the PA system at Withdean and gave their take to the Sky cameras, telling the grim reality of the situation. Chairman Dick Knight also gave his story, from taking over at the end of the Goldstone period right up to now. Today’s opposing manager, Micky Adams, began the resurgence by winning the fourth tier in 2001 and came in for high praise from Baine; “In my opinion Micky Adams is the best manager that this club has ever had and I’ve been watching the Albion since I was seven. Certainly the best manager that I’ve ever seen, I think given the restrictions, the team he put together – many of which are still the backbone of the team we’ve got now.” The VT took us right up to now and beyond, glimpsing the proposed Falmer site and the struggle manager Mark McGhee had to keep players with the limited budget and facilities. Back in July the man making the decision, deputy PM John Prescott, ordered another public inquiry into the new stadium to drag things on even further. On the back of the report we heard from some of the travelling supporters at today’s match, stressing how important the decision is. It was amplified by playing Leicester who themselves had fairly recently moved home.

LEI Leon Knight LEI McGhee LEI Infobar LEI Coming Up

The studio team took a closer look at some of the key men in this fixture. Leicester strikers Dion Dublin and David Connolly were expected to be in with chances today, whilst the Albion’s cause was represented by Leon Knight. Warnock questioned Knight’s attitude, speaking specifically about a loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday where he proved very inconsistent. The Sheffield United manager though also praised his ability on his day, with the goal tally last time round speaking for itself. Greg Whelan spoke with both managers ahead of kick off. Mark McGhee was taking all the positives out of the first win on Saturday; “The fact is we still don’t have some of our experienced players back fit and we’ve got four points. In many ways we look upon that as a bonus because we have been playing with a very young side.” The scene was set for the big match, an advert break separated the build up from the teams emerging from the tunnel for our commentary team of Ian Crocker and Tony Gale to take over. At half time, Neil Warnock’s tactical advice for Brighton was paying dividends, saying if they could hold out for twenty to twenty-five minutes and take their only chance they could cause an upset. The match facts running across the info-bar at the bottom of the screen showed a picture of domination from Leicester in the first period, having more shots and possession, even if it didn’t quite come across like that in reality. The replays also proved conclusively that Virgo was onside for the goal, with Warnock full of praise for the emergency striker’s tireless effort and work rate all match. The studio team didn’t have much time at all after the final whistle, with the off-air time due at 2.30pm it gave them just a couple of minutes to wrap things up. They analysed the decisive goal again and looked at the few chances which fell to Dion Dublin before he shifted to the defence. The table showed Brighton flying up from twenty-third before the match up to eleventh at full time, albeit before anybody else had played their sixth match. There wasn’t time to hear from the players or managers, with the final word going to Neil Warnock who wanted to praise the referee’s performance in a rare act of positivity towards officials. It was one of those days!

LEI Kick Off LEI Comms LEI Yellow LEI Onside

Story of the Match: Brighton started the better of the two teams, taking the game to Leicester in the opening minutes. The home side’s frustrations were evident, both in the stands and on the field. Frustrated with the start to this match and the entire campaign. The first flash point came after the quarter hour mark when David Connolly took a little off the ball swipe towards Adam El-Abd after he was blocked off during a long throw. Luckily for Connolly, his swinging leg didn’t connect too much with the Brighton defender or his yellow card could have been a lot worse. The Albion nearly opened the scoring five minutes later through a very dangerous free kick whipped across goal by Darren Currie. Dean Hammond was closest to getting the touch, any touch, which would have fired it past Ian Walker but couldn’t quite stretch long enough as it flew just wide of the post. The Foxes’ first real sight of goal came through a Dion Dublin header after half an hour. Danny Tiatto chipped the ball in from the near side of the penalty area, as Dublin leapt highest to meet it. The effort went wide of the target when he had done everything in the move correct until that point. This was followed up moments later by Connolly curling a first-time shot low and just wide of the near post, as Leicester finally began to crank up the pressure. So when the deadlock was broken with five minutes to go before half time it was with great relief that the goal went the way of Brighton. After Leon Knight made a nuisance of himself driving towards goal, Leicester were able to boot the ball upfield towards Dublin. After initially controlling it, the ball was nicked off him by Guy Butters on the half way line. Hammond touched it back to Cullip to launch a long ball forward where Knight was running back from. Knowing he was a long way offside, he made no attempt to interfere with play instead allowing makeshift striker Adam Virgo to run on. The home defence was caught out by Virgo’s run as he took the ball down from the sky well. Facing up against Matt Heath on the edge of the box, Virgo took a further touch to give a yard of space before unleashing a low drive towards goal. The quickly taken nature caught Walker out in goal as the ball found its way into the back of the net, squeezing just inside the post, to give Brighton the lead. Leicester were appealing for offside but with Knight not playing the ball and Virgo definitely level with his man the complaints were waived away. The Seagulls went in at half time in the lead with their only shot so far, to the boos of the home fans.

LEI Corner LEI Sub

Brighton in yellow kicked off the second half kicking right to left, after a false start. Michel Kuipers was forced into a smart stop early on to deny Connolly, the wide angle against the Irish striker. Dion Dublin then tried to catch the former Dutch marine off his line, lofting a shot from the half way line with Kuipers scrambling slightly. He did get back to cover it but in the end there was no need as it bounced over and wide. Warning shots were being fired. As the second period wore on, it was Leicester who were having all the creativity and the chances but without any joy or serious threat. The Albion defence stood strong. A tactical reshuffle for Leicester saw Dublin revert from centre forward to centre back, the opposite move from goalscorer Virgo who was now head to head with the ex-England man. A couple of clashes held up the game as it drew towards its final stages. A collision of heads meant Cullip required a new shirt without the blood spilt, as well as without a name or number, a rare sight in the modern game. A few minutes later James Scowcroft went studs first with a nasty looking leap towards the shin of Guy Butters, fortunately no injury was caused and a caution was collected. With Leicester’s lack of penetration and poor form, frustrations grew louder following substitute Keith Gillespie’s foul throw late on. There were half-hearted appeals for a Leicester penalty in stoppage time, as Adam Virgo’s hand was raised when trying to head the ball away from a free kick. It definitely hit his hand and should have been given but wasn’t spotted. Come the full-time whistle chants of “What a load of rubbish” rang round the East Midlands. So the Albion hung on for a famous away win to make it two victories on the bounce to close August out before the international break. A better start to life in the second tier here compared with two years ago was always going to be vital and the signs were positive as Brighton aimed to stay put in the Division for a bit longer. For this afternoon at least, the Seagulls were soaring into the top half of the Championship!

LEI Table

LEICESTER 0 BRIGHTON 1
Virgo

LEI Goal LEI Replay

PREVIOUS; #18 BRIGHTON 1-0 BRISTOL CITY 30/05/2004 

NEXT; #20 BRIGHTON 0-1 READING 21/03/2005

Small Screen Seagulls; Play Off Final v Bristol City, 30/05/2004

Small Screen Seagulls 2000sThe story of Brighton and Hove Albion around the turn of the Millennium was of a club finally on the rise again. After a disastrous decade in the 1990s – losing at Wembley in a Play Off Final, embarrassing exits in the FA Cup to non-League teams, almost becoming one of those non-League teams but for the skin of our teeth at Hereford and, of course, corruption in the boardroom leading to the sale of the Goldstone and nowhere to call home – the 2000s began with back-to-back titles flying up the Football League. By May 2004, still homeless and fighting, Brighton had the chance to enjoy a moment in the spotlight in the Nationwide Division Two Play Off Final. It was the opportunity for the Seagulls to take flight into the second tier, win a trophy, play at a National Stadium and, most importantly, champion the Albion cause in public. The match was Live on Sky but for those at the game or who didn’t have digital telly, ITV in the Meridian region broadcast a full thirty minute highlight programme.


Brighton 1-0 Bristol City, Play Off Final; 3pm, Sun 30th May ’04

POFHL Titles

Meridian Broadcasting gained the ITV franchise for the South and South East from 1st January 1993, taking over from Television South (TVS). Since then the ITV regional programmes for that part of the country fell under the Meridian (or ITV Meridian) branding. What this meant in terms of the football coverage, not much changed initially. TVS did not have their own production for the Live matches involving the regions Football League teams once ITV lost top flight rights in 1992. Instead they showed the networked or LWT (London) productions. When Meridian took over this continued until the beginning of the 1994/95 season, when weekly highlights show The Meridian Match was brought in. Every Sunday afternoon, Andy Steggall would round up the weekend’s action from our local Football League teams; Portsmouth, Reading, Bournemouth and Brighton as well as Southend and Swindon who were on the edges and also covered by other regions. Southampton were predominantly a Premiership club during this period but would often be spoken about and featured whenever rights permitted. The Meridian Match would also feature occasional Live matches up until 1997 and then again in 2001/02, where highlights of the other teams would fit around. When Sky gained exclusive Live Football League rights, the regional programme would continue with half-hour highlights shows instead. Supplementing The Meridian Match on Sundays would be a midweek version; Meridian Soccer Night, also usually hosted by Steggall. This afforded the regions clubs regular exposure and highlights on the main commercial network and was how the majority of fans would view their team goals. For matches of significance, a special edition of the programme would air. When Reading reached the Play Offs in 2001 this was the case, and it was repeated in May 2004 when Brighton and Hove Albion travelled to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to take on Bristol City. At stake was a place in the second tier – to be renamed the Championship from August. Having followed Albion closely all season on Sunday afternoons, it was only right that Meridian got their chance in the Cardiff sunshine to see how it all ended.


Soccer Night, ITV1 Meridian, 11.45pm (Monday 31st May 2004)

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A thirty minute highlight programme in the Meridian region was slotted into the late night Bank Holiday Monday ITV1 schedule to cover Brighton’s Division Two Play Off Final with Bristol City. Monday nights were football nights on ITV that season, with the regular edition of The Premiership on Monday chaired by Matt Smith and his panel of experts from 11pm. This was followed into the early hours of Tuesday morning by Nationwide Football League Extra, ITV’s weekly round up of all the goals from the three lower Leagues and voiced by the trio of Tom Skippings, Trevor Harris and Tony Jones on a whistlestop tour of goals and features. UEFA Champions League Weekly was also part of the late night/early morning three course football feast, as the best of the action from the continent’s premier competition got an airing. But on this particular Monday night, with the regular League seasons done and dusted, it was here where ITV1 Meridian could broadcast Soccer Night, showcasing the action and reaction from the Albion’s final match of a long season, complete with the regional ident featuring long-serving Meridian Tonight news presenters Debbie Thrower and Fred Dinenage.

POFHL Semi Final 1 POFHL Bristol Semi POFHL Semi Final 2

The programme began by having a quick recap of the Semi Final matches for both Brighton and Bristol City, seeing how they got to this stage. Fourth placed Brighton’s journey began away at fifth in the table Swindon Town on a very sunny Sunday afternoon in mid May. Richard Carpenter’s deflected goal the difference as the Albion claimed a one-nil victory. Bristol City, the highest placed side in third, secured a one-all draw away at Hartlepool in their first leg thanks to Tony Rougier’s opener after just five minutes. In the second leg it took two late, late goals to overturn the ‘Pool lead given to them midway through the second half. First Goodfellow in the 88th, then Christian Roberts in stoppage time saw the Robins of Bristol progress to the Final in dramatic circumstances. However, the Seagulls showed them what drama really was the following evening in their second leg! Sam Parkin’s goal ten minutes before the end of the ninety meant Extra Time was required. Rory Fallon then gave Swindon the advantage overall until that Adam Virgo header in the last minute of Extra Time dragged the Albion level once more and headed for a penalty shoot-out. With Mooney missing, Virgo put Brighton in the ascendancy meaning Andy Gurney had to score or Swindon were out. The crash of the ball against the crossbar sent Brighton fans running onto the pitch, boss Mark McGhee sprinting for his safety to avoid a mobbing and, most importantly, set up this Final clash with Bristol City at Cardiff’s magnificent Millennium Stadium.

POFHL Steggall

Familiar face to the Meridian region for ten years, Andy Steggall presented from pitchside at the Millennium Stadium. Steggall’s career in broadcasting began in local radio for the BBC in Leicestershire having studied at university there before moving to Southern Sound – the precursor to Southern FM in Sussex. He transferred into sports television in the local area with TVS for eight years from 1984 as well as working for Channel 4 on their daily breakfast show at the start of the 1990s. After a year doing the sport for GMTV, in 1994 he moved into the role he’s had to this point; presenting the sport for Meridian. This incorporated news programme Meridian Tonight as well as weekly highlights show The Meridian Match. During the early part of his time with Meridian he presented Live Football League matches when ITV held the rights from the studio in Southampton. The region’s highlights show has seen him travel the country following the exploits of the likes of Reading, Bournemouth, Pompey and the Albion through real highs and desperate lows. He introduced this programme before handing straight up to the action with our match commentator.

POFHL Kick Off POFHL Commentator

Voicing the best of the action from the gantry was Phil Duffell. He had long been ITV’s voice of football in the West (HTV) region, commentating on their version of Soccer Sunday (The West Match) regularly from around 1995. These commentaries would then be heard across other regions on occasions, and even the main networked highlights show Football League Extra. During the 2001/02 season, he got the opportunity to commentate on a Live match for HTV West, as Bristol Rovers took on Plymouth, when the various ITV regions were able to broadcast occasional Football League matches as part of Soccer Sunday Live. For today’s Play Off Final, he was primarily there commentating for HTV covering Bristol City, with Meridian opting to use the commentary too. During the regular campaign this season on Meridian, the usual commentator was Ross Dyer. If he wasn’t around, Andy Ford would voice the goals. The pair took over from John Roder who had been a mainstay of The Meridian Match since 1997, including the couple of Live outings in 2001/02. Roder benefitted during the 2003/04 season from British Eurosport having the Live rights to Serie A, meaning his association on the South Coast came to an end. With Premiership highlights returining to the BBC from the upcoming 2004/05 season, Roder would become one of the new voices on the programme.

POFHL Brighton

Mark McGhee made one change from the last Brighton match; the topsy-turvy Semi Final Second Leg with Swindon. In came Gary Hart as Paul Reid made way. Captain Danny Cullip was named in the PFA Division Two Team of the Season whilst centre-back partner Guy Butters was voted the fans Player of the Year. Hero of that Swindon night Adam Virgo took his place at right-back with another local lad on the left; Dan Harding. Welshman Nathan Jones joined Englishmen Richard Carpenter and Charlie Oatway in the middle of the park. Club top scorer Leon Knight wanted to add to his tally of twenty-five goals. The big man/little man striking combination was completed by Chris Iwelumo. His victory in this game for Stoke two seasons ago made the big Scotsman the only Albion player to have featured on this Millennium Stadium surface before today.

POFHL Bristol City

Ex-Albion midfielder Danny Wilson brought his Bristol City side back to this Cardiff pitch for the second time having secured the LDV Vans Trophy last season. Three of his starting eleven were named in the PFA Divisional Team this term; Steve Phillips in goal, Louis Carey at the back and Brian Tinnion in the middle. Striker Tony Rougier made a handful of appearances for Brighton towards the end of the last campaign. Scottish forward Lee Miller played in the majority of the club’s matches but had only netted eight goals thus far. Christian Roberts was born in the host city. Refereeing the clash was Richard Beeby.


POFHL Roberts flap POFHL City chance

Story of the Match: The prize was spelled out by commentator Phil Duffell right at the start of the match. “It’s five years since Bristol City last played in Division One. Brighton’s exile at present stands at just one season. In ninety minutes time, maybe more, one of these teams will be mixing it with the likes of Leeds, Sunderland, West Ham and Wolves. It’s a cast they all want to join.” The first action shown was a nervy moment for Albion ‘keeper Ben Roberts, who flapped at a cross as he dropped it onto Guy Butters before bravely throwing himself in the way of any follow up as the stripes were able to clear. Moments later he again failed to clear danger from a ball into the area, as big City centre half Tony Butler got in his way. The ball dropped to Butler who blazed way over, with the linesman’s flag only slightly sparing his blushes. It wasn’t the brightest of starts for the man who had performed so well between the posts all season. Bristol City were considered by many as favourites for this match and they began accordingly.

POFHL Knight crossbar POFHL Half Time

Brighton’s first chance of note came when Leon Knight took a free kick from just outside the box. Welsh winger Nathan Jones, playing in the National Stadium of his home country for the first time, was tripped at speed by the smallest of contacts to earn the foul. Up stepped Brighton’s top scorer to curl the set piece towards the goal. It had Steve Phillips scrambling on his line to get there but he was assisted by the crossbar. It was a terrific effort to get it up over the wall and back down from a relatively short distance but just didn’t quite have enough to sneak in. But it was a warning shot that the Albion weren’t here for a day out. The first half lacked quality from either side as the tension of the occasion perhaps got the better of one or two, and the first half highlights came to a close with the score goalless.

POFHL Iwelumo shot POFHL Caught in possession

The match continued to be too close to call, with nothing able to separate them as the second half wore on. Both were restricted to half chances at best, with long range efforts and weak attempts on goal. As soon as one team had the ball, the other would win it back shortly after but not able to do much with it before being dispossessed. It would not be one of the famous Play Off classics, that’s for sure! An excellent crossfield pass from Semi Final hero Adam Virgo found Chris Iwelumo who took it on his chest. He created space and had time, more time than he perhaps realised as he rushed into a volley some thirty yards out which skipped off the turf and bounced well wide. Brighton almost created a problem for themselves out of nothing at the other end when Butters was caught in possession on the edge of his own penalty area. The ball was being casually played around the back line and goalkeeper when the former Gillingham defender was guilty of being too relaxed. Tony Rougier charged him down but the dispossession took the ball flying out behind for a goal kick towards the corner flag. One mistake was probably going to be all it took to decide this, as the ninety minutes drew closer and Extra Time loomed large.

POFHL Sub POFHL Iwelumo header

It’s never a good sign on a highlights programme when a substitution being made is shown in full. That’s how light we were on match action I’m afraid! But John Piercy came on to replace Jones, who had enjoyed a little bit of rare success on the day and was unlucky not to last the full ninety. Piercy was involved straight away and it was his cross from the left which saw an Iwelumo glancing header drop just wide of the far post as Phillips gathered before it fell behind the line. The Seagulls supporters sensed an opportunity and sung loudly to galvanise the side to get it done within the regulation time. And they were right to lift those spirits as, with time running out approaching the final five minutes, Brighton rewarded them with the crucial breakthrough.

POFHL Foul POFHL Penalty

Adam Virgo gathered a loose ball on the half way line and chipped it down the line for Iwelumo to chase. The big Scotsman held it up whilst support moved ahead of him. He shrugged off one challenge before dribbling the ball forward towards the area. Faced with two red shirts he pushed it through for Leon Knight. The diminutive striker couldn’t quite collect the pass under the challenge of Danny Coles but Iwelumo had continued his run. Just as he got his foot to the ball and looked like he was about to unleash an effort to trouble Phillips, Coles took a big swipe in an attempt to hoof the ball away but Iwelumo was too quick for him and ended up being scythed down. It was a definite penalty, for which referee Richard Beeby had no doubt. Up stepped Knight to coolly slot the spot kick home and Brighton had the lead! “One nil Brighton and Hove Albion! Who else but Leon Knight has the goal which has Brighton one step nearer to Division One. The shirt’s off, the celebrations have started,” was the call from our commentator Phil Duffell. The seconds ticked away before the full time whistle had blown. Brighton were back in the second tier at the first time of asking.

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“There goes the final whistle. Brighton and Hove Albion are back from whence they came last season. It’s Division One for the Seagulls thanks to Leon Knight’s penalty. It’s Knight’s day in Cardiff,” commentator Duffell exclaimed. The twelve minutes or so of match highlights that ITV Meridian had managed to scrape together during a tight, turgid affair had came to an end and the result was that it would be Brighton going up, with Bristol City suffering Play Off heartache for the second successive season. Before the interviews and celebrations could begin, it was time for the advert break so the final ten minutes of the programme could be spent basking in Albion’s jubilation.

POFHL Full Time POFHL Medal POFHL Trophy Lift

The celebrations began with the trophy lift. Manager Mark McGhee led the players up the platform on the pitch to collect their winners medals, followed by everybody involved from Nathan Jones and Chris Iwelumo through Gary Hart and Charlie Oatway right up to Adam Virgo and, of course, captain and Man of the Match Danny Cullip. A sea of blue and white remained in the Albion end, with the contrast shown over in the City side where the pain was very real once more. Cullip lifted that lovely looking trophy to signify once and for all that the Seagulls were soaring up to Division One!

POFHL McGhee POFHL Knight

Andy Steggall conducted the interviews with the winning team, beginning with the gaffer. McGhee began by stating the importance of the victory in the wider context; “It means so much to us not just about playing in the 1st Division, about playing at Molineux, The Den and Walkers Stadium, the Stadium of Light instead of some of the places we’ve been this year, but also about our own stadium. This is a demonstration to anybody why we need a ground.” Goalscorer Leon Knight was up next, who admitted his penalty didn’t need anything special just do the job. “It weren’t well hit but it was in the corner and that’s the main point and it went in the back of the net”, having described it as the best penalty of all his.

POFHL Dick Knight POFHL Fans

The chairman was just an important role in the recent successful years at Withdean as much as any of the playing staff. Dick Knight heaped praise on the squad as well as sending out the rallying cry in the need for Falmer’s permanent home. “A wonderful achievement by our players and Mark McGhee. But it also makes such a strong statement about the incredible support that we have. We brought nearly 30,000 people here today so, frankly, they’re chanting behind me ‘We want Falmer’, they deserve Falmer.” Nobody had featured more or done more in the campaign for the new site than Mr Knight himself; always there, always ready with a soundbite and fought the Albion cause so, so well.

POFHL Virgo POFHL Oatway

Sussex born Adam Virgo held the trophy in his hands as he was interviewed by Steggall. We’ll gloss over the fact Meridian captioned him as Gary Hart though! With the backdrop of the ecstatic fans over his shoulder, Virgo gave credit to his fellow players for their efforts and talked about the emotions of the day. “I was in the hotel room, so excited to get out it was like Christmas Eve! I just wanted to get out and play and if I wanna play at the top I’ve got to play under the biggest pressure.” Midfielder Charlie Oatway, who had been in and out of the side all season, discussed his part in it all. “You can’t bottle what this club has got. For me personally it’s been up and down, but I’m so pleased it’s finished up with a high.” The interviews were interspersed with shots of the crowd celebrating and the other players lifting the trophy. It was a joy to watch all connected with the Albion having the day out they deserved. Danny Cullip had the Nationwide promotion flags wrapped around him and a big blue and white soft hat on, beaming with his winners medal around his neck.

POFHL Goodbyes POFHL Endboard

And with that, presenter Andy Steggall stood pitchside and rounded off the final programme of the season for Brighton and indeed the other clubs in the Meridian region. “As Fatboy Slim nearly said,” he began to close, “First Division football starts right here, right now. And what of the future? Well, on a personal basis thankyou for all your support, your letters, your questions – no, this isn’t a perm! Thankyou to all of your teams who’ve supported me so well throughout this season. On behalf of all the production team, we couldn’t do it without you, we wouldn’t want to. From all of us, for another season goodbye.” The credits rolled to an Oasis cover of David Bowie’s classic “Heroes” and the curtain came down on a successful season for Brighton and Hove Albion – going back to the big time.

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Full report on the Sky Sports Live programme covering this Play Off Final is available HERE.

#18: Brighton 1-0 Bristol City 30/05/2004

#18 BRIGHTON 1-0 BRISTOL CITY Division Two Play Off FINAL
Sunday 30th May 2004 Image result for

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PRESENTER George Gavin GUESTS Chris Kamara & Gordon Strachan
COMMENTATORS Ian Crocker & Garry Birtles REPORTERS Fraser Robertson & Guy Havord
3pm Kick Off; Millennium Stadium, Cardiff     2-6pm Football League Live on Sky Sports 1

swi ident sky bet sponsor POF Intro

Context of the Match: The big day had arrived. Sunday 30th May 2004 saw the teams of Brighton and Bristol City meet in a one-off match at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium to determine who would be joining Queens Park Rangers and Plymouth in gaining promotion to the second tier of English football. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday in the Welsh capital for the Division Two Play Off Final. The end of season Play Offs were introduced in 1987 and have become one of the highlights of the domestic calendar, with nerves, tension, excitement, glory and despair all rolled into one. Brighton’s only prior foray into this stage came in 1991 when they were ninety minutes away from the top flight. Having defeated Millwall in the Semi Finals that year home and away, a Wembley showdown with Notts County ended with the Magpies victorious by three goals to one. The Albion’s fate had plummeted since then, dropping down the Divisions to almost slipping out of the League altogether a couple of times in the nineties. More recently, back to back title wins in 2001 and 2002 saw the club rise to the second tier, only to be relegated on the final day last season. An immediate bounce back up was on the cards today if the Seagulls could beat the Robins. During the regular season, City got the better of Brighton, winning four-one at Withdean in November and holding us to a stalemate at Ashton Gate five weeks ago. To reach this point, the Albion finished in fourth place in the Second Division. They were six points off the automatic promotion places and five behind today’s opponents who ended in third. After a forgettable Semi Final First Leg at the County Ground where Richard Carpenter’s goal separated Brighton and Swindon, the Second Leg was an incredible spectacle of drama as Swindon scored late to level on aggregate and force Extra Time. When Rory Fallon put them two up it looked like being all over, but for Adam Virgo’s last-minute diving header to take it to penalties. The Albion converted all four of their spot-kicks and when Andy Gurney struck the post it was all over; Brighton were going to the Final! Bristol City avoided having to go into overtime however their two-legged affair with Hartlepool also contained much drama. The first match at Victoria Park ended all square, with Pool equalising late in the second half. The rematch in Bristol was going the way of the away side after the hour mark when Antony Sweeney put them ahead. But Bristol City would not suffer Play Off Semi Final heartbreak for the second season running, as two goals in the final two minutes of the match overturned that advantage and sent the Robins down the M4 and over the border into Cardiff. Both teams enjoyed some late fortune in their respective matches and this Final would be decided on the day; with the potential for Extra Time and Penalties if required. Indeed, four of the last five Second Division Finals had gone beyond the ninety minutes, the exception being Stoke City in 2002. Sky Sports broadcast all three Divisional Play Off Finals Live from the Millennium Stadium across this weekend. After Crystal Palace’s victory over West Ham on the Saturday, could the Seagulls follow the Eagles in gaining promotion?

POF Brighton POF Bristol City POF Formation

The Teams: Mark McGhee’s Brighton made one change from the starting line-up from the Second Leg of the Semi Final at Withdean. Gary Hart was favoured over Paul Reid on the right of midfield. Hart was infamously signed for £1000 and a set of tracksuits from non-League Stansted in 1998 and had seen two promotions already at his time here. Originally a striker, Hart became more of a utility player as his career progressed – filling in at the back as well as in midfield. Reid joined from Bradford with a few games to go before the end of the season and started both legs of the Semi Finals. In goal, former Middlesbrough ‘keeper Ben Roberts was the first choice. He played the majority of this campaign having joined last year and previously started for Boro in FA and League Cup Finals at Wembley, losing on both occasions. Captain Danny Cullip – named in the PFA Division Two Team of the Year – partnered the fans Player of the Year Guy Butters in the centre of defence, with Second Leg hero Adam Virgo on the right and academy graduate Dan Harding on the left. The midfield core of Carpenter, Oatway and Jones had been with the Seagulls since the start of the Withdean era. Carpenter had won five promotions in his career and hoping for a sixth. The striking options were top-scorer Leon Knight – twenty-five goals thus far, the join best in the Division earning himself a place in the PFA Team of the Year – and Scotsman Chris Iwelumo. He was in the Stoke side that won this match two years ago and joined us from them on loan back in March. He was the only Albion player to have featured at the Millennium Stadium before, whilst he and Guy Butters had won this Final previously. With a lack of forward options in the squad, no strikers were on the bench. Former Tottenham youth midfielder John Piercy was named as substitute, with Reid, Adam Hinshelwood, goalkeeper Michel Kuipers and longest serving current player Kerry Mayo. Mayo scored the own goal in the draw at Hereford which kept Albion in the Football League seven years ago but had since gone on to play regularly at left-back. Bristol City manager Danny Wilson had the longest spell of his playing career at Brighton, in the heart of the midfield for four years. He named a side which included three players named in the PFA Team of the Year. Goalkeeper Steve Phillips, defender Louis Carey and midfielder Brian Tinnion, getting the accolade for the second time in four seasons. Tony Rougier had a short loan spell with the Albion at the back end of last season, starting five times and scoring twice. Striker Cristian Roberts was born in the host city Cardiff and began his career in the Welsh capital. This was Bristol City’s second appearance at the Millennium Stadium, having won the LDV Vans Trophy Final in 2003 beating Carlisle with goals from Lee Peacock and Liam Rosenior; neither of whom were involved today, the latter having left the club after that match. The attacking option on the bench was Scott Murray, who rejoined the club in March after less than a season away. He previously spent six years at City. Refereeing was Richard Beeby.

POF Gavin POF Kamara POF Strachan POF Studio

Presentation Team: This was host George Gavin’s second season presenting the Play Off Finals and his second match this weekend following the Division One Final the previous day. That saw Crystal Palace defeat West Ham during a mammoth five hour Live broadcast. Gavin had been at the helm during the regular season, travelling the length and breadth of the country to bring us Live Football League games, other than the Saturday lunchtime kick offs that Ian Payne covered this year. During the Play Off Semi Finals he was based at Sky’s Isleworth studio in order to cover the lot but was back in the stadium for the Finals. Keeping Gavin company in the studio was regular Football League number one co-commentator and co-host of Sunday morning review programme Goals on Sunday, Chris Kamara. Kamara would be involved in all three Finals this weekend, having commentated on yesterday’s match, in the studio today and reporting on tomorrow’s Division Three clash. And this is the third Play Off Finals campaign that Kamara has covered for Sky, having taken over from Alan Brazil as co-commentator on the 2001 Division One Final, reprising his role when the rights were regained from ITV last year. Kammy was joined in the studio, eventually, by Gordon Strachan. I say eventually, as he missed the first part of the programme due to being stuck in traffic! Strachan had been out of work since leaving Southampton back in February, somewhat earlier than anticipated. He was due to quit the club when his contract concluded this summer, wanting to take a break from the game having been in permanent employment as a manager for more than eight years on the back of a successful playing career. However, news of his plan was leaked and the club took action to replace him immediately. It was clear Strachan’s next move during this ‘break’ would be in the media and his appearance in the studio today was an indication of that. He would be signed up by BBC Sport to lead their revamped Premiership highlights punditry when rights returned for next season, joining Adrian Chiles on the new Match of the Day 2 on Sunday nights. Strachan’s humour and straight-talking won him plaudits from supporters during press conferences and interviews, known for answering silly questions with silly answers, so his presence on television would be a welcomed addition.

POF Robertson POF Havord

In the commentary box were the regular partnership of Ian Crocker and Garry Birtles. Crocker had been the voice of Sky’s Football League games since the beginning of last season and combined this with Scotland international matches. With today’s Final taking place just weeks before a major tournament, international fixtures took place across the same weekend and thus meant Crocker had to miss his first Scottish international for many years in order to commentate in Cardiff. Rob Hawthorne took his place in Edinburgh. Commentating with Crocker was Garry Birtles who was working on his first Play Off Final for Sky having joined at the beginning of the campaign, taking over from Alvin Martin who did this fixture a year ago. Birtles quickly established himself as a key part of Sky’s coverage of the Football League and Champions League, with his distinctive Nottingham accent and strong opinions. Prior to Sky he worked for local radio in his hometown for many years. As is tradition for major Finals, Sky deployed two pitchside reporters; broadly covering one team each although this wasn’t strictly adhered to 100%. Generally, Guy Havord was with the Bristol City team whilst Fraser Robertson interviewed Brighton. Havord and Robertson would do all three Finals this weekend, just as they did last year. Robertson covered the majority of the Division One matches this season, whilst Havord was Sky’s man on the sidelines for the ten Division Two and Three broadcasts as well as deputising for Robertson in the big League.

POF Graphic POF Crests

Pre-Match Coverage: This four hour broadcast would be the most comprehensively covered match the Albion had enjoyed since the first Live game back in 1983. Whilst we didn’t quite get build up from 11am today like at Wembley, we did receive Sky’s full treatment of this Division Two Play Off Final at the Millennium Stadium. Coverage came on-air at 2pm, an hour before kick-off, as the stadium began to fill up. Host George Gavin and pundit Chris Kamara were based in the corner of the ground in their glass box, a familiar location for Sky viewers over the past three seasons for showpiece events. The title sequence was a specially adapted Play Offs edition, with the usual theme tune of The Skids’ Into the Valley accompanying shots of classic action from yesteryear including the likes of Martin O’Neill and Peter Reid managing, and Paul Dickov and Steve Fletcher scoring, in past Finals. The introduction VT was very dramatic, the usual set piece from Sky’s top level coverage, in which the voice of the channel Bruce Hammal threw out emotive language to stir the emotions. “Fear me, my foe, for I know the ways of this chequered battle field!” This was followed by shots of the players arriving at the ground, making their way up the famous Millennium Stadium corridor, before we saw huge crowds gathering outside waiting for the gates to open in the glorious sunshine. “Brighton have sold more than 25,000 tickets. Their temporary home is the 7,000 capacity Withdean. They’re making a huge point about the need for a new stadium by arriving in so many numbers here today,” commented host Gavin. The stadium campaign was a huge part of today for the supporters and was long a feature of the television coverage which would continue in years to come. Sky Sports adopted flashy new 3D graphics for their Premiership and Cup coverage back in February but so far that hadn’t filtered down to the Football League which continued with last season’s set. However, an exception was made for this Finals weekend, which meant we got the full animations and flying name astons which were a marked improvement on the basic graphics of old. The blue and red backgrounds remained but didn’t quite cover up the entire length of the screen, instead animating in and out via a whooshing laser-like line. The trophy accompanied our hosts in the studio for the first part of the show.

POF Oatway POF Suits

As the players were taking a walk round the pitch to check out the conditions, reporters Fraser Robertson and Guy Havord caught up with a few of the players. Charlie Oatway told of how he was present this time last season as a fan, watching the club after he was named; QPR. They lost that day and he was hoping to be a bit luckier this time with the Albion. We also saw shots of Danny Cullip and Richard Carpenter getting fitted for their Cup Final suits in town, with the Albion opting for the smart wear in contrast to Bristol City’s tracksuits. A recap of the Semi Finals followed, with plenty of late drama across both ties as City overcame Hartlepool and the Seagulls swooped on Swindon via the shoot-out. Fraser Robertson brought us the team line up for the Albion whilst Guy Havord delivered the Bristol City news, which was dissected by Kamara in the studio. Of Leon Knight his criticism centred around the lack of consistency and enthusiasm, saying if he was up for it more often he’d still have been playing at the higher level where his career began. After the break, our other studio guest was able to make it through the crowds as Gordon Strachan joined the team. He opened with stating this is “the most exciting weekend of the season, ‘cos the League’s been boring, Arsenal won that… even the Cup Final last week, that was boring!” He started as he meant to go on.

POF Two Shot POF Little and Large

Brighton’s striking duo, Leon Knight and Chris Iwelumo, were granted a VT feature together sat on the beach as they discussed their ‘little and large’ partnership, each other’s strengths and the Albion in general. Iwelumo, on loan from Stoke, was keen on extending his stay; “It’s been brilliant, it’s been such a good time for me just to play first team football again… Great bunch of lads, accepted me from the minute I walked in and I’d love to stay here.” To really emphasise the height difference, they pair went head to head on the seafront basketball court; Knight emerging the victor. Gordon Strachan is good friends with Mark McGhee and has kept an eye out for the club in recent times. “Speaking to him this morning, I got a hint of why they play the way they do. First of all, the two strikers are good so get the ball up to them. I think the midfield as a unit defensively are great, but as an attacking unit not that great at all.” He told of how his other teams have been more passing based and attractive due to the better players they had in midfield. We then heard from the man himself, Mark McGhee in conversation with Fraser Robertson in the tunnel. He emphasised the importance of concentration during this match after a hard slog of a year; “We’ve got young players who have had a long season, been introduced at this level, and they’re gonna be tested in that respect. They’re gonna be asked questions of their concentration, I think, that they’ve not been asked so far.”

POF Iwelumo Stats POF Coming Up POF Albion Support POF Tunnel

After the break the attention turned to Bristol City, whose fans were interviewed outside the ground in very confident mood. Their striker Christian Roberts recorded a VT in and around Cardiff, as he looked back on their LDV Vans Trophy Final victory at the Millennium Stadium last season and, perched in front of the castle, reviewed his winning goal in the Semi Finals a couple of weeks ago. He had to choose club or country for today’s fixture, with Wales facing Canada in Wrexham at the same time. Club won out and he started up front for Bristol City, particularly important for them given the absence of Lee Peacock through injury. Former Albion midfielder Danny Wilson was in charge of City, spending four years with us and now in his fourth year as their manager. We heard from him in the tunnel with Guy Havord. As we neared closer to kick off, the crowd filtered in and created an excellent pre-match atmosphere. The studio team commented on how good the stadium looked and what a great set of supporters both sides brought along with them. Host George Gavin asked for his pundits’ final predictions. Kamara went with Bristol City as they’re “the best footballing side and if Brighton play too direct, they’ll lose.” Strachan was more cautious, hoping for “a tight game, hopefully exciting and I don’t know what to say because they’re too terrific fellas.” He then joked “I’d like to get Mark through obviously, but I’m scared for his weight ‘cos every time he gets successful his weight balloons up!” And the scene was set, after the adverts the teams would emerge from the tunnel to the theme tune from Kill Bill and it would be time for our commentary team of Ian Crocker and Garry Birtles to take the reins.

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Story of the Match: With a sea of blue and white to the left of camera, the Albion supporters made themselves heard. The players were introduced to the dignitaries consisting of Football League Chairman Sir Brian Mawhinney, and representatives of the outgoing title sponsors Nationwide. The National Anthem was performed by Laurence Robinson. Brighton got the match off and underway kicking from right to left in the first half in their traditional blue and white stripes up against the red of Bristol City. “Stand up if you want Falmer!” rang around the ground in the early stages of the match, the Seagulls supporters aware they had their own job to do today in front of the cameras; to really hammer home that need for planning permission to be granted by John Prescott MP. Nathan Jones showed he was up for the match taking place in his home country, as he burst half the length of the pitch after some neat skill to drive the Albion forward. His frustrations at the lack of end product got him involved in a shoving match with opposition defender Louis Carey, with the City man raising his hands towards Jones and perhaps fortunate to escape a card. In goal Ben Roberts enjoyed a couple of early routine catches to give him confidence and get a feel for the match. He was present when City put four past us at Withdean back in November. The sun had the potential to cause problems for him and the players on the far side of the pitch, with the near side covered by the shadow of the retractable roof. “It takes a while for teams to settle in these games”, remarked commentator Ian Crocker inside the opening quarter of an hour. The opening half was marred by several late sliding tackles which culminated in Adam Virgo receiving the first yellow card of the match thirty-three minutes in. The resulting free kick came to nothing and this was typical of the football as a whole; extremely little in terms of goalmouth action with chances even rarer. It was tense, it was fraught and it was too close to call. The lack of quality was typified when Tony Butler, City’s defender up for a set piece, hooked his shot high and wide from just a few yards out. Even though it wouldn’t have stood due to a foul on Ben Roberts, it was still a terrible miss. Shortly before the whistle, the breakthrough so nearly came with the first real bit of quality. Leon Knight struck a superb free kick from the far edge outside the penalty box which cannoned off the crossbar and had the goalkeeper scrambling all ends up. Brighton couldn’t muster much with the follow up but what an effort from Knight, who had been quiet thus far. The teams went in goalless. The stats during the half-time coverage showed Bristol City to have edged it, with 56% possession, but perhaps with that warning sign from Knight, Brighton were in the ascendancy.

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Bristol City were slightly delayed making their way out for the second period as captain Tommy Doherty was being sick in the dressing room. He continued to play on. And Leon Knight wasn’t feeling too bright within the opening couple of minutes after a very heavy collision with Danny Coles left him requiring treatment from physio Malcolm Stuart. He too played on. The Robins were the first to make a change, as Scott Murray replaced Lee Miller up top on the hour mark. This was followed by an Albion substitution as Australian Paul Reid took Richard Carpenter’s place after a knock. Brighton were trying to push forward with Iwelumo leading various charges, but the final ball was really lacking from the Scotsman. A free kick from the half way line almost went all the way through but for the hands of City’s ‘keeper. The flick on nearly found Iwelumo in its path but the pace just beat him on. A further change for the Albion was made for the final quarter of an hour as Nathan Jones came off slightly surprisingly, and on ran John Piercy, a former Tottenham graduate. Piercy had been in and out of the side all season due to injury but was there when it mattered, scoring in the shoot-out win against Swindon to get to this point. He almost made an immediate impact in this match, floating in a cross from the left touchline. Iwelumo’s head met it but the power was lacking and the effort landed just the wrong side of the post. The crowd made their voices heard again and could sense Brighton grow in confidence and belief. With seven minutes remaining they were proved correct. Chris Iwelumo held the ball up on the right wing but with few options close to him he decided to attack the space in front. A ten yard dribble took him past one City defender before playing it on towards Knight, which displaced two more. Last man Danny Coles was vying for the loose ball with Knight, with neither able to get it under control. It left an opportunity for Iwelumo to pick it back up as he charged into the box. As Coles got up off the turf he swung a leg to boot the ball away but in doing so only whacked the leg of the striker and clipped his heels to bring him down. Penalty! Referee Richard Beeby was right on the spot, giving the signal for the foul. The pressure kick fell to top scorer Leon Knight. He did his familiar stutter before taking the kick, which was very well placed into Phillips’ bottom-right hand corner of the net. Goal for the Albion! Commentator Crocker called it; “Here he comes… and Leon Knight fires Brighton in front and fires the dream! The dream of promotion to Division One!” Summariser Birtles praised the striker; “As cool as you like there… Tremendous penalty.” It was penalties that got us to this point and it was now a penalty which looked like taking us up, Knight’s eighth successful spot kick out of eight this season – a remarkable record. The crowd of 65,167 watched on as the final few minutes ticked by all too quickly from the red side’s point of view. And they ticked by without incident, which meant Brighton were the winners. Brighton had won promotion to Division One. Brighton had done it via the Play Offs for the first time. It was a Knight to remember!

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BRIGHTON 1 BRISTOL CITY 0
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Post Match Coverage: “They’ve got what they hoped for. They’ve got what they prayed for. They’ve got what they came for. Brighton are promoted to the First Division, up, up and away!” were the words from Ian Crocker upon hearing the full time whistle. It was the cue for the players and coaching staff to rush onto the pitch to celebrate and congratulate the men in blue and white. They say promotion via the Play Offs is the best way to do it, and at that moment nobody with any connection to Brighton and Hove Albion would disagree with you. Just shy of an hour remained of the programme after full time, which gave plenty of opportunity to hear from the squad, analyse the key moments and bask in the Albion’s glory. The first player up for questioning was Chris Iwelumo with reporter Guy Havord. The striker was in his element; “Just look at this. This is what it’s all about. This is why you play football, for days like this. Unbelievable, I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.” Up next was the goalscorer, with reporter Fraser Robertson, in a humble mood; “I’m not a hero, it took eleven men out there plus the subs, the backroom staff. There’s no heroes in this team, we’re all heroes today!” Charlie Oatway was high on emotions but remembered the key message about Falmer; “It just shows you what we can get and it’s a shame that we haven’t got the ground and hopefully the decision’ll go for us and we’ll get this regularly, I’m sure we will.” The manager was collared by Havord for a brief chat before he had to be called away to collect the trophy. “It’s not a day for me,” he began, “it’s a day for the players, for the supporters. I’m thrilled for them, delighted obviously for myself, they’ve worked hard for it.” Whilst all this was going on, the stage was being set on the pitch for the presentation of the prize, with no steps to climb like at the old Wembley it was all done on the field of play.

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Mark McGhee led the squad up to collect their winners medals, each and every one of them. There are no losers medals in the Play Offs, only losers. With everybody in place, it was just left for captain Danny Cullip to go last and collect his before moving across to be front and centre for the big moment. “On the wings of a Seagull, Brighton are promoted to Division One!” The fireworks began to go off, the music started to blare out and the celebrations with the trophy could really get going. Champagne all round soundtracked by Sussex by the Sea. Ian Crocker once again summed it up perfectly by saying, “By no means a classic match, but a classic day and a day that will go down in Brighton and Hove Albion’s history.” The skipper Cullip was named the Man of the Match and made a direct appeal to John Prescott to listen to the people and grant planning permission for the stadium, with centre back partner Guy Butters following suit. Chairman Dick Knight was in amongst all the celebrations, getting his hands on the trophy as Havord interviewed him. Knight was an old pro at getting the message across in impassioned speeches and creative campaigning; “I feel so proud to be the chairman, what a wonderful day. Our fans have been brilliant, 30,000 people here today, the team were even better. They fought and they won the game and they deserved to win the game.” He continued “Brighton is on the football map, Brighton should have a stadium.” Nathan Jones’ interview was interrupted by jubilant players jumping in to celebrate with a very proud Welshman in Cardiff. What an incredible day to be a Seagulls supporter.

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Full credit to Sky for staying with the extended celebrations and not rushing off for an advert break, having gone uninterrupted from the start of the second half some seventy-odd minutes earlier. The scenes were unique for the Albion and those of us in the stadium wanted to savour every second of it and try to translate that back to the watching world. Voicing the pictures were now the studio team of George Gavin, Chris Kamara and Gordon Strachan. The latter was fully supportive of the Albion’s stadium bid in his own inimitable way; “You’re there to serve the community and the community are shouting ‘Give us a stadium’. OK there’s fifty people that might wanna save the greenback frog or whatever it is, or a couple of weeds, you know, for the green belt. But who cares about two frogs and a couple of weeds?!” And as the players inched towards the tunnel area on their half-lap of honour, it was time for Sky to take that advert break. Upon our return, cameras followed Mark McGhee and co into the dressing room whilst the players tucked into pizza and plenty of alcohol. An attempt was made to speak with Adam Virgo inside the dressing room but that was only ever going to begin one way; covered in champagne and food! When it had calmed down slightly, Fraser Robertson noticed the trophy had been slightly bent out of shape! Virgo saying, “I think Guy [Butters] sat on it, to be honest.”

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The closing portion of the programme was largely studio based, as the trio analysed the goal and got further reaction from both clubs. Praise was heaped on the supporters with Kamara saying; “The fans were the winners today, we were sat out there and it was a really great atmosphere.” The stats scrawled across the bottom of the screen to highlight just how tight the match was, with just a single shot on target for each side and possession shaded by the defeated team 53% to 47%. Gordon Strachan told of the huge importance of set pieces and good set piece takers. He praised Knight’s coolness and technique for the winning penalty as well as his free kick which crashed the crossbar. Mark McGhee joined the boys via an earpiece link-up from the tunnel, all in good spirits. The gaffer spoke highly of Iwelumo’s performance; “As a centre forward, Chris Iwelumo gives us something that we didn’t have all season. I said I think if we had had Chris, we’d be up automatically because I think we have a lot more to come.” He revealed the tactics used in the dressing room before the match to inspire the players, with a list of desired venues next season in Division One – Stadium of Light, Molineux, Upton Park – alongside a list of other names that were less desirable, and it was up to them as to where they would end up next year. After the final advert break of the day, attention turned to the Play Off Finals as a whole, with Mansfield against Huddersfield to come the following afternoon. We also heard from Danny Wilson, ever gracious in defeat but clearly heartbroken that he’s been denied in the Play Offs for the second year in a row and would go on to leave the club over the summer. And so, it was also time for us to leave as this fantastic programme concluded. This day, the memories, the penalty and the celebrations would live forever in the minds of Seagulls fans. How does flying high in the second tier again sound?

POF Trophy Winners

EXTRA; For coverage of the ITV Meridian Soccer Night Play Off Final highlights programme click HERE

PREVIOUS; #17 BRIGHTON 0-1 SWINDON 20/05/2004

NEXT; #19 LEICESTER 0-1 BRIGHTON 30/08/2004

#17: Brighton 0-1 Swindon 20/05/2004

#17 BRIGHTON 0-1 SWINDON (1-2 AET, BRI win 4-3 on pens) Division Two Play Off Semi Final 2nd Leg
Thursday 20th May 2004 Image result for

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PRESENTER George Gavin GUEST Ian Holloway
COMMENTATORS Ian Crocker & Garry Birtles REPORTER Guy Havord
7.45pm Kick Off; Withdean Stadium  7.30-10.15pm Football League Live Sky Sports 1 (Extended to 10.50pm)

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Context of the Match: If last Sunday was Brighton’s biggest match of the season so far then this match went one step further; the Albion were now one result away from the Play Off Final and a first trip to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. After an extremely tense and close fought First Leg at the County Ground, tonight was likely to be no different. Brighton held the advantage thanks to Richard Carpenter’s goal with twenty minutes remaining but Swindon warning shots were fired when both Igoe and Mooney hit the woodwork. The Robins were unbeaten in eight visits to Sussex prior to tonight, this was the 100th meeting between the two. Seagulls supporters would feel safer in the knowledge that this defence hadn’t conceded a goal for over nine hours and counting. Boss Mark McGhee was celebrating his 47th birthday this very day. Away goals did not count double in the Play Offs so if Swindon won tonight’s game by a one goal margin, extra time and, if necessary, the dreaded penalty shoot-out would be called upon. The victor knew they would go on to face Bristol City in the Final, after they overcame Hartlepool the previous night. It would be a famous Withdean night under the lights and full in the glare of the Sky Sports Live cameras. The Play Off Semi Finals drew to a close in Sussex, but only once a downpour of rain had begun around an hour prior to kick off. Would Brighton weather the storm?

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The Teams: Brighton kept the same starting line up and five substitutes from the victory away at Swindon last Sunday. That meant goalkeeper Ben Roberts was aiming for a club record-equalling seven clean sheets in a row, with protection provided by 1st Leg Man of the Match Danny Cullip and Play Off Finalist for Gillingham in 1999 Guy Butters. Indeed at home Brighton have only conceded two goals since Christmas. Local graduates Adam Virgo and Dan Harding were at full-back. In midfield Richard Carpenter’s goal decided the first match. The little and large duo of Leon Knight and Chris Iwelumo continued to forge a strike partnership since the latter’s transfer here a couple of months ago. Adam Hinshelwood (son of Director of Football Martin) and John Piercy were on the bench should the Albion require youthful legs, whilst the experience of Gary Hart, Michel Kuipers and particularly Kerry Mayo had seen this sort of big game pressure all before at the club. Swindon made two changes from their home defeat, with Grant Smith impressing as a substitute enough to start this one. He’s the son of Scottish striker Gordon, famous for his “And Smith must score!” moment in the 1983 FA Cup Final. The other switch was in midfield as Miglioranzi came in to replace David Duke who dropped out of the squad entirely due to injury. Although they were kept to minimal efforts on target on Sunday, the prolific strike force of Sam Parkin and Tommy Mooney would be the biggest dangers for Andy King’s men. The man with the whistle was the appropriately named Graham Laws.

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Presentation Team: As with Sunday and indeed all the Football League matches broadcast Live this season, George Gavin was at the helm. This was his final shift of a seven day consecutive run covering the Division One and Two Play Offs. His guest tonight was Queen’s Park Rangers boss Ian Holloway. His side was promoted in 2nd place in Division Two this season after missing out in the Play Off Final last time to Cardiff. Like with Tranmere’s Brian Little punditing on the First Leg, Holloway’s QPR had faced both Brighton and Swindon this season so was very well placed to call it. Brighton beat QPR at Withdean at the start of the season in front of the Sky Sports cameras but lost 2-1 to them at Loftus Road, whilst Swindon drew one-all with Rangers at home and also lost on their travels. This was around the time Holloway was first beginning to gain notoriety on programmes such as Soccer AM for his humour in press conferences and interviews and he would go on to feature heavily across multiple broadcasters down the years. In the commentary box at a rainy Withdean tonight were Ian Crocker and Garry Birtles. Crocker covered the First Leg alongside Tony Gale. Garry Birtles was on the First Leg of the other Division Two Semi Final – between Hartlepool and Bristol City. He was Sky’s second choice co-commentator and would be expected to cover the Division Two Final so it made sense for him to check out all four potential teams ahead of that fixture. Reporting on the touchline was Guy Havord. After a season commentating for the ITV Sport Channel, Havord rejoined Sky Sports as a reporter in 2002 and has been regular second choice on the Football League behind Fraser Robertson. During the regular season, Guy Havord covered all Division Two and Three Live matches and provided occasional cover for Robertson in the First Division. The pair of them shared out the Play Off Semis and both would be covering all Three Finals later this month.

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The Coverage: Tonight’s broadcast began fifteen minutes prior to kick off with George Gavin hosting again from Sky Studios in Isleworth, with QPR boss Ian Holloway as pundit. The build up was uninterrupted by adverts so there was plenty to get in before crossing to our commentary team. Gavin opened the show by explaining “It’s the last night of the Play Off Semi Finals. The biggest winning overall margin so far has been just one goal and that’s exactly the slender lead Brighton have over Swindon after their 1st Leg.” We were in for a close encounter. After a quick recap of that match, the other Semi Final in the Division – Bristol City v Hartlepool – was highlighted. We now knew the winners of tonight’s game would go on to face the Robins of Bristol in ten days time. We got a rare look insight the portakabin changing rooms at Withdean, which were leaking slightly due to the torrential rain in the hour or so before the match. The open surroundings for fans and players alike were going to add an extra element. Ian Holloway described his relief at not having to take part in these games this season, already sat waiting for the third team to join him up in Division One next time. He also discussed the terrible Withdean setting, having never won there, over shots of staff repainting the touchlines and digging as much water out of the muddy goalmouths as possible. In his interview with Guy Havord before the game, Mark McGhee used the conditions as a further reminder as to why the new stadium site in Falmer is so needed; “We’ve got thousands of supporters sitting over there in the open, and it highlights again the ludicrous circumstances we find ourselves in.” He also confirmed the approach would be to go out and play Swindon rather than sit back from the off. Swindon manager Andy King highlighted the importance of the first goal and signed off by giving a shout-out to a couple of serving soldiers in Afghanistan whom he spoke to before the match. The fans were also interviewed outside the ground, both sets in confident mood that their team would progress. The build up was complete so just before the teams came out our commentators were seen in-vision – a rarity on League coverage – to show the ‘glamour’ of the Withdean gantry.

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An addition to the graphics was the aggregate score tacked onto the scoreboard by the team names. As with Sunday, tonight there was a Division Three Play Off Semi Final match taking place at the same time; Mansfield v Northampton. Again, goals were shown during our match and at half time. The goals from that game gave the team something to chat about as there was extremely little to analyse from the first half in Brighton. There was a quick advert break in between the 2nd half and the start of extra time for viewers to regroup and calm those nerves. The scoreboard got extended further to add “ET” by the time. Once those additional thirty minutes were up we stayed with pictures from the stadium as our studio team talked us through until the penalty shoot-out could begin. Holloway did not want to call it either way. The game in Mansfield from Division Three was also going to penalties after they couldn’t be separated either, so we were informed of that result once our match had finally concluded. “It had to end like this didn’t it?! The incredibly dramatic week of Play Off Semi Finals that we’ve had,” said Ian Crocker. Once the spot kicks were taken and Andy Gurney’s decisive one crashed against the bar, our commentator cried “And Brighton held their nerve and against all odds there has been yet another twist in the tale in the Play Offs. They really do leave you breathless!” They sure do. The fans burst onto the pitch, leaving us with the great sight of Mark McGhee running towards the tunnel for dear life ushering supporters aside to no avail. And there it was confirmed on the graphics on the screen, it would be Brighton versus Bristol City Live on Sky Sports 1 from 2pm on Sunday 30th May 2004. All the Play Off reaction would come after a much-needed advert break. The concluding penalties from the Mansfield match were shown, despite a couple of technical issues, as they booked their place in the Division Three Final against Huddersfield at Northampton’s expense. Back in Brighton, Guy Havord grabbed a word with “speechless” winning manager Mark McGhee, admitting “we’ve mugged them completely.” We then heard from hero of the hour Adam Virgo, saying “I’m just in shock at the minute. A last-minute goal and win on penalties, it’s a dream come true really.” Ian Holloway talked us through the penalty misses and gave a rousing speech for the Swindon fans to regroup and take the positives for next season. The Albion fans were interviewed in buoyant mood. George Gavin reminded us of all three Finals to come as well as the weekend’s Cup Finals from England and Scotland and Sky’s first UEFA Champions League Final before pointing us towards the now-delayed FIFA Centenary Match which would follow this programme. He eventually was allowed to sign off, joking “I’m going away to lie down in a darkened room ’til the Play Off Finals in Cardiff! From all of us, bye for now.”

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Story of the Match: Brighton nearly undid their hard work from the 1st Leg just four minutes in here when a deep cross was over Ben Roberts in-goal and put behind by Charlie Oatway but almost ended up putting it in the back of his own net. The wet conditions played a part, with passes getting stuck in the mud and loose balls having to be dealt with cautiously. The fans made sure “Stand up if you want Falmer” rang loudly at every and any opportunity and around the advertising hoardings various slogans and reasons for the stadium were addressed to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who’d have the ultimate say on the matter. An almighty scramble in the box ensued in the seventeenth minute when a ball towards Parkin was half cut out by the defence, Roberts couldn’t get a safe pair of hands on it and the striker almost stabbed home. A couple of early warning signs for the Albion. Half chances fell for Adam Virgo at one end and Tommy Mooney at the other but the breakthrough was again proving elusive. Right on half time Matt Heywood had a header which seemed to go across the box rather than goalwards which caused a little concern but that was it for any goalmouth action here; nil-nil at the break. The second half was equally as tight, chances were virtually non-existent for so long. It wasn’t until the 70th minute that Brighton really came close through substitute Adam Hinshelwood. Nathan Jones cross to the back stick found the Hinshelwood unmarked, his half-volley was well saved by Evans in goal to keep the score level, turning it round the post for a corner. Eight minutes later Tommy Mooney turned Virgo, swung a leg and smashed the bar from twenty yards out. Swindon were pushing and at long, long last their goal finally came. Mooney again had a long-range shot this time parried out by Roberts to Igoe. His cross/shot was parried out by Roberts again, opposing players both slid for the ball but it scrambled over to Sam Parkin who could bundle it past the defender on the line from just a couple of yards out. Breakthrough for Swindon with nine minutes remaining. And that’s how it remained for the remainder of the ninety; one-nil to Swindon.

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After 180 minutes of football the scores were level on aggregate at one each, extra time was required in front of the highest Withdean attendance of the season. Both sides made a sub at the start to bring those all-important fresh legs on. A sub made during the ninety was to bring on Rory Fallon for the away side and after six minutes of extra time he had turned the tie around. Igoe won the ball back on the half way line and set Mooney free to charge forward. His angled pass found Fallon behind the defence who was able to lift it over the onrushing goalkeeper and in the goal for two-nil on the night and two-one on aggregate. Cue wild celebrations in the away end, once he’d got over the athletics track. The Albion’s fans thought the aggregate-equaliser had come just two minutes later through sub John Piercy’s drive from the edge of the box but he hit the side of the net rather than the back of it. Mooney had another chance just before the end of the half but his volley was straight at Ben Roberts. Swindon tried to waste time as early as the tenth minute of the extra period, and the match was held up further by injury to a key man in Sammy Igoe. Further half-chances fell for Chris Iwelumo, Adam Hinshelwood and Danny Cullip but time was running out for Brighton and quality as well as composure was lacking. The extra period was drawing to a close but, as commentator Ian Crocker noted, “The thirty minutes are almost up, Swindon fans. But you’re not there yet!” A long throw-in from Charlie Oatway was flicked on by Danny Cullip towards the penalty spot. There were four Swindon defenders nearby but it was Brighton-born Adam Virgo who showed the most determination, willingness and bravery to get there first. His diving header flew into the bottom right-hand corner of the net. A goal in the most dramatic of circumstances, added time of extra time after two legs couldn’t separate the sides. “In it goessss… oh it’s gone in! Brighton in added on time have snatched a goal through Virgo. Incredible!” was the cry from Crocker. And it was incredible! “Late, late, late drama” he went on to say as Adam Virgo’s equaliser on aggregate sent the game to a penalty shoot-out. Swindon would go first, with goalscorer Sam Parkin taking the opening spot kick, sending it high into the top corner for one-nil. Scorer of the only goal in the 1st Leg, Richard Carpenter, was first up for the Albion. He sent Evans the wrong way to level it up. Heywood was next, sending his kick down the middle with Roberts narrowly missing the block. With Leon Knight off the field after injury, the onus was on his fellow striker Chris Iwelumo to step up. His fine finish went above the ‘keeper to nestle in the corner for two-two. Tommy Mooney went next and having hit the bar in both matches, the pressure was on their Player of the Year. His penalty was excellently saved by a flying left arm to Ben Roberts’ right. Brighton would have the advantage if the next player scored. That’s exactly what young John Piercy did, driving it low and hard into the bottom right hand corner of Evans’ net. Rory Fallon levelled it up again for Swindon with the next kick but they were playing catch up now having gone first. Adam Virgo, the man who rescued the tie in the dying seconds just about ten minutes earlier, took Brighton’s fourth penalty. He smashed it in off the underside of the bar to put them in pole position. Swindon’s final penalty was to be taken by Andy Gurney. He stepped up to cries from the crowd of “Hit the bar, hit the bar, hit the bar!” He didn’t listen to that. He hit the post instead. It was all over, Brighton had prevailed. They had won their first ever Live televised shoot-out but much more importantly than that, they would be the ones to join Bristol City in the 2004 Division Two Play Off Final. A tie which swung both ways, twisting and turning, was eventually settled on spot kicks in a rain-soaked Withdean Stadium. Ten days from now it would be the Seagulls against the Robins in the Welsh capital. Next stop; the Millennium Stadium. All aboard!

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BRIGHTON 0 SWINDON 1
Virgo

1-1 on Aggregate after 90 minutes1-2 After Extra Time (2-2 agg). Brighton win 4-3 on penalties

Parkin, Fallon

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PREVIOUS; #16 SWINDON 0-1 BRIGHTON 16/05/2004

NEXT; #18 BRIGHTON 1-0 BRISTOL CITY 30/05/2004

#16: Swindon 0-1 Brighton 16/05/2004

#16 SWINDON 0-1 BRIGHTON Division Two Play Off Semi Final 1st Leg
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PRESENTER George Gavin GUEST Brian Little
COMMENTATORS Ian Crocker & Tony Gale REPORTER Fraser Robertson
4pm Kick Off; County Ground, Swindon     3.55-6.30pm Football League Live on Sky Sports 1

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Context of the Match: This was Brighton’s first foray into the end of season Play Offs since 1991 and that Final defeat at Wembley to Notts County. Whilst that match only featured in ITV highlights with Brian Moore’s commentary, today’s Semi Final at Swindon was given the full Sky Sports Live treatment. The Albion had finished fourth in Division Two, six points off QPR’s 2nd automatic promotion place, with Swindon in fifth place and four points worse off. As a result of the higher finish, Brighton would be at home in the second leg and supposedly have the advantage. Swindon possessed the most potent attack of the four Play Off teams and surprised most pundits by even getting to this stage. The Seagulls had dropped down from Division One after last season’s relegation and were looking for an immediate return. Leon Knight was the Division’s top scorer with 25 goals, joint with Stephen McPhee from a Port Vale side who missed out on this on just goal difference. The head to head record this season for the Robins and the Seagulls read as a draw at Withdean and a Brighton loss here at the County Ground, and going back further Swindon hadn’t lost to us in ten meetings. However as we’d already beaten the two sides who gained promotion, Plymouth and QPR, and both victories coming Live in front of the Sky Sports cameras, the mood was quietly confident ahead of this Sunday 4pm clash. As with all Live opportunities, fans used this to remind everyone about the club’s desperate need for the new stadium with chants and banners proclaiming Falmer as the only option – “One Site in Brighton”.  Whatever happened today it would only effectively be ‘half-time’ with the second leg to come on Thursday back in Sussex. It was sure to be a very close tie as the last of this season’s Play Off Semi Final 1st Legs got underway.

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The Teams: Mark McGhee made just one change from the side which won comfortably at Wrexham on the final day of the regular season, with midfielder Richard Carpenter returning in place of long-serving Gary Hart who dropped down to the bench. Top-scorer Leon Knight was leading the line with Scotsman Chris Iwelumo who joined in March. The core of the side that won back to back promotions under Micky Adams and Peter Taylor remained despite relegation last season, with Nathan Jones, Charlie Oatway and Danny Cullip starting whilst Michel Kuipers and Kerry Mayo were amongst the substitutes. Experience and strength at the back in the form of Guy Butters was complemented by skill and pace in midfield via new Australian signing Paul Reid for the Seagulls, who joined a few weeks ago initially until the end of this season. Ben Roberts in-goal had kept five successive clean sheets. Knight and Cullip were both in the PFA Division Two Team of the Season. The home side named former Premiership striker Tommy Mooney and Chelsea graduate Sam Parkin in their starting eleven. They provided a formidable 42 goal partnership up front, the best pairing in the Division. Defender Matt Heywood returned after an ankle injury. Andy King’s side look to cross at any opportunity so Brian Howard and Sammy Igoe on the wings would be ones to look out for. On the bench for Swindon was Grant Smith, son of Albion Cup Final striker Gordon. Premiership referee Neale Barry was in the middle.

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Presentation Team: George Gavin was Sky’s host. Presented from the studio, his guest this Sunday afternoon was Brian Little; a regular over the past two seasons but appearing slightly less now he’s back in management at fellow Division Two side Tranmere, whom he joined in October last year. He knows the League well, the Play Offs even better and it’s always a pleasure when he’s on punditry duty. You’re under the impression he and Gavin get on well which makes for much easier viewing. Little’s Tranmere had faced these two sides this season; beating both 1-0 at home but losing away. In the commentary box were Ian Crocker and Tony Gale. Crocker was firmly established now as the Football League number one, covering the vast majority of matches and only really missing out when logistics are against him. His fondness for a pun or a tabloid-style line make his goal calls all the more memorable and perfect for use on promos and clips. His partner today was one of Sky’s three regulars this season in Tony Gale. He’s a former West Ham defender who had been involved with Sky for a couple of years. He’s established as the League number three this season behind Chris Kamara and Garry Birtles. Reporting on the match was Fraser Robertson. He became Sky’s League reporter around November last season and covers the vast majority of the Live matches. Prior to this he reported for Sky Sports News and has also covered FA Cup Finals from the team hotels.

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The Coverage: The programme was due to begin half an hour before kick off but had to be cut right back until 3.55pm due to the overrunning programme preceding it. Sky Sports 1 had Live coverage of the 1pm kick off Conference Play Off Final between Aldershot and Shrewsbury which went all the way to penalties at Stoke’s Britannia Stadium. This meant there was just enough time to show the winning moments and trophy lift before coming off air in time for the start here. It would have been interesting to have seen what was planned to be featured during the proposed thirty minute build up, most likely a review of the Play Off action so far this week. There was still another match going on, in the Division Three Semi Final between Northampton and Mansfield, of which goals were being shown as they went in during coverage of our match. The five-minute build up included just a brief comment from Little and the only goal of the match thus far from Sixfields before our commentary team took over. Coverage was being presented from Sky’s Studios in Isleworth, allowing George Gavin to host all Play Off matches during this busy period. Sky increased their commitment to the end of season extras by broadcasting all four Division Two Semi Final matches Live this season – a first for the Third Tier. Previously only the four Division One Semis were shown Live, with the first dip into this level last year when the second leg of Bristol City v Cardiff was on. Titles and graphics remained as they had been for the regular season, with the red, black and white scoreboard style intro and The Skids’ catchy ‘Into the Valley’ instrumental theme tune. The replay transition was a very quick flash of the two team badges one after the other instead of the trophy that was used in the League season.

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Half time analysis fed on the scraps we saw in the first half, with chances mainly falling Swindon’s way. After reviewing those, the goals from the Division Three Play Off match were shown. With that a 3pm kick off the match was now over, finishing two nil to Mansfield. In the second half at Swindon Sky briefly pulled the plug on the match, losing pictures around the 66 minute mark, with Gavin and Little having to fill for a minute by showing one or two bits of match action until the engineers fixed the connection. Once the pictures were back it took another minute or so before the commentary line was restored too. Thankfully the problems here were nothing like the repeated interference on our previous Live match against Rushden in 2001! After the game, reporter Fraser Robertson interviewed goalscorer Richard Carpenter alongside Man of the Match Danny Cullip, who was awarded a big bottle of champagne courtesy of League sponsors Nationwide. Gavin and Little talked us through the key moments of the match, with particular focus of course on the deflected goal itself as well as Brighton’s excellent defending to keep yet another clean sheet. We heard from winning boss Mark McGhee who admitted “there was a certain amount of fortune” for his team with Swindon hitting the frame of the goal twice. He was pleased with the shape, giving Swindon limited options. He also confirmed Brighton would be going out for the first goal in the Second Leg to kill off the tie, rather than sit back and defend from the off like here. Swindon manager Andy King thought his “were the better side by far”, disagreeing with McGhee’s assessment. He was understandably frustrated by the loss and having more chances but just one on target was the crucial factor. The Town fans interviewed afterwards were very confident they could go to Brighton and overturn the scoreline. The final few minutes of the half hour post match was devoted to the Play Off picture as a whole before, soundtracked by the excellent ’77 Strings’ by Chamonix, signing off for the afternoon with all First Leg matches now complete.

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Story of the Match: Play started fairly tamely with very little goalmouth action either end. The atmosphere was the liveliest part of the first half, with Brighton fans behind the goal to the right of camera packing out the away end and Swindon fans in full voice elsewhere. Leon Knight was proving a bit of a handful for the defence, even managing to win flick ons and headers despite his 5ft5 frame. After the half hour mark Andy Gurney jinked past a couple of Brighton defenders before unleashing a shot which flew well wide and very high. And that summed much of the opening 45 up; a little promise but no end product. At the other end, Nathan Jones was looking particularly lively down the left-wing and managed to provide a couple of really decent crosses which came to nothing. With ten minutes remaining before the break Tommy Mooney was presented with a golden chance with a header at the back post which he put wide when it seemed like the goal was gaping. A covering defender’s lunging body was enough to put him off to keep it goalless. Sammy Igoe had the first effort on target after forty minutes for the home team, his long-range effort very comfortable for Ben Roberts in-goal. But three minutes later he came the closest of anyone when his neat one-two on the edge of the box gave him a shooting opportunity which flew past the ‘keeper only to be thwarted by the post. By the time the whistle went for half time Swindon were looking the better of the two. This didn’t carry on when the second half got underway, with Brighton on the front foot. But still the cutting edge was lacking and chances were frustratingly rare. Swindon grew back into the game and after 63 minutes hit the woodwork again! Igoe and Smith linked up on the left flank, with the latter crossing a very dangerous ball in for Mooney’s volley six yards out to crash against the bar, whilst Parkin’s follow-up was tipped over. The home side would really rue these missed opportunities as with eighteen minutes remaining it was Brighton who took the lead. Iwelumo held the ball up strongly in the area, laying it off for substitute Gary Hart on the edge. He couldn’t find space for a shot but did find Richard Carpenter twenty yards out who hit it first time and, via a slight deflection off (would you believe) Grant Smith, the ball ended up in the net. Breakthrough! The Albion gameplan for this Leg was all about defending resolutely and grabbing a chance on the break or from set pieces, and that’s exactly how it played out. Cullip and Butters were solid at the back, ably assisted in front by Oatway and Carpenter. Swindon couldn’t find a way through as the Seagulls completed the shut out for six clean sheets in a row. Advantage Brighton ahead of the decisive Second Leg in four days time.

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SWINDON 0 BRIGHTON 1
Carpenter

swi replay 1 swi replay 2

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NEXT; #17 BRIGHTON 0-1 SWINDON 20/05/2004