Small Screen Seagulls; The Record Unbeaten Run 2015

Small Screen Seagulls LogoAs a dismal season was drawing to a close, which included a change of manager half way through, little did any Albion supporter know about what the following campaign had in store. We set off for home after the final match of the season; a long, tiring journey from Middlesbrough for a 12.15pm kick off in May 2015 having witnessed a dull goalless draw. Approaching Christmas some twenty-one games later, the Seagulls had set a new club record having incredibly not lost a League match in that time, since before that ‘Boro trip. Chris Hughton had brought Brighton back into contention again in his first full season. Here is the lowdown of that run, including some of the key matches detailed through clips from new rights holder Channel 5.

FLT Unbeaten BrightonSaturday 2nd May 2015 saw the end of the BBC’s tenure as highlights partners, bringing the curtain down on six seasons of The Football League Show with Manish Bhasin. The best of the action from the three Divisions was moving to Channel 5 and with it a primetime Saturday evening slot. Brighton bid farewell to the Beeb signing off with a nil-nil draw at Middlesbrough. The result saw ‘Boro drop from third to fourth in the Championship, sending them to Brentford in the Play Offs.

GAME H/A DATE FIXTURE RESULT
#1 AWAY SAT 2ND MAY MIDDLESBROUGH DRAW 0-0

Whilst Albion had already stuttered to Championship survival, the stalemate saw them close the 2014/15 campaign in twentieth position, six points above the relegation zone. By some weird twist of fate, this unbeaten run would start and end with Middlesbrough. But before all that, I’ll detail how the 2015/16 season unfolded, after Channel 5 are put in the spotlight with the launch of their new highlights programme.

FLT Titles

Channel 5 wrestled rights to Football League highlights away from the BBC, with the promise of a primetime 9pm Saturday night slot believed to be part of the decision to sway. When the channel launched in 1997, to a blaze of Spice Girls publicity with Tim Vine fronting programming, they nabbed any football they could get their hands on, from pre-season friendlies, the Confederations Cup, Scottish League Cup and even a handful of England away internationals. It was their long-standing relationship with the UEFA Cup that was the most consistent pull but after losing those rights in 2012, Football on 5 came to an end after fifteen seasons. Three years later, the Football League highlights contract was won and the brand was revitalised.

Under the programme title of Football League Tonight, Channel 5 opted for a studio-based programme like their BBC predecessors. But instead of sticking it on after Match of the Day around midnight, they broadcast before it. The show went out Live in a ninety-minute slot from 9pm each week. There was a studio audience present to give it the Saturday night feeling, using Sky Studios as the initial location. The theme tune was provided by a band called Childcare with their single Diesel Therapy. It was appropriate that the Albion performed well during Channel 5’s tenure, as part of the title sequence was filmed at The Amex. The stadiums shots where the fans had been making their way to during the early seconds of the sequence was Falmer dressed down without the Brighton branding! See if you can spot specific areas in the clips below.

Upon the show’s launch, it drew criticism for gimmicks and pointless use of an audience and underwent a relaunch after Christmas 2015 to drop much of the early stuff, becoming a more straight programme. And it changed presenter line up with each season! But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, this piece is specifically about the Albion’s unbeaten run in 2015 and Channel 5 covered those highlights.

FLT Presenters

Presenting Football League Tonight’s debut season were Kelly Cates and George Riley. Cates was already a well-known figure and vastly experienced. She began her telly life with the launch of Sky Sports News in the late 1990s where she became a key presenter. She joined Setanta in 2007 to be pitchside reporter on their new English Premier League and FA Cup rights before moving to ESPN when they took over two years later. In 2010 she went to the World Cup in South Africa reporting for ITV and kept links with the channel the following season on the Champions League coverage. She also covered the hugely successful 2012 London Paralympics on Channel 4 as their breakfast presenter.

George Riley was better known for his radio work with BBC 5 Live, where he first began in 2004. He was the Breakfast show’s sports correspondent from 2011 and covered a variety of sports including Rugby League, snooker and darts as well as football. He also covered these on television, hosting the BBC’s Super League Show and presented Late Kick Off in the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire region in 2013.

As well as Cates and Riley, regular guest pundits would appear on the programme. Ex-Albion man Adam Virgo was used most weeks in the show’s first season and would often appear alongside less experienced pundits such as Clinton Morrison and Chris Iwelumo. And current players would pop-in to the Live studio after playing locally, as we’ll see a guest appearance from our old favourite Craig Mackail-Smith later on. A couple of key games received commentary edits each week, with the rest being rounded up by voiceover reports. The early format of the show saw the running order flip between the three Divisions but as it progressed, they settled more with the traditional Championship followed by League One then League Two way of reviewing the day. Here we go then, season 2015/16 starts now.

FLT Studio


#2 HOME FRI 7 AUG NOTTINGHAM FOREST WIN 1-0
#3 AWAY SAT 15 AUG FULHAM WIN 2-1

The Seagulls kick started the entire SkyBet Football League season with a Friday night match at The Amex, Live on Sky Sports. Nottingham Forest were defeated one-nil thanks to a Kazenga LuaLua strike early in the second half. The following week saw a trip to the capital as Fulham awaited. Sam Baldock’s goal on the half-hour mark was cancelled out just before half time by Tom Cairney for the hosts. But, deep into second half injury time, the Albion were awarded a penalty. Up stepped summer signing from Almeria, Israel international Tomer Hemed, to tuck away the spot kick to give the visitors all three points and seal another memorable win at Craven Cottage.

#4 AWAY TUE 18 AUG HUDDERSFIELD TOWN DRAW 1-1
#5 HOME SAT 22 AUG BLACKBURN ROVERS WIN 1-0

The first midweek fixture of the campaign was a long trip up to Huddersfield. It took midfielder Beram Kayal just fourteen seconds to break the deadlock and put Brighton in the lead. Jacob Butterfield’s second half goal earned the Yorkshire side a point, bringing our 100% start to an end. Next up at The Amex were Blackburn Rovers. Like Forest on the opening day, they were dispatched one-nil thanks to a LuaLua goal to make it three wins and a draw from the opening four. Our overall unbeaten run stretched to five matches.


#6 AWAY SAT 29 AUG IPSWICH TOWN WIN 3-2

IPS Tribute IPS Fixture

The top two went head-to-head at Portman Road in the final match before the first international break of the season. Ipswich led the way thanks to a better goal difference, with the experienced head of Mick McCarthy taking on his former Republic of Ireland teammate Chris Hughton.

Whilst things were looking great on the pitch, off it the club was affected the previous week by the Shoreham Air disaster; a plane crash which took the lives of eleven people. Amongst the victims were Seagulls supporters Matt Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, two young footballers for Worthing United who were on the way to their match. Grimstone had also worked as a groundsman for the Albion in recent years. Before the Ipswich game, Albion ‘keeper David Stockdale wore a top bearing their names in tribute and the players donned black armbands.

IPS LuaLua IPS Hemed goal

Brighton wore this season’s luminous yellow away kit against the blue of Ipswich. Highlights were shown as the main game on Football League Tonight with commentary by Paul Walker. The Seagulls again got off to a flyer, with Kazenga LuaLua firing home in the tenth minute on a beautiful sunny day in East Anglia. A long ball chipped over the top from new left back Gaetan Bong sent LuaLua on the chase. Outrunning two Ipswich defenders, he hit a fierce left foot shot low and hard into the far corner. Cue his trademark gymnastic celebration.

Albion made it two-nil just two minutes later when Tomer Hemed got the faintest of flicks with his head from a teasing free kick by Dale Stephens. It was a dream start which could have got even better when another long ball from Bong caught out the home defence. Sam Baldock at the stretch couldn’t quite get the angle right and his shot trickled a foot wide of the far post.

IPS Hemed second IPS Hemed interview

The attacking threat continued into the second half, with Dale Stephens crashing his shot against the post from the edge of the box. Ipswich should have been cut adrift by now but instead the clawed their way back into the match. Freddie Sears tapped home a rebound after Brett Pitman hit the post nine minutes into the second period. And they equalised from the penalty spot with twenty-five to play after Bruno clashed legs with Ryan Fraser. David McGoldrick squeezed the kick past Stockdale to level things up.

But Brighton didn’t let heads drop and just two minutes later were back in the lead through Tomer Hemed again. LuaLua’s deflected cross from the left looped up and Hemed jumped highest to get his head to it and take it past Dean Gerken in the net. A thrilling game ended Ipswich two, Brighton three and the Seagulls sat atop the Championship table. In his post-match interview, Hemed confirmed that he did touch the ball for his first goal from Stephens’ cross, though he would of course say that!


#7 HOME SAT 12 SEP HULL CITY WIN 1-0
#8 HOME TUE 15 SEP ROTHERHAM UNITED WIN 2-1
#9 AWAY SAT 22 SEP WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS DRAW 0-0

Tomer Hemed was back on the scoresheet for the Albion after the international break, netting the only goal of the game in a one-nil win over Hull. His strike five minutes in downed the Tigers who themselves had begun the season brightly and sat second ahead of the match. It was four wins in a row the following Tuesday when Hemed and Dale Stephens scored against Rotherham, Jonson Clarke-Harris getting the visitors consolation in a two-one result. A further point was added to the tally in a goalless draw at Wolves.

#10 AWAY SAT 26 SEP BOLTON WANDERERS DRAW 2-2
#11 HOME SAT 3 OCT CARDIFF CITY DRAW 1-1

Such was Albion’s fine start, that two more draws were enough to keep the Seagulls at the top of the table going into the next international break in October. An eventful two-two at Bolton saw Dale Stephens add another to his tally, but it was a mixed day for Jamie Murphy. The Scottish winger joined from Sheffield United in August and scored his first goal to put Brighton two up. Neil Danns pulled one back before half-time but Murphy was involved again with a quarter of an hour left. He received a red card for a heavy tackle on Danns. Ten-man Albion conceded the equaliser four minutes into stoppage time when Gary Madine rescued a point for the struggling side.

The following week at home to Cardiff, Brighton fell behind for the first time this season when Joe Mason scored after five minutes. Dale Stephens leveller seven minutes before the break ensured Brighton remained the only unbeaten side left in English football’s top four Leagues.


#12 AWAY SAT 17 OCT LEEDS UNITED WIN 2-1

LEE Fixture LEE March goal

Next up was a trip to Elland Road to face Leeds. Football League Tonight opened the show with the highlights, commentated on by Paul Walker. The first meaningful attack brought about the opening goal for Solly March on fourteen minutes, with the Albion again sporting that hi-vis shirt. Beram Kayal burst through a couple of challenges in the middle of the park and played a neat ball through for March to chase. His pace was no match for defender Scott Wootton, and March calmly slotted the ball across Marco Silvestri and into the goal.

Leeds were only behind for around eight minutes before Liam Cooper equalised. He glanced on Alex Mowatt’s cracking free kick delivery after Lewis Dunk’s foul on one-time Albion forward Chris Wood. Speaking of which, Wood had a terrific chance to nod Leeds ahead from a similar free kick position, instead putting it wide from close range and unmarked. In the second half, former Leeds season ticket holder David Stockdale in the Brighton net almost gifted his boyhood team a goal. Alex Mowatt charged down his kick only to see it bounce just wide of the post. A couple of let offs for the visitors.

LEE Zamora goal LEE Zamora interview

Solly March looked in good form, not afraid to cut in from the flank. He did so on one occasion which resulted in his shot from just inside the box thumping against the crossbar. An injury to Leeds scorer Liam Cooper left them no option but to play the final ten minutes or so with just ten men, having made all three subs. And Brighton capitalised with one left of the ninety, as returning hero Bobby Zamora scored a sublime dinked finish over the onrushing goalkeeper to steal three points at the death.

Zamora, signed on a free from QPR at the start of August, scored his first Albion goal in 4549 days having left for Tottenham back in July 2003. His previous goal was in a televised match at Grimsby where a point wasn’t enough to avoid Division One relegation. Today, it was enough to keep top spot in the Championship with another victory. Zamora was interviewed in the tunnel afterwards, delighted to have provided the winner. “Pleased to get that goal, you know. A lot of people have been asking, ‘When’s it gonna come?’, but pleased to score.”

LEE Mackail-Smith LEE Table

In the studio, hosts Kelly Cates and George Riley were joined by two former Albion players; regular guest Adam Virgo and Craig Mackail-Smith, who joined Luton after his Brighton contract expired in July. Of Zamora, Mackail-Smith said, “He’s a massive legend there. In the four years I was there, there were pictures of him everywhere, they were talking about him all the time so for him to go back to the club it’s fantastic.”


#13 HOME TUE 20 OCT BRISTOL CITY WIN 2-1
#14 HOME SAT 24 OCT PRESTON NORTH END DRAW 0-0

Three days after the Leeds win, Brighton made it six points out of six with a two-one home victory over Bristol City. Bobby Zamora was again on the scoresheet late on, though not quite as late as before, coming in the eighty-second minute. This was after Sam Baldock cancelled out City’s Derrick Williams first half opener. It was goalless at The Amex as Preston held firm in a game of little quality.

#15 AWAY SAT 31 OCT READING DRAW 1-1
#16 AWAY TUE 3 NOV SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY DRAW 0-0

Two more draws followed, both on the road, as Reading and Sheffield Wednesday were equal to the points. Despite being outplayed for much of the first half at the Madejski Stadium, Brighton took the lead early in the second period through Jamie Murphy. But with twelve minutes to go, Matej Vydra scored to make it one-one and keep the home side on the verge of the Play Off places. The stalemate at Hillsborough three days later cost Brighton top spot. The club slipped to third after three draws in succession, as Hull and Burnley both joined us on thirty-one points at the summit, though with better goal differences.


#17 HOME SAT 7 NOV MILTON KEYNES DONS WIN 2-1

MKD Fixture MKD Goal and reporter

The win over Milton Keynes Dons set a new club record of seventeen games without defeat, beating the previous one set back in 1931. All the action came in the first half, as rounded up on Football League Tonight by voiceover reporter Sue Thearle – a familiar voice to BBC Match of the Day viewers around the turn of the century as well as sports bulletins on BBC News. Solly March smashed home a terrific first-time strike from twenty-five yards after just five minutes. It flew into the top corner in style.

MKD Murphy goal MKD Full Time

Jamie Murphy doubled the lead a quarter of an hour later. Sam Baldock’s pass deflected through the legs of Dons defender Dean Lewington and into Murphy’s pass. His instant shot into the bottom corner of the net beat David Martin for two-nil. Pace and power was also how the visitors got their goal when Nicky Maynard thundered in a fantastic strike from almost thirty yards after rolling defender Lewis Dunk. Later on, Dunk looked like he’d given away a penalty when he slid in on Samir Carruthers but, to the bemusement of MK boss Karl Robinson, referee Dean Whitestone gave nothing and it finished two-one to the Albion. Brighton’s first win in four put the club in second place, behind Hull only on goal difference.


#18 AWAY SUN 22 NOV BURNLEY DRAW 1-1

A televised trip to Burnley was next, in which the entire action came and went within the first four minutes of the match. Bobby Zamora poached from close range inside the opening sixty seconds after Tomer Hemed’s shot hit the bar. But Burnley were awarded a spot kick three minutes later after Michael Keane’s shirt was tugged by Lewis Dunk. Their £6million signing from Brentford, Andre Gray, tucked away the penalty and it remained one-all; a result which kept Albion second and Burnley two points and three places behind.

BIR Unbeaten Run

#19 HOME SAT 28 NOV BIRMINGHAM CITY WIN 2-1

BIR Unbeaten clubs BIR March goal

Football League Tonight highlighted Brighton’s magnificent club-record unbeaten run ahead of the Birmingham match, of which highlights were called by Paul Walker. Of the eighteen games without defeat thus far, nine were wins and nine draws. The show also drew comparisons with other European Leagues, showing PSG behind on fourteen games undefeated and Bayern Munich on thirteen. Great to be in such fine company.

To the match action, and it took Solly March seventeen minutes to break the deadlock as he fired past ex-Albion stopped Tomasz Kuszczak. Jamie Murphy did well in the midfield, skipping through the middle of two challenges before laying it out wide for Liam Rosenior. His cross found March in the area; whose first time shot with his left was blocked by his own man Hemed. He made no mistake with the rebound though, blasting it home for one-nil.

Birmingham equalised four minutes later when space was exploited in the Albion back line. Jacques Maghoma struck from the right of the box, stinging the palms of David Stockdale. His parry went straight to the head of Jon Toral, who guided it into the empty net for one-one.

BIR Zamora goal BIR Hughton

Two minutes after the break, Brighton regained the lead through Bobby Zamora being in the right place at the right time. Jamie Murphy ran at the Blues defence on the left of the area and drilled a cross in low to find March. His shot was just about kept out by the goalkeeper, but the ricochet fell to the feet of Zamora who tapped home from three yards out on his first start at home for the Albion in a dozen years!

Youngster James Wilson joined on loan from Manchester United in the week and almost scored on his debut, flashing a shot just wide of the far post as he replaced Zamora after sixty-six minutes. He went even closer after that when put through one-on-one by Kayal. The shot agonisingly smacked the post and back into the grateful arms of Kuszczak. It finished two-one as Brighton got back to winning ways.

Despite continuing to set a new club record and returning to the top of the table, Chris Hughton’s feet remained firmly on the ground at this stage. “It’s a wonderful achievement, so far. I’m not saying we haven’t deserved this because I think our level of performance has been good. Generally, the League table doesn’t lie.”


#20 HOME SAT 5 DEC CHARLTON ATHLETIC WIN 3-2

CHA Virgo CHA Virgo and Cates

Regular studio pundit and former Brighton defender Adam Virgo provided Football League Tonight with analysis and comment on the key incidents across the Leagues, but also talked through one or two of the matches at first look on the screen instead of using a voiceover reporter. In December, Virgo and Kelly Cates discussed the Albion’s match with Charlton where the unbeaten run almost came unstuck. This format works well enough if you have a decent pundit like Virgo who describes and analyses seamlessly, but can be frustratingly lacking if a weaker pundit is used.

Charlton stormed into a two-goal lead after just five minutes. Ademola Lookman nabbed the first after just over a minute’s play as Brighton were countered. Winning the ball back just outside their own box, it took the visitors just three passes to get Lookman to drive to the byline before lashing a shot past Stockdale, defeating him at his near post and in. Virgo blamed Brighton’s lack of pace across the back line as a weakness for counter attacks.

The second came from Reza Ghoochannejhad and, again, resulted from a failed Albion attack, clearing it up the other end and scoring. A corner that wasn’t a corner was kicked away by the Charlton defence, two headers later they were breaking with pace. The ball eventually found its way to the back post where the goalscorer finished well to strike first time into the roof of the net from six yards. Two-nil at the break.

CHA Wilson goal CHA Zamora equaliser

Brighton pulled one back through James Wilson five minutes after the restart. Virgo believed the difference in character this season from last was leadership. With players such as Stockdale, Greer, Kayal and Zamora that had improved. The goal came about largely thanks to perseverance from both Stephens in the midfield driving the ball forward, and also from Wilson in the box. He kept going, dribbling past a couple on a mazy run, before hit shot squeezed through the legs of the goalkeeper and in.

The turning point came when defender Patrick Bauer was shown a red card for a last man foul on Zamora right on the edge of the area. Down to ten men for the final half an hour, Charlton tried but failed to hold out. Bobby Zamora bagged an equaliser with seven left on the clock, another case of right place, right time for the front man. After a couple of blocks from close range, the ball squirmed out to Zamora six yards out. He doesn’t miss from there.

CHA Hemed winner CHA Full Time

The winner came from Tomer Hemed just two minutes after getting back level. Dutch winger Rajiv van La Parra joined from Wolves on a five-week loan at the end of November and came on to provide the assist for the winner. His cross from the right found the head of Hemed, who flicked goalwards. Goalkeeper Stephen Henderson made a great reaction save to push it up but, unfortunately for him, the ball looped over and bounced into the net despite desperate efforts to claw it away.

As Virgo pointed out, “When you’re at the bottom of the League, that spins past the post. When you’re at the top of the League, Kelly, that tends to spin in. It’s a real dogged performance, second half, from Brighton.” Virgo also praised Hughton for changing tactics to three at the back after the red card and really going for the win, as an abundance of chances fell. The Seagulls remained top.


#21 AWAY SAT 12 DEC DERBY COUNTY DRAW 2-2

An entertaining contest in Derby’s four-hundredth match at their iPro Stadium as they shared the spoils with the Albion. James Wilson put the visitors ahead when his outstretched leg got the crucial touch to poke goalwards from Jamie Murphy’s cross on the left. Four minutes before half time, Derby got back on level terms through a powerful Bradley Johnson header. Substitute Rajiv van La Parra scored his first goal for the club with a quarter of an hour to play with a lovely finish to almost burst the net. But the win was denied with two minutes to go when a harsh penalty was awarded for Greer’s challenge on Johnny Russell. Chris Martin converted and Albion had to make do with a point.

#22 AWAY TUE 15 DEC QUEENS PARK RANGERS DRAW 2-2

Brighton raced into a two-nil lead shortly after the half-time break at QPR, in a midweek match televised Live on Sky Sports. Dale Stephens opened the scoring with a fabulous overhead kick from seven yards following a knockdown from a corner. Two minutes later, Rajiv van La Parra scored his second for the club to double the advantage. But Charlie Austin inspired the Rangers comeback, scoring either side of a Lewis Dunk dismissal for his second yellow card late on. The equaliser came just two minutes from time to make it two-two, both for the second game in a row, as Brighton slipped to second in the standings on goal difference.


END HOME SAT 19 DEC MIDDLESBROUGH LOSE 3-0

MID Fixture MID Two nil

The top two met in the lunchtime kick off at The Amex as leaders Middlesbrough were in town for another Live Sky Sports match. Football League Tonight led with highlights of this match and shared the Sky commentary from Bill Leslie and Don Goodman, as Channel 5 did with all televised Football League matches. ‘Boro got off to a flyer, taking the lead after four minutes through Kike. His strong header from Adomah’s cross was past Stockdale before he knew it.

On the stroke of half time it was two-nil. Grant Leadbitter’s corner was headed into the mixer by Daniel Ayala. Albert Adomah, standing just a couple of yards in front of the ‘keeper in a congested area, diverted the ball in past Stockdale’s despairing dive. The unbeaten run was under serious threat.

MID Full Time MID Virgo and Riley

Jamie Murphy had a couple of attempts in the second half to get Brighton back in it but is just wasn’t to be. With less than half an hour to play, Middlesbrough got their third courtesy of Christian Stuani. Starting with a corner on the far side, it fell to Kike in the area. His left footed curling effort was headed home by Stuani from just a couple of yards to complete a miserable afternoon for the Seagulls. Three-nil the final score, the unbeaten run ended after a record-breaking twenty-two matches. Aitor Karanka’s side secured the Championship Christmas number one.

In the studio, former Brighton defender Adam Virgo was looking to take the positives now that the run had ended. “I just think one or two performances this season, maybe around the seventeen, eighteen game mark where they were drawing, and I just thought the performances in the last twenty minutes was a little bit negative and they had this unbeaten record in the back of their mind.” He was critical of the Albion defending from crosses and set pieces which cost them the game but praised ‘Boro as a terrific side; “If you finish above Middlesbrough in the Championship, you’re going into the Premier League.”

MID Table


With Derby winning, the Middlesbrough result meant Brighton moved down to third in the table approaching the halfway point as the long unbeaten run came to a sticky end. But to go a whopping twenty-two games, and almost seven months of footballing action, without defeat was an incredible achievement. Even more so when you consider the dismal campaign the Albion had the previous year, stumbling over the safety line finishing twentieth in the League. Nobody had them down as promotion candidates. A summer of shrewd recruitment with a manager who knew how to get the best out of players and teams at this level were both vital components to this success.

Whilst the season didn’t go on to end as well as it had started, missing out on automatic promotion by goal difference alone before losing in the Play Offs once more, this set the marker for the following season. Keeping Brighton up last season was Chris Hughton’s primary objective. Getting them to become challengers for a place in the Premier League in his first full season in charge was perhaps too much too soon. He brought the good times back on the South Coast, and it all began here with the club record unbeaten run.

Small Screen Seagulls; Aldershot (A) 18/11/2000

Small Screen Seagulls 2000sBrighton negotiated a move back to Sussex to play at Withdean Stadium in 1999 and immediately took to the new, if unusual, surroundings. The first campaign there brought about the highest League finish for four seasons, ending the campaign in eleventh place in Division Three. Form towards the end was particularly impressive and had the season carried on for a few more games, the Albion might even had found themselves close to a Play Off spot. Things were on the up and, in Micky Adams, the club had a bright, young manager who resonated with players and fans alike. After starting the 2000/01 campaign brightly, a tricky trip to non-League Aldershot awaited in the First Round of the FA Cup. This garnered interest from BBC Match of the Day with the potential for a Cup upset on the cards. Could the Seagulls avoid national embarrassment and progress through?


Aldershot 2-6 Brighton, FA Cup Round 1; 3pm, Sat 18th Nov ’00

ALD Titles

Beginning in 1964 to help build the public interest in football ahead of the World Cup to be staged across the country two years later, Match of the Day went on to become one of the most iconic and recognised sporting television brands. The early years had highlights of one pre-selected game per week, hence the name, the show then expanded at the end of the decade to incorporate further matches on firstly a regional, then a national basis. By the 1980s there were three fixtures selected for extended action on MotD, before losing the top flight League action in 1988. For the following four years it was FA Cup all the way until the birth of the Premiership on Sky Sports in 1992. The BBC had the highlights of this exciting new Division and typically showcased the best of three games plus a goals round-up of the rest in both League and Cup. By the time tonight’s edition was on, in November 2000, Live FA Cup rights were with Sky and ITV but, curiously, highlights of the grand old competition remained with the BBC. Which brings us up to date ahead of this clash between Aldershot and Brighton. After seeing all the top flight goals, one match received the full MotD treatment from the First Round of the FA Cup and what better choice than the Albion? Gary Lineker presented from the studio at Television Centre in London, whilst Tony Gubba was dispatched to the corner of Hampshire to commentate on this potential Cup banana skin.


Match of the Day, BBC One, 10.30pm (Saturday 18th November 2000)

BBC One ident 2000 BBC Sport ident 2000

A mammoth one-hundred-minute Match of the Day was broadcast on BBC One in the regular 10.30pm slot on Saturday 18th November 2000. Earlier in the evening you could have seen Ant and Dec host Friends Like These after a bit of The Generation Game hosted by Jim Davidson. Classic Saturday night family entertainment, even with Davidson. The extended edition of the Beeb’s long-running highlights programme was to incorporate the best of the FA Cup action alongside the regular Premiership highlights, with a full round in swing. The famous globe idents were still being used and were followed by a quick BBC Sport sting before that unmistakable title music played. It was a big day of Premiership football, with both the Manchester and North East derbies taking place. Manchester United and Sunderland came out on top of those matches, respectively. Elsewhere Charlton defeated Chelsea, causing Alan Hansen bafflement at some of the Blues defending. And in the basement battle, Bradford remained rooted to the bottom after defeat at Derby. With the top flight action complete, attention could turn to the magic of the Cup. The first goals round-up came before the extended highlights of the Seagulls visit to this garrison town. Also making the trip would be commentator Tony Gubba, a regular across BBC’s sporting output since the 1970s. He covered every Olympics from 1972 and every World Cup from 1974. He also presented midweek highlights show Sportsnight for three years until 1975. Behind Motson and Davies in the football pecking order, Gubba would often cover more of the middle ranging matches but did voice a World Cup Semi Final in ’86 and the ’96 Charity Shield in amongst his wide range of other sports such as darts, ice skating and hockey. He was a true all-rounder.

ALD Lineker ALD Pundits ALD FA Cup graphic ALD Referee

Former Leicester, Tottenham, Everton and Barcelona striker Gary Lineker successfully made the transition from player to broadcaster after retirement in the early 1990s. He began as a pundit, making appearances on ITV during the World Cup whilst still a professional, before being given more regular work by the BBC when his playing career was drawing to a close. When he moved to Japan, he still cropped up on Match of the Day and BBC Radio 5 Live when available. He fully concentrated on his media aspirations after calling it a day in ’94 and wanted to go down the presenting route more so than sitting on the other side of the studio. He first big hosting role came in 1996 when he took over preview programme Football Focus from Steve Rider and went on to front Grandstand and Match of the Day as cover for the main hosts. His biggest gig came when Des Lynam transferred to ITV in August 1999 which enabled Lineker to step into the great man’s shoes and become the BBC’s face of football. He was joined in the MotD studio for this edition by regulars Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson. The former Liverpool defenders were long-standing members of the BBC football team. Hansen joined in 1992 for the re-launch of the new Premiership-based programme, having tried his hand in the studio for Sky Sports on their Sunday afternoon Italian football matches the season before, straight out of retirement. With his distinctive Scottish accent and erudite analysis, Hansen quickly became one of the leading pundits on television and was the corporation’s first choice. Mark Lawrenson also began his punditry career elsewhere before becoming a mainstay of Match of the Day, with appearances on ITV’s Welsh and West Country region, HTV West, as well as Sky Sports Soccer Saturday and European matches. He had a brief spell coaching at Newcastle in the mid-90s before returning to the television studio and radio gantries with the BBC. The pairing was now their first choice studio pundits.


ALD Aldershot

The story of today’s hosts, Aldershot Town, is one of hope from despair. Their predecessors, Aldershot FC, racked up debts they just couldn’t afford to pay back and were wound up in March 1992. In doing so they became the first Football League club to go out of business during the season since Accrington thirty years earlier. Aldershot regrouped later in ’92, adopted the Town name and began life as a football club five Divisions lower than their March position; Isthmian League Division Three. Fans stuck with them with big attendances and success came quickly as they climbed back up the pyramid. Two promotions in the first two seasons saw them compete in the Isthmian League Division One by 1994, and the Premier Division by 1997, the level where they were at when Brighton came to town. This was one level below the Conference. Manager George Borg took over for the 97/98 campaign and gained promotion in his first year and local Cup joy in subsequent ones. The star name in his side was veteran striker Gary Abbott, a non-League legend showing no signs of slowing down at the age of thirty-six. He built a name for himself scoring goals for Welling in the 1980s, joined the Shots in 1998 and won last year’s Non-League Player of the Season. He’s partnered up top by Wayne Andrews, a pacy twenty-two-year-old signed from St Albans in February. Captain Mark Blake began at Southampton before spells at Fulham, Shrewsbury and Cannes in France. Winger Mark Graham enjoyed Football League experience, spending five years at QPR before moving on to Cambridge. Substitute Stafford Brown had a three-month spell with Brighton at the start of season 1998/99.

ALD Brighton

Micky Adams brought his side to Aldershot sitting second in the Division Three table and on course for promotion. He’d built a consistent core team with three starting all eighteen League matches thus far. Amongst those were top-scorer Bobby Zamora, with ten goals to his name, all coming at Withdean. His strike partner Gary Hart was also an ever-present, as was left-footed right-back Paul Watson. He was also a dead-ball specialist, adept at free-kicks and penalties. Combative midfielder Charlie Oatway returned to the starting line-up after suspension, receiving a red card in the top of the table defeat at Chesterfield. Alongside him was Richard Carpenter, who missed two matches in the early stages of the season but has been immovable since returning. The same goes for Danny Cullip, a rock at the back. Matthew Wicks was his centre-back partner, a former Arsenal and Manchester United youth prospect who joined initially on loan from Peterborough before making the switch permanent this year. The defence ably protected Dutch goalkeeper Michel Kuipers, signed on a free transfer from Bristol Rovers over the summer. Captain Paul Rogers had top flight experience with Sheffield United and even scored the winner for Wigan in the Auto Windscreens Shield Final at Wembley in 1998. Options from the bench included Scouse striker Lee Steele, tricky winger Paul Brooker and solid centre back Andy Crosby. Refereeing the contest was Paul Rejer.

ALD Carpenter 1-0 ALD 1st penalty challenge ALD 1st penalty ALD One One

The Albion got the game underway in the rain sodden pitch, kicking from right to left in the first half. It didn’t take them long at all to settle into the match, scoring the opener after just two minutes. Charlie Oatway was tripped by Ricard Gell around thirty yards from goal. Paul Watson with his left foot and Richard Carpenter with his right both stood over the set piece. It was the latter who struck it and struck it well (above, top left). It flew around the wall and into the back of the net, goalkeeper Pape was nowhere near it. The perfect start and what a fantastic goal from Carpenter. Commentator Tony Gubba drew comparisons with England’s own free kick specialist David Beckham, adding “he won’t have scored many better himself.” Aldershot got right back into the Cup tie around twenty-five minutes when Danny Cullip fouled Wayne Andrews in the box to concede a penalty. Kerry Mayo cut out Protheroe’s forward ball, diverting it into the area. Andrews got there quickest ahead of Cullip, whose outstretched leg brought the striker down (above, top right). The Shots talisman Gary Abbott stepped up and blasted his kick straight down the middle but, crucially, high enough for Kuipers not to get a meaningful hand to it, just fingertips on the way through (above, bottom left). One-one and it was game on at the Recreation Ground.

ALD Zamora challenge ALD Watson 1st pen

The pace of Andrews up top almost put the home side in the lead soon after the equaliser. He picked up a pass around the halfway line before going on a lightning run through to the area. Matthew Wicks did his best to stay with him all the way and just did enough, with Andrews forced slightly wide his shot smashed into the side netting. Brighton then began to take control of the match and should have taken the lead through Bobby Zamora. He latched onto a fantastic Watson cross, the header just not quite on target as it smacked against the crossbar and out to safety. Very unlucky. He was not to be deterred though as he raced onto a Kerry Mayo ball over the back line. Zamora’s first touch took him into the box out on the left whilst his second put the ball past the outrushing goalkeeper. Pape had already slid in and his arms caught Zamora to bring him down for a penalty, this time to the Albion (above left). It may have looked a little theatrical but the contact was there and enough to send Zamora flying and hand the ‘keeper a card. Paul Watson stepped up and converted the spot kick expertly (above right), tucked into the corner low and hard to his right to give Brighton a two-one lead right on half-time.

ALD Second Half ALD Oatway ALD Oatway goal 2 ALD One Three

Into the second period and it didn’t take Brighton long to extend their lead, beginning the second as brightly as they had the first half. A positive drive down the left flank from Welsh wizard Nathan Jones gained territory. His cut back found Charlie Oatway in space some twenty-two or so yards out. He took two touches to get the ball out of his feet before looking up and curling a shot magnificently into the top right-hand corner of the net (above, top right and bottom left). What a sensational goal! The rare sight of an Oatway goal must have caught everybody by surprise, particularly the extravagant manner of it. Commentator Tony Gubba called; “Good strike! Ohhhh well done Oatway. It’s three-one now, Brighton and that might well knock the stuffing out of Aldershot.” The replay from behind the goal showed just what a strike it was, no chance again for the goalie. Oatway notched his first of the campaign eight minutes into the second half and the travelling supporters began chanting and singing his name.

ALD 3rd penalty foul ALD Watson 2nd pen

There was no let up from Brighton, keen to get the game beyond the reach of the Reds. Zamora tried a long crossfield pass to Jones, which was just cut out by Protheroe. His header sent the ball bouncing around and into the penalty area. Pape came to claim but lost possession in a tussle with Jones. The ‘keeper then proceeded to drag the Welshman down in the resulting scramble (above left), with referee Rejer under no illusions and awarded the third penalty of the match. Paul Watson again took the kick and again sent it flying into the back of the net (above right). It was identical to his first in that it was struck low and hard into the bottom right-hand corner past the stretched arm of Pape, the only difference was it was now at the opposite end. It was another fantastic penalty and surely now the game was beyond the non-League outfit. Four-one the score at the hour mark as the rainfall got heavier in Hampshire.

ALD Subs ALD Zamora goal ALD Wicks goal ALD Wicks celebration

A triple substitution for Aldershot prompted a response, with one-time Albion man Stafford Brown bundling the ball into the goal. However it was deemed unfair by the referee who adjudged the number fifteen to have fouled Michel Kuipers. He pretty much jumped into him as Kuipers claimed a routine cross, with the result that both he and the ball ended over the line. A double sub of their own saw Lee Steele and Paul Brooker on for Albion. And a fifth came shortly after. Gary Hart’s cross from the right bounced up off a defender in the box and landed kindly at the back post for an unmarked Bobby Zamora to nod home from just a couple of yards out (above, top right) with a quarter of an hour to go. It was his first away goal of the season. And the rout was completed following an Oatway corner late on. Gary Hart hung out a leg to meet it fifteen yards from goal. His touch fell to Matthew Wicks on the edge of the six-yard box who instinctively prodded home (above, bottom left). It just needed a little touch as the combination of the slick surface and the close proximity to goal was too much to prevent it going in.

ALD Consolation ALD Goalscorers

A six-one scoreline perhaps flattered Brighton a little, who had been by far the better side but took their opportunities better and stood firmer. As commentator Gubba pointed out, “As the rain continues to fall, Aldershot’s defence proving as leaky as their guttering.” The giantkilling potential had long gone but there was still time for the home fans to cheer something as they scored a consolation second with a couple of minutes left. Some nice work from sub Brown presented Abbott with the ball near the eighteen-yard line. His fierce shot stung the palms of a diving Michel Kuipers to force a corner. The resulting set-piece was swung in to the near post and temporarily cleared after a scramble. Left-back Chewins crossed it back in high towards the back stick. Waiting there was, of course, Gary Abbott who arched his neck and powered a header across the face and into the corner of the net. It was a great header and no more than he deserved having worked tirelessly all game in difficult circumstances. And so they pulled one back to make the final scoreline Aldershot two, Brighton six. It was excellent reading for Seagulls supporters; the upset was avoided and then some! The ghosts of the previous non-League defeats to Kingstonian, Hereford and Sudbury were banished for now. National television highlights coverage was one to savour rather than peer behind the sofa at. Micky Adams and his men were through to Round Two.


ALD Scoreline ALD Borg ALD Adams

In the post-match interviews we heard from Shots boss George Borg as well as their scorer Gary Abbott. Borg was disappointed at half-time to have conceded so close to the break to go behind but remained gracious; “All credit to Brighton they played very well today, knocked it around and we’ve got no complaints really.” Abbott agreed that the first half penalty was the turning point after putting up a decent fight. Micky Adams returned the compliments to the hosts, saying “I thought they were terrific today. On their day I think they’ll cause teams a lot of problems.” The teams were friendly at full-time, applauding each other off the pitch after a crackingly entertaining and open Cup tie. However, it was not to last for Borg who left Aldershot later that month. Micky Adams meanwhile continued to lead Brighton on to greater things and sealed promotion from Division Three at the end of the season with the title trophy secured in the process.

ALD Studio ALD Lawrenson

With so many games and so many goals to cram in, there was no time for any analysis on Match of the Day back in the studio other than a brief word from former Albion defender Mark Lawrenson. He played over 150 times for the club in the late seventies and early eighties before securing his big move to Liverpool where he became a household name. After the ten minutes or so of match action, Lawrenson said “It’s always nice to see your old team do well. If you consider, what, two or three years ago could’ve gone out the League and could’ve actually been playing Aldershot in a League match. They’re doing very well in Division Three, right manager in Micky Adams and long may it continue.” Hear, hear, Lawro. And that was it as far as the Albion were concerned for this edition of the programme. Lineker introduced the rest of the round-ups before the long night was over. Brighton’s progress in the FA Cup came to an end in Round Two with a two-one defeat away at fellow Division Three side Scunthorpe. Better things were to come but for now, that six-two scoreline would do very nicely thank you very much. Six of the best.

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.

#13: Grimsby 2-2 Brighton 04/05/2003

#13 GRIMSBY 2-2 BRIGHTON Division One
Sunday 4th May 2003 Image result for

GRI Titles

PRESENTER George Gavin GUEST Brian Little
COMMENTATORS Ian Crocker & Alvin Martin REPORTER Fraser Robertson
1.30pm Kick Off; Blundell Park, Grimsby     1-3.30pm Football League Live on Sky Sports Extra

GRI Promo GRI SponsorGRI Intro

Context of the Match: And so it all came down to this. A season’s work would be defined by one Sunday afternoon in May as Brighton’s position in Division One hung in the balance. Nothing but a win would do for the Seagulls if they were to avoid the drop away at already-relegated Grimsby. Even then, that may not be enough as a win or draw for Stoke City at home to Reading would send the Albion down and keep them up regardless of the scoreline here at Blundell Park. Brighton of course were no stranger to final day drama, in even more apocalyptic circumstances. In 1997, a last gasp showdown away at Hereford United decided which of the two teams would drop out of the League altogether. Robbie Reinelt’s equaliser at Edgar Street ensured Brighton’s Football League status on goals scored! At the time goal difference was not the primary decider, had it been then Brighton would have gone instead having picked up just six points on the road all season before that match. Nothing perhaps would ever beat that day for a sheer rollercoaster of emotions for the Albion faithful but this match would be sure to put them through the ringer once more. It was some achievement from Steve Coppell’s men to have even taken their fate to the final day, given the appalling start. Twelve defeats on the bounce left Brighton floundering at the foot of the table by the time Coppell had replaced Martin Hinshelwood in the dugout back in October. Form picked up ahead of our first Live television appearance of the season, a very creditable one-one draw away at Wolverhampton Wanderers, who would be taking part (and winning) in the Play Offs once today was done and dusted. Form was inconsistent and we could never really get a sustained unbeaten period, not managing more than four in a row. But three wins in February and two more in March gave Brighton real hope by the time our next Live appearance came round, away at Reading in early April. A quick-thinking free-kick and an extremely rare Paul Kitson goal gave the away side all three points and suddenly the great escape was on. Defeats to mid-table Preston and promoted Leicester put the brakes on the mini temporarily. The final two home games produced four further points as fellow relegation candidates Sheffield Wednesday were held whilst Watford, clearly already on the beach with nothing to play for, were blown away by a four-nil demolition; the biggest win of the season in more ways than one. Which took things to today, the final Sunday of the season. All matches would kick off at 1.30pm, with two Live on Sky. The title was already decided, that went to Harry Redknapp’s runaway Portsmouth side, with Leicester joining. The four Play Off teams were also known; Sheffield United, Reading, Nottingham Forest and Wolves. Grimsby would finish bottom and Sheffield Wednesday were confirmed as down too. So it was between Stoke and Brighton to determine which of the two would go straight back down having moved up from the third tier together. Sky’s main focus on Sky Sports 1 was at the Britannia Stadium as Stoke, three points and one place ahead of Brighton but with a worse goal difference, took on Reading, already assured of a top six finish. Whilst over on Sky Sports Extra, Blundell Park was in the spotlight. With only a win and a prayer to hope for, let the games begin!

GRI Grimsby GRI Brighton

The Teams: Veteran goalkeeper Dave Beasant, an FA Cup winner fifteen years earlier, continued to be between the sticks for Steve Coppell’s Seagulls. This was his sixteenth start since coming in during a ‘keeper crisis in February. In front of him were the experience of Dean Blackwell and captain Danny Cullip. Blackwell missed much of the first half of the season through injury and only began to get a consistent run in the side from February. Having missed the previous televised match at Reading and the following game against Preston, the former Wimbledon defender was back for the final weeks of the season. Paul Watson missed just one League match all season, back in December due to suspension. Left back Kerry Mayo started each and every game since the end of September and even managed a goal in November’s one-nil victory over Derby. Another February recruit, Ivar Ingimarsson, played in every match since signing. Shoreham born Simon Rodger scored on his debut in the first Division One win at Withdean, versus Bradford. Nathan Jones had almost as many appearances off the bench as he did starts on the wing this term, he hadn’t started since February. Gary Hart was the second longest serving player after Kerry Mayo, the pair were the only ones to have played over 200 times for the Albion. Bobby Zamora looked to add to his vital thirteen goals and he was supported by Paul Kitson, the man who got the decisive touch in April’s televised victory at the Madejski for his only Brighton goal. Arsenal and Ireland forward Graham Barrett and tricky winger Paul Brooker were amongst the attacking options on the bench, whilst if anything happened to Beasant it would be Will Packham’s job to keep goal. The twenty-two-year-old made just two League starts for the club, the last of which was on the final day this time last year with the title and promotion already in the bag. Grimsby’s player-manager – thirty-seven-year-old Paul Groves – picked himself in their starting eleven, having been in charge since December 2001. Their first win of an unsuccessful campaign came, of course, at Withdean when goals from Darren Barnard and Alan Poulton but neither were available this afternoon. Goalkeeper Danny Coyne was the only Mariner to play every match across all three competitions. Defender John McDermott had been on the books here since 1985. George Santos was one of three Sheffield United men to be sent off in an infamous match with Burnley last year when, coupled with injuries, an abandonment was enforced. His red card for a two-footed lunge came just seconds after joining as a substitute and boss Neil Warnock never selected him again. Stuart Campbell was the club’s joint top-scorer with six goals, sharing the spoils with loaness Steve Kabba from Crystal Palace and Sunderland’s John Oster. Kabba’s form was enough to earn him a move to Sheffield United in November but nobody was able to outscore him in the remaining months. Young Irishman Michael Keane wasn’t enough to save Grimsby from relegation when he moved temporarily from Preston on the March transfer deadline day. The referee for one last match this season was Clive Wilkes.

GRI Gavin GRI Little GRI Studio GRI Reporters

Presentation Team: Sky’s number one Football League presenter George Gavin chaired coverage of this final day special, with Gavin having presented virtually every Live broadcast from the three Divisions this season. In addition to that he also hosted the weekly Football League Review and early rounds of the FA Cup. The majority of Live League games were hosted from pitchside or in the stands at the stadium this year but as two matches were being covered simultaneously here, the studio was Sky’s base this afternoon. Joining Gavin was Brian Little. Born in Newcastle with a gentle North-East accent, the former striker spent his entire professional playing career with Aston Villa as well as a solitary appearance for the national team. After retiring he stayed with Villa as a youth team coach before moving into management with a brief caretaker spell at Wolves. He spent a couple of years at Darlington before enjoying his first success in charge of Leicester whilst still in his late-30s. After successive defeats in Play Off Finals, he finally gained the Foxes promotion to the Premiership in 1994. This led to him moving back to Aston Villa where he kept them up in the top flight and later went on to win the League Cup and qualify for Europe. After nearly three-and-a-half years in the Midlands he resigned. In recent seasons he spent around a year at Stoke and West Brom before dropping down to Division Three with Hull City where he came unstuck in the Play Offs once more but resigned last February with the Tigers well placed for promotion. Since then the media was where Little spent much of his time and forged a good partnership with George Gavin on the Review show. Despite Stoke being the main match today, Sky’s number one Football League commentator, Ian Crocker, was at the Albion’s match. This allowed former lead voice Rob Hawthorne an opportunity to cover the League again, as he and Ray Houghton were on the gantry for Stoke versus Reading. Hawthorne had recently helped share the load in a couple of Live Football League double-headers over Easter and would feature in the upcoming Play Offs too, with he and Houghton covering the Division Three Final and Reading’s Division One Semis. Ian Crocker was joined at Blundell Park by Alvin Martin. The former defender made his name playing for West Ham where he spent all but one of his twenty-one professional seasons, the other being at Leyton Orient. Martin also won seventeen caps for England in the eighties. After retirement he was Southend’s boss for two seasons at the end of the nineties. Since then he has been a regular commentator on Talksport and this season on Sky’s Football League broadcasts, behind Chris Kamara in the pecking order. Crocker and Martin would reunite for the Division Two Play Off Final later in May. Completing the line-ups were todays pitchside reporters Fraser Robertson and Guy Havord. Robertson became the main League reporter back in November and also covers the Republic of Ireland internationals for Sky. He was at Stoke today with Havord in Grimsby. Today was Guy Havord’s first appearance on a Live match back on Sky, having spent last season on the ITV Sport Channel as their lead voice of the Football League. He’s more familiar as a commentator there and prior to that for Sky on their Live Spanish football and non-Live 3pm Premiership highlights. He voiced a couple of clashing group matches for ITV at the 2002 World Cup before becoming a victim of the ITV Digital closure. Havord featured reporting on Sky Sports News on occasions before joining Sky here and becoming a part of their touchline reporting roster.

GRI Great Escape GRI Great Escape Brighton GRI Who Will Escape GRI Stoke intro

The Coverage: For the first time in the First Division, two matches on the final day were shown Live simultaneously. This allowed Sky to cover every eventuality from this relegation showdown, whichever team survived. The main focus on Sky Sports 1 was Stoke City’s match as the Potters had their destiny in their own hands. Should they slip up and lose then Brighton could take advantage with a win at Grimsby, and that was shown in full over on Sky Sports Extra. This channel was only available to Sky Digital viewers, meaning cable customers (such as I) were left viewing the encounter at the Britannia. Pre-match build up was hosted from Sky’s Isleworth studio and covered both matches, before splitting off and handing over to the two commentary teams five minutes before this 1.30pm kick off. Host George Gavin was joined by Brian Little, a regular in recent months on the Football League coverage having been out of management since leaving Hull in February of last year. The pair came on air thirty minutes ahead of the match, giving plenty of time to summarise the situation for both teams as well as a quick general overview of the Division as the regular season came to a close this afternoon. As soon as the titles were over, the introductory VT, which you can view at the foot of the page, paid homage to 1963 film The Great Escape, with either Stoke or Brighton completing that very thing by the end of the broadcast. The familiar soundtrack blared out over action shots of the two teams, culminating with the two managers and a caption of “Who will escape?”

GRI Fans GRI Final Day Fixtures GRI Havord GRI Robertson

The Albion fans shown queuing to get into Blundell Park were in confident mood, chanting “We are staying up!” but, as George Gavin pointed out, it was a tough ask; “They’ve got to win and then to hope.” Guest Brian Little explained how relegation on the final day was the hardest to take of all; “It really is a heartbreak day. Teams have known for a week or two, or more in some cases, that they’ve gone down and you learn to live with that towards the end of the season. But this today is a real tearjerker.” He believed how much more remarkable it would be if Brighton pulled off the ‘Great Escape’ given the positions they’re both in before this match, plus the awful start Coppell inherited from Hinshelwood. The League table outlined how tough it would be. The rest of the Division’s fixtures saw Champions Portsmouth travel to Bradford, Play Off candidate Wolves host Leicester and Sheffield United travel to Watford. With the scene set, it was time to head to the two grounds for some team news. Sky Sports reporters were present at both, with Guy Havord at the Britannia and Fraser Robertson in Grimsby. We headed to the Potteries first where it was blowing a gale, Havord’s hair flapping in the wind whilst delivering Brighton fans the good news that Nicky Forster had shrugged off injury to start for Reading. It was a much warmer day for Fraser Robertson as he delivered the Seagulls team sheets. Brighton were unchanged from the biggest win of the season the previous week whilst the Mariners made five changes to bring themselves back to full strength. Robertson said he spoke to some of the 2,500 travelling fans as they were arriving, many in confident mood but acknowledged that it was out of Brighton hands. He also spoke of how the Brighton fans associations were unhappy that additional tickets weren’t passed over with Grimsby failing to sell out the home ends. An extra three or four thousand Seagulls supporters were expected to make the journey without tickets, so it really could have been a full house on the coast.

GRI Manager records GRI Coppell GRI VT GRI Split Screen

Both Stoke and Brighton had employed a new manager partway through the season after struggling at the beginning, with the Potters bringing in Tony Pulis for Steve Cotterill. The two were brought in as rescue merchants to salvage the campaign and got similar results, winning just under a third of the League matches in charge. Little spoke of how good a job Coppell had done to drag Brighton off the bottom and within ninety minutes of survival; “After twelve games everybody thought they were well and truly in the Second Division so to have a chance today shows the sort of job that he’s done. Both lads have done terrific and unfortunately one of them’s going to be very sad by the end of the evening.” The centrepiece of the pre match build up was a VT featuring both managers discussing their chances. On survival, Coppell said “A few weeks back, and at various stages this season, we’d have given anything to be in this position,” whilst Pulis was confident that it was in his team’s hands. In terms of the overall season, if planning permission for the new stadium didn’t get the green light and relegation happened, Coppell saw it as a failure and a major issue but predicted brighter things if Falmer gets a ‘Yes’; “If they get the planning permission for the new stadium, this club will become a yo-yo club between the Premiership and the First Division.” He also stressed he was not interested in following the Stoke scoreline on Sunday “because all we’ve got to do is look after our own part of the equation”. Well that and a bit of hope, Steve! After a little more studio chat and an advert break it was time to make your choice; stay on Sky Sports 1 for the Stoke v Reading game in the company of Rob Hawthorne and Ray Houghton, or switch to Sky Sports Extra for Grimsby against Brighton with match commentators Ian Crocker and Alvin Martin. The Stoke match would have updates at the bottom of the screen with scores from the non-televised matches, whilst both games would show the goals of the other one shortly after they went in. Whatever happened, viewers would be kept fully up to speed with this final day decider. After the game there was only time for a very brief round up of the scorelines and the final table before switching to coverage of the day’s Premiership match between Arsenal and Leeds from 3.30pm. A one hour highlights show was broadcast after that, showing the best of both Stoke and Brighton’s matches as well as a couple of interviews with the key men involved as the regular Football League season came to a close.

GRI Kick Off GRI Comms GRI Harsh penalty GRI Zamora goal

Story of the Match: Albion wore their change kit of all red on the day they aimed to get out of the red zone and up to safety. They kicked off the first half shooting from left to right, attacking the goal in which the travelling support were situated behind and who made all the early noise. Gary Hart showed real pace in the opening exchanges to drive forward in search of the Brighton goal to calm the nerves. For Grimsby, striker Darren Mansaram was causing problems for the back line, needing a combination of Nathan Jones – sporting a bright blonde mohawk – and Kerry Mayo to wrestle the ball away from him in a dangerous position. The first chance fell the way of the black and white stripes, as Dave Beasant was forced into a smart low stop to keep Tony Gallimore’s deflected free kick out, whilst the rebound was blazed high over the top. In the twenty-second minute, the worst happened for Brighton as referee Clive Wilkes awarded Grimsby a penalty. Kerry Mayo, no stranger to final day relegation drama as his own goal at Hereford six years earlier showed, failed to control the dropping ball over his head which allowed Chris Thompson the opportunity to nick it past him. Mayo’s outstretched leg was a desperate attempt to salvage the situation but it was mistimed and a foul. However, the replay showed the contact was outside the box and should have actually been a free kick rather than a spot kick, to add to the Albion’s woes. Michael Keane, on loan from Preston, stepped up after a delay due to encroachment to send Beasant the wrong way and see the ball slide into the bottom left hand corner of the net for one-nil. As Alvin Martin pointed out on co-commentary, the positive was it was still early enough in the game to turn things around, with no news of a breakthrough in the other match either. As the end of the first period approached, Brighton gave themselves a lifeline through another penalty. No doubt about this one, as Gary Hart’s positive turn and push forward brought a rash challenge from Steve Chettle near the edge of the box (but definitely inside the area!). Hart was just able to get a touch on the ball to take it past Chettle who was committed and running at the Albion man with pace. The referee had no hesitation. Up stepped Bobby Zamora to coolly stroke the penalty low to his right, sending the ‘keeper in the other direction. One-one the scoreline at the break in Grimsby. At half time at the Britannia, Stoke were doing their job as they and Reading were playing out a goalless draw. The best of the action was in the Royals goalmouth but Stoke only enjoyed half chances, if that. They looked the more positive and from their point of view it was so far, so good.

GRI Cullip Goal GRI Radios GRI Stoke goal GRI Grimsby equaliser

With more work to do in the second half, Brighton began it as they ended the first – on top. Simon Rodger took a pop from long range which deflected behind for a corner early on. Rodger took the resulting set piece which found its way through a sea of bodies to bounce off Ingimarsson for Zamora to shape up on his favoured left foot. That hit a defender but fell kindly for Danny Cullip to swivel and shoot on the turn unmarked six yards out. His effort went through the defender’s legs on the line and in for a remarkable Albion turnaround two minutes after the interval. It was a really nice finish from the centre half, a captain’s goal on a day of huge importance for the club. Brighton were doing their job, they just needed Reading to do theirs down in the Potteries. The joy, and probably the hope, was short-lived though as news soon filtered through of the unthinkable. Final day wouldn’t be final day without fans glued to their phones and radios getting updates about another match. And sure enough, a difficult task just became nigh-on impossible for Brighton. Stoke had taken the lead against Reading ten minutes after the break. A free kick on the half way line from James O’Connor sent Lewis Neal to the byline. He crossed into the area first time where Ade Akinbiyi met it with a bullet header to fly past Marcus Hahnemann in goal. Stoke got their breakthrough, Brighton now needed a miracle. The atmosphere in Cleethorpes soon died down as Albion fans resigned themselves to the inevitable. The misery was compounded with just over half an hour to go when Grimsby got a slightly fortuitous equaliser. Stuart Campbell’s deep cross was hit back towards goal on the volley by Keane. Beasant palmed away but straight onto Richard Hughes who was lurking just a couple of feet away. He was in the right place at the right time as the ball ricocheted off his thigh and in for two-two.

GRI Final Whistle GRI Cullip

The final thirty minutes of the season was played in a flat atmosphere, as both teams knew they’d be meeting again next year in a lower Division. It almost got worse for Brighton when Chris Thompson crashed one against the crossbar after neat work from Campbell. If there was a moment to sum up how things went it came when Dean Blackwell’s attempted left footed cross was sliced horribly wide and into the Grimsby fans behind the goal, to huge ironic cheers all round. It just wasn’t to be today. In the end it finished at the Britannia with Akinbiyi’s strike the difference, ending one-nil. Congratulations to Tony Pulis and Stoke City, who survived their first year back in Division One. Full time then came at Blundell Park to close the Seagulls campaign with a two-two away draw and relegation at the first time of asking after fast tracking their way up the Leagues with two successive titles. A mini pitch invasion from the Brighton fans ensued, all good natured with promises to the cameras that we’d be back. Captain Cullip was mobbed as he went over to thank the supporters. Reporter Fraser Robertson spoke with him afterwards, broadcast on Sky’s highlights show after the Live Super Sunday match. He confirmed the disappointment; “To take it down to the last day, when a lot of people wrote us off in November, was testament to the players and staff at the football club.” Cullip relayed manager Steve Coppell’s words in the dressing room; “Get your heads up, he said ‘you’ve given it a good go’, go and relax over the summer and come back firing for next season.” Cullip believed there was enough there to bounce back next season but wasn’t going to be drawn about the futures of either Coppell or leading scorer Bobby Zamora – linked with a move to the Premiership for a long time – passing Robertson away saying he’d have to ask them that question. A quick look at the other scores on the final day saw Sheffield Wednesday beat Walsall to leapfrog Brighton into twenty-second in the table, as confirmation of Stoke’s win saw them secure safety. Champions Portsmouth signed off in style with a five-nil away win whilst Ipswich hit Derby for four. None of the four Play Off teams picked up a victory, with Wolves and Nottingham Forest drawing and Reading and Sheffield United losing. The final Division One table didn’t make for great reading for Brighton fans but there was enough on display from November onwards to give the supporters that little bit of hope again that next year maybe our year once again.

GRI Final Scores GRI Table top GRI Table bottom

GRIMSBY 2 BRIGHTON 2
Keane, Hughes Zamora, Cullip

GRI Replay GRI Goal

 

EXTRA; ITV held terrestrial rights to highlights from the three Divisions after securing a deal back in October of this season. This mean the return, after a few months off air, of their much loved round up show Football League Extra. This originally ran from 1994 until May 2002 when ITV Digital had to hand back Live rights as they went into liquidation. Whilst the dust settled on that and Sky Sports swooped to pick up the Live games at a knockdown price, there were no terrestrial television highlights of any Football League match for the first dozen or so matchweeks. Football League Extra was originally presented by Gabriel Clarke from the featured match that week, whilst voiceovers reported on the rest of the games. In the latter years of the nineties that role was filled by Dave Beckett and Angus Scott before Matt Smith took over for the 2001/2002 campaign. When it was recommissioned this season, the show featured three regular voices out-of-vision to link together the show; namely Tom Skippings, Trevor Harris and Tony Jones. However, for the final day of the season here, we got a rare treat; in-vision presenting from Skippings. The show’s usual slot was late Monday night slash very early Tuesday morning, once top flight and European highlights had been shown in the forms of The Premiership on Monday with Matt Smith and UEFA Champions League Weekly. For this edition, Tom Skippings hosted from Exeter City ahead of their fight to retain League status. The programme first focussed on the fight to avoid relegation in Division One, where Trevor Harris talked us through the key moments of the afternoon from both Stoke and Grimsby.

FLE Titles FLE Skippings FLE Harris FLE Zamora goal

The goals from the two crucial games were shown chronologically, intercut and with the minute of the match. Grimsby struck first with the penalty that shouldn’t have been. “It looked outside, referee Clive Wilkes thought differently” Harris said diplomatically. As the Seagulls were worrying, it cut to the jubilant Stoke fans celebrating that twenty-third minute opener from some 115 miles South-West. Next; “a pressure penalty for Bobby Zamora. No problem! Utter delirium on the terraces.” Danny Cullip’s strike to turn the match on its head shortly after half time gets better with each viewing. For those eight minutes, Brighton were just a Reading goal away from safety. But the killer came in the fifty-fifth at the Britannia; “Lewis Neal’s cross bulleted in by Ade Akinbiyi. The same Akinbiyi laughed out of Leicester, the same Akinbiyi vilified by the fans at Palace. But now an all-conquering hero to the vast majority of a twenty-thousand crowd.” The Seagulls fans had their heads in their hands and when Grimsby got a scrappy equaliser, the game was up. Harris summed it up when he said “They’d come in hope and they sung their hearts out but the damage was done early in the season. Four points from twelve games before Coppell arrived.” A couple of quick interviews aired with the key men, Tony Pulis at Stoke whilst we heard from both captain and goalscorer for the Albion; Cullip and Zamora. Steve Coppell was apparently too upset to speak so we didn’t get his thoughts on either the Live broadcast on Sky or any highlights shows. Bobby Zamora answered the question that had long been asked about his Brighton future; “I’ve got three years on my contract and if Brighton find it right to sell me and the right situation comes along then maybe things might be different.” Sure enough the great man was sold to Premiership Tottenham for £1.5million in July. The Albion would have to start again in August in Division Two.

FLE Stoke winner FLE Heartbreak FLE Cullip FLE Zamora

PREVIOUS; #12 READING 1-2 BRIGHTON 04/04/2003

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

#11: Wolves 1-1 Brighton 11/11/2002

#11 WOLVES 1-1 BRIGHTON Division One
Monday 11th November 2002 Image result for

WOL Titles

PRESENTER George Gavin GUEST Peter Taylor
COMMENTATORS Ian Crocker & Chris Kamara REPORTER Bryn Law
7.45pm Kick Off; Molineux, Wolverhampton     7.30-10pm Football League Live on Sky Sports 1

WOL Promo WOL Sponsor WOL Intro

Context of the Match: Brighton competed in the second tier of English football for the first time since the 1991/92 season, following back to back title successes under first Micky Adams and then Peter Taylor last year. The recent promotions came after a decade of decline which stemmed from the Play Off Final defeat at Wembley to Notts County in ’91. Subsequent seasons saw the Albion sink down the Divisions and almost out of the Football League in 1997, finishing 91st out of the 92 teams then and again in 1998 amidst huge upheaval and uncertainty. The move to Withdean for some temporary respite coincided with a massive upturn in form which brought us to this point; going toe-to-toe with the big clubs of Nationwide Division One. Teams such as Nottingham Forest, Sheffield United and Leicester were all now in the same League as the Albion, as were recent top flight clubs like Ipswich, Coventry and Derby. If the Brighton supporters were excited about trips to Portman Road, The City Ground and Brammall Lane ahead of the new campaign, they were certainly brought crashing back down to Earth within a few weeks. Twelve League defeats in a row saw Brighton’s make a disastrous start to the campaign, including a humiliating five-nil scoreline at Selhurst Park. It had started so brightly with a terrific three-one win away at Burnley on the opening day, followed by a goalless draw at home to Coventry the following Tuesday. But the rest of August and the whole of September and October brought about no further points. The run came to an end with a hard fought three-two victory over Bradford in the rain at Withdean to avoid a club record thirteenth consecutive loss last week but the Albion remained rock-bottom and several points from safety. Seven points from fifteen games was dreadful and the manager paid the price. Peter Taylor left the club in the summer shortly after guiding us to the Division Two title, citing a lack of a clear future as the final straw. The issue of a permanent home, poor facilities and minimal finances forced his hand just when things were looking up. Chairman Dick Knight decided to promote Martin Hinshelwood from youth team coach to the main gig. He previously took caretaker charge when Micky Adams walked out a year earlier but now he had the job full time for the first time. Hinshelwood’s playing career was cut short by injury at a time when he was starring in Crystal Palace’s midfield during their FA Cup Semi Final run in 1976. He struggled to get fit again and had to call it a day the following year, where he moved into coaching roles at the club and in the non-Leagues. But his inexperience showed and Brighton’s dismal run saw Hinshelwood moved upstairs to a Director of Football role during the October international break. In a surprise move, the man that came in to replace him was another man very closely associated with arch-rivals Crystal Palace; Steve Coppell. The former Manchester United and England winger, another forced into early retirement due to injury in his late twenties, had four different spells in charge of Palace over a period of sixteen years. He was the subject of a derogatory chant still used by Albion supporters right up to the time he was appointed and was in charge of the club’s heaviest defeat of last season when his Brentford side thrashed Brighton four-nil Live on the ITV Sport Channel. It was a shock for the fans that he was brought in and even reportedly fell asleep during his job interview. His first two matches in charge here couldn’t stop the rot, losing to Sheffield United and Crystal Palace, before the vital win over Bradford finally brought a bit of cheer. Tonight’s fixture was a different test altogether though, as a trip to Molineux to face Play Off chasing Wolves was selected for Live television coverage by Sky Sports. On the 11th November, would it be a Monday night to remember?

WOL Wolves WOL Formation WOL Brighton

The Teams: New manager Steve Coppell’s reign at the Albion hadn’t got off to the best of starts. During his first and so far, only win, against Bradford last time out, goalkeeper Michel Kuipers received his marching orders for a professional foul. However, he was available for tonight, with suspension not due to begin until after this match. In any case, that card was overturned and reduced to a yellow on appeal meaning Australian back-up Andy Petterson would not add to his eight Albion starts. Having joined in the summer he replaced Kuipers briefly during the terrible run, before the Dutch stopper returned at the end of September. Right-back Paul Watson and midfield general Richard Carpenter started every match thus far. Coppell brought about a change in formation in an attempt to shore up the backline, switching to a three-five-two and bringing in Robbie Pethick after almost two months out. Dean Blackwell joined on an initial month contract in October to slot in alongside captain Danny Cullip. Long-serving left-back Kerry Mayo and Paul Watson were deployed in wing-back roles supporting the midfield. Striker Gary Hart dropped back to the middle whilst new signing Simon Rodger played on the left of Carpenter. Rodger spent almost twelve years at Crystal Palace and was reunited with former boss Coppell a couple of weeks back. Winger Paul Brooker was suspended after a red card during the Palace defeat, whilst Charlie Oatway found himself relegated to the bench under the new manager whilst former skipper Paul Rogers struggled to force his way off the bench this term. Star striker Bobby Zamora scored in the opening day win but was out for six weeks with injury. He scored a brace last time out and provides Albion with that much needed star quality, having caught the eye of many scouts during the two title winning seasons. He was supported by young Irish international forward Graham Barrett, on a season-long loan from Arsenal. He got off to the worst possible start, sent off on his debut away at Portsmouth for an off the ball scuffle and only returned to the starting XI in recent weeks. He scored his first goal for the club in the defeat at home to Sheffield United. Options on the subs bench included former manager Martin Hinshelwood’s nephew Adam, highly-rated midfielder Steve Sidwell – another loanee from Arsenal – and forward Daniel Webb, son of ex-Chelsea defender David, back on loan for a second spell after some success last year. Dave Jones’ Wolverhampton Wanderers really should have been promoted last season, after throwing away a spot in the top two very late on. They occupied the automatic promotion places along with Manchester City from the start for much of the campaign, but the wheels came off completely during the final two months, with just two wins from the final nine games dropping them agonisingly to third as fierce rivals West Brom took advantage. They then lost to sixth placed Norwich over two-legs in the Play Offs. Their summer spending was huge ahead of that year but brought in very little this summer, with the marquee signings being free transfers Paul Ince from Middlesbrough and his former Manchester United teammate Denis Irwin. This sort of experience perhaps was required last time to get them over the line, with the club strongly tipped to achieve it this term. Irwin started tonight alongside Young Player of the Year Joleon Lescott and ahead of young local lad Matt Murray in goal. Ivar Ingimarsson played and scored against the Albion for Steve Coppell’s Brentford in January’s thrashing and joined after being released in July. Player of the Year Alex Rae was a battling Scotsman in the middle of the park. Irishman Mark Kennedy could strike a ball so hard with his ferocious left foot and started for the first time since April. Up top Kenny Miller and Dean Sturridge were a deadly combination, with the latter netting twenty-one times last year. Sturridge enjoyed a cameo appearance in Sky One drama Dream Team back in 1998 as himself. Taking charge of the match was footballer-turned-referee Steve Baines.

WOL StudioWOL Kick Off WOL Comms

Presentation Team: The previous broadcast team Sky assembled had all moved on since they last held the rights so a hastily arranged squad was ushered in to launch the season in August after securing the contract on the back of the ITV Digital debacle. Previous host Marcus Buckland had moved across to front the new pay-per-view matches on PremiershipPlus alongside George Graham last year, so former touchline reporter George Gavin stepped in front of the cameras to lead the new era. Gavin joined Sky in the mid-90s working as a reporter on the Premiership and FA Cup matches taking over from Nick Collins. Gavin had previously presented and commentated on BRMB in the Midlands on some hugely famous nights for Birmingham and Aston Villa, he also chaired a famously feisty phone-in show which is still looked back on fondly by listeners. He has also turned his hand to hosting tennis and fishing, amongst other sports, for Sky during his career and is the consummate professional. His Football League role this season was expanded in October to include a new Football League Review programme on Thursday nights, rounding up the action and previewing the upcoming fixtures from Sky’s chairless studio in Isleworth. Gavin was joined on the Molineux gantry by last season’s Albion gaffer Peter Taylor for tonight’s broadcast. Taylor had years of television experience, regularly being called upon to provide punditry and sometimes co-commentate for Sky on League, Cup and England matches. With his various roles across football – managing in the Premiership with Leicester, internationally with the England under-21s right down to the lower Leagues with us and Gillingham – he’s often in a good position to cover a wide range of matches. Taylor was back in management when he took charge of Hull earlier this month. In the commentary box, Rob Hawthorne had also gained a promotion since he was last the voice of the Football League between 1996 and 2001. Last season he took over Alan Parry’s role on the Premiership’s Monday Night Football coverage alongside new signing Alan Smith, with Parry and former League co-commentator Brian Marwood joining Buckland on the PPV channel. After four seasons of Scottish Premier League games, the SFA bungled the contract by snubbing Sky’s renewal bid in the doomed hope of setting up their own channel (which never came to fruition and they had to go to BBC Scotland with their tail between their legs). This left Sky’s English voice of Scottish football, Ian Crocker, free to step across to the Football League main commentator role. He would be joined in the box by a rotating group of co-commentators including Chris Kamara, Alvin Martin, Ray Houghton and Bryan Hamilton this season. Chris Kamara was in the commentary box tonight and previously covered the competition back in the 2000/01 season. From 2001/02 he also co-presented magazine highlights programme Goals on Sunday alongside Rob McCaffrey, ruling him out of Sunday games. Kamara’s Saturdays were taken up by reporting for results service Soccer Saturday, where he pioneered the in-vision updates from the stadium to complement host Jeff Stelling’s studio pundits. The touchline role went to Sky Sports News reporter Bryn Law for the first four months of the campaign, as Sky’s core team were assembled. Law was positioned in the North West for the News channel, particularly focussing on Leeds and his native Wales.

WOL Sky Sports WOL Coming Up

The Coverage: The broadcast rights to the Football League should have remained on the ITV Sport Channel, as they were last season, for at least two further years but that all went horribly wrong. The £315 million three-year contract, which was a huge increase on the previous one Sky Sports agreed, unfortunately proved too costly to sustain a subscription channel with the lower Leagues as the main attraction and potential customer uptake was vastly overestimated. Rumours began circling less than halfway through the debut season that the channel was in trouble, with parent companies Carlton and Granada placing it into administration at the end of March 2002. This was as a result of a failure to renegotiate the Football League deal to reduce the costs, rejected by the League, and the channel shut down and handed back the rights in May. In July Sky Sports stepped in to pick up the broadcast rights for the three Divisions at a bargain price of £95 million for four seasons; that’s £10 million less than what one season on ITV was worth. It highlighted how desperate the League was, with almost half of their clubs facing a real prospect of bankruptcy having gambled on ITV’s money. It was dire times for football in this country. Sky’s new deal unexpectedly brought the League back to their screens after a season away, having previously covered it for five years in the late 1990s. The new deal permitted seventy-five Live matches per season, which broke down as fifty regular season fixtures from Division One, ten from Divisions Two and Three plus Play Off matches including all three Finals. Following ITV’s lead, Sky would present the vast majority of Football League matches from the ground instead of their Isleworth studios like before. George Gavin would be joined by a whole host of guests standing pitchside or up on the gantry initially in a single-camera setup. The regular kick-off time was 5.35pm on Saturday evenings, allowing them to come on-air with a five minute build up and longer time post-match to round up the entire day’s action. As well as the new Saturday evening slot, the more familiar Friday and Monday nights would also be utilised. The pre-match build up was often short, understandably so given the late addition of the contract to Sky’s schedules in these early stages of the season. For Saturday evenings you had five minutes before the kick-off, whilst night matches were afforded fifteen minutes to preview. Tonight’s broadcast began at 7.30pm ahead of the 7.45 KO.

WOL Live fixture WOL Zamora aston

The coverage was sponsored by Sky Bet, featuring a group of fans watching the TV in their living room and cutting to dream sequences of what they would do with the money they’d make from winning bets. The new broadcast contract gave Sky a chance to bring in a new title sequence and theme tune. They opted for an instrumental version of the Skids’ 1979 punk hit Into the Valley. Probably their best known track, it had football connotations as both Dunfermline (the Skids local team) and Charlton (appropriately named home ground, The Valley) played it in their stadium. The titles began with black and white shots of Nottingham Forest’s wonderful City Ground and featured goals and match action from previous games interspersed with flashes of a bright red and white scoreboard. The scoreboard showed the trophy and League logos as well as key introductory text such as ‘Three Divisions’ and the name of the programme; ‘Football League Live’. The scoreboard flashed red and white to black and red to end with the programme name again. It was short and sweet and the track was an unusual but iconic choice. Sky’s graphics for the Football League were very similar in style to the Premiership ones introduced this season, but with a subtly more basic animation. Whilst their main ones had blue and white astons flying in from the left and right, the lines of text also flew in from the opposite side to give it a sleek animation, before exiting in the same manner. The League graphics didn’t have the text fly in separately and either just faded out of flew back out with the text and aston grouped. There were also entry and exit swoosh noises to accompany both sets. It was Brighton fan and TV critic Mike Ward who described them as having “those Dolby Surroundsound whoosing noises that frighten the dog!” Since the turn of the century, Sky’s graphics had evolved to be more complex, more stylish and incorporated greater use of computer imagery. This extended to the replay transitions, which now had the competition trophy crash into the middle of the screen whilst rotating. When goals were scored, the 3D club crest would do the same and they both looked excellent; a class apart from anything rival broadcasters were doing at this time.

WOL Zamora stats WOL Head to Head

With the single-camera setup, host George Gavin and pundit Peter Taylor were in-vision together for the majority of the time so whilst one was speaking, the other could still be seen when normally there would be a cutaway to focus solely on the person talking. This meant that invariably both would look directly at, and address, the camera like they do on American sportscasts, something which pundits rarely did in this country outside of Andy Gray. This was fine when the likes of experienced TV pundits Tony Cottee, Brian Little, Chris Kamara and Taylor himself were used but for newer performers it looked a little awkward and Sky would eventually get a multi-camera setup on the gantry as their coverage got more refined towards the end of the campaign. They began by highlighting Brighton’s terrific record against tonight’s hosts, having won ten of the fourteen previous League meetings. Though tonight was their first clash since 1991. Attention then turned to some of the key prospects; Dean Sturridge and Mark Kennedy for the home side and, of course, Bobby Zamora for the Seagulls. Taylor commented; “Bobby Zamora is an outstanding talent. He’s a tremendous finisher, he’s a lovely lad, he’s a great professional that’s gonna get even better. I’m very confident he will score at whatever level he plays at.” High praise indeed from his former boss. The stats proved just how good his goalscoring record was with Brighton, averaging two goals every three matches. An array of Zamora’s goals were shown to highlight Taylor’s points, including his finish in our last Live Sky match; the FA Cup victory over Rushden and Diamonds last season. Reporter Bryn Law spoke with both managers in the tunnel for their pre-match thoughts. Steve Coppell spoke of how he wanted his team to thrive against the big boys with expectation levels at a low; “It’s one thing that I’ve stressed to the players over the last couple of games – nobody’s expecting anything from Brighton in the position we’re in. So in a way, that takes the pressure off.” He also praised the workrate and commitment of the players on a day to day basis despite the awful run of form. George Gavin’s final words before the advert break were to remind us that Brighton have never won a Live televised League game. Thanks George! When they came back, the teams were waiting to emerge from the tunnel so it was time to hand over to commentators Ian Crocker and Chris Kamara. At half time Peter Taylor thought the Seagulls were good value for their lead; stating they “thoroughly deserve it, I think Brighton have been absolutely outstanding and been very, very hard to play against.”

WOL Coppell WOL Man of the Match

That lead was not to last though and after the final whistle ad break, Gavin and Taylor analysed the match for the final ten minutes or so of the broadcast. The full time stats that flew in along the bottom of the screen highlighted how the home side had more chances – twenty-three attempts with fifteen on target to Brighton’s ten shots and five goal bound – but the most important piece showed one-one. There was high praise for Bobby Zamora’s excellent chip over the ‘keeper, which was shown from every angle at every opportunity. They explained how important he was to Brighton’s survival bid, with the lack of goals when he was out of the side and the extra quality he brings when he’s in the team. On Wolves, they admitted it was close but they did up their game in the second half to fight back well for the draw. Taylor believed one or two Albion defenders were “a touch too deep” for the equaliser with a stroke of fortune coming via Miller’s deflection onto Rae deceiving the outstanding Kuipers. Reporter Bryn Law spoke with Steve Coppell to gain his understanding of the play, with the Brighton manager calling it a “hard earned” point. “I thought in the first half we were excellent. We played some terrific football, we laid out our stall to play a certain way but we still showed an awful lot of composure when we had possession.” He was proud of the effort of his players, particularly in the second half when they knew they’d be under increased pressure. The studio team also poured plaudits on Michel Kuipers for his Man of the Match performance, especially his incredible double save in the second half to deny two Wolves efforts. The former Dutch marine was then interviewed by Bryn Law where he was presented with his bottle of celebratory Champagne. Wolves boss Dave Jones kept his players in the dressing room for a bit longer than usual so there was no time in the Live broadcast to get his thoughts. The round up was completed by taking a look at the table, with Brighton still rock bottom and eight points off safety but slowly closing that gap. Wanderers remained in ninth, three points off the Play Offs. With everything said and done, George Gavin signed off with his traditional catchphrase, “from all of us, bye for now”, before the credits rolled.

WOL Fireworks WOL Minute Silence WOL Zamora goal WOL Bored Coppell

Story of the Match: The two sides ran out of the tunnel to a firework display on this November night. And with tonight being the eleventh of said month, a minute’s silence preceded the action to remember the fallen heroes of war. Wolves also took this opportunity to pay tribute to two former players who recently passed away; Cliff Durandt and Ron Hindmarch. Wolves, in their famous old gold shirts, got the game underway kicking from left to right in the first half. “Many do see this as a home banker,” began commentator Ian Crocker, “but football is rarely so straightforward.” So it proved as it was Brighton who made the better start taking the game to their hosts. Graham Barrett had the first sight of goal after eleven minutes. The striker, called up to the Republic of Ireland squad earlier in the day, held off Joleon Lescott in the area and swivelled with his back to goal. He kept the ball close to his feet to ward off two further defenders before unleashing a left footed strike early which almost caught Matt Murray out. The ball brushed the side netting. But Brighton weren’t to be denied and struck a breakthrough three minutes later. A loose ball just inside his own half was gathered by Danny Cullip to launch it long and forward. Lescott headed it back whence it came from where Richard Carpenter was waiting inside the centre circle. His first time cushioned pass caught the Wolves defence out, namely Mark Clyde, which gave Bobby Zamora something to chase. The seemingly harmless ball completely deceived the defence, and the viewers, as suddenly Zamora was clean through on goal with only Murray to beat. As the ‘keeper rushed out of his goal, Zamora calmly and expertly chipped it over his diving body on the edge of the box and into the back of the net. It was a fantastic finish from the star man for his fifth of the season. And he almost grabbed a second not long after. A bodged attempt at a clearance saw the ball cannon off Lescott’s face into Zamora’s path. Thirty-seven-year-old Denis Irwin came to Wanderers rescue though as he just about got in quick enough on the edge of the box to prod it behind for a corner, just as the striker was shaping up to strike. It was a vital interception as Zamora ended up striking Irwin’s boot rather than a ball, which actually caused a bit of pain on and off for the rest of the half. Barrett couldn’t quite get to the loose ball quick enough for a tap in to an empty net as it trickled behind. The first proper goalmouth action for the home team came from a Mark Kennedy corner over on the far side. Icelandic midfielder Ivar Ingimarsson met it with a good header from eight yards, fortunately it hit his own player, Dean Sturridge, standing in the centre of the goal. The rebound fell to the feet of Ingimarsson this time but his shot was smothered by the alert Michel Kuipers, ably protected by Robbie Pethick. Brighton’s formation change seemed to be doing the job, as players were defending well but also getting forward in their numbers. Nevertheless, Steve Coppell looked considerably bored when the camera cut to him sitting in the stands midway through the first period, head slumped against his hand! He wouldn’t be taking anything for granted. Gary Hart had a header saved by Murray as Brighton continued to create chances and restricted Wolves to long-rangers.

WOL Kuipers first save WOL Kuipers double save WOL Double Sub WOL Added Time

It was a credit to the Albion’s first half performance that the Wolves fans grew evermore impatient as that period went on. They began the second half a goal down but determined to put that right. Kevin Cooper fired a warning shot after four minutes when he dispossessed Dean Blackwell ten yards inside the Brighton half and burst forward. His shot on the edge of the box went just shy of the near post. That’s not to say the Seagulls spent the rest of the time on the back foot. An opportunity went the unlikely way of a Kerry Mayo burst when the back line opened up for the local lad to run through. His shot took a big deflection outside the area off Lescott which wrongfooted Murray and could have spun in any direction. As it was, it clipped the outside of the netting as it went inches wide. The resulting corner kick eventually found its way to the head of Danny Cullip, whose brave header was creeping in and had to be helped over the crossbar, which was missed by the officials. At the other end, Kuipers had to be on red alert as he could be called into action at any point; such was the open, end-to-end nature of this match. Just before the hour mark he pulled off a remarkable double save to deny first Alex Rae then Kenny Miller in a frantic few seconds. Marc Edworthy’s ball in from the right alluded everyone until Rae struck in the area with a nice curler. That forced Kuipers to get down low to his left to parry away. The quickest to react to the loose ball was Miller who pinged an effort towards the upper reaches of the goal that surely couldn’t be saved. Yet up came the outstretched, upright arm of Kuipers to deny him with the save of the match. To top it all off the ball fell straight into his grateful arms, what a moment! And the big Dutchman had to stand firm again just a minute later when Sturridge showed great pace and strength to run the ball in from the left touchline. He made the chance all by himself, bringing it forward from near the halfway line and not letting Mayo get near the ball. It left him one on one with Kuipers but the goalie didn’t commit himself and blocked off the effort to keep it one-nil to the stripes. With twenty left on the clock Wolves made a double change, bringing on Shaun Newton and Keith Andrews in the middle. It took just five minutes for the goal to arrive, in scrappy circumstances as Wolves pressure finally paid dividends. Another good ball in from the right from Edworthy found an unmarked Kenny Miller on the penalty spot. His volley took a big deflection off Rae standing just a yard or two in front. The touch was enough to take it past a despairing Kuipers and into the corner of the net for one-one, as Miller wheeled away and sighs of relief were breathed around Molineux. Brighton immediately responded with a double substitution of their own in an attempt to consolidate the level scoreline as midfielders Sidwell and Oatway came on for the final quarter of an hour. Adam Hinshelwood came on for the closing minutes as the packed Albion defence stood firm and resolute for an excellent away point. Brighton looked a whole lot more confident under Coppell and gave glimmers of hope that all wasn’t lost in this campaign despite the start. Onwards and upwards for the Seagulls, we hoped!

WOL Table

WOLVES 1 BRIGHTON 1
Miller Zamora

WOL Replay WOL Goal

PREVIOUS; #10 STOKE CITY 3-1 BRIGHTON 01/03/2002

NEXT; #12 READING 1-2 BRIGHTON 04/04/2003

#8: Brighton 2-1 Rushden & Diamonds 08/12/2001

#8 BRIGHTON 2-1 RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS FA Cup Round Two
Saturday 8th December 2001 Sky 1999

FACup2000 Titles

PRESENTER Rob Wotton GUEST John Byrne
COMMENTATORS Rob Hawthorne & Chris Kamara
12pm Kick Off; Withdean Stadium      11.55am-2pm FA Cup Live on Sky Sports 2

img_5617.jpg

Context of the Match: This was Sky Sports first visit to Withdean Stadium, the ground having housed Brighton for nearly two and a half seasons by this point. The Albion won the Third Division title the previous season and had started this one in fine form. They were one of the highest placed teams going into this FA Cup 2nd Round tie. Rushden & Diamonds had a similar story, albeit in the league below, as they had achieved promotion from the Conference up to Division Three last year and were going well again this season just outside the play-off places. They were also no strangers to FA Cup surprises having held Premiership Leeds United to a goalless draw two years earlier, and narrowly losing to Division One Sheffield United on penalties in a 3rd Round replay last season, both whilst competing in non-League. With Sky no longer holding broadcast rights to the Football League, this match was to be the only opportunity they got to see two of the lower league’s in-form teams in 2001/2002. The Live TV opportunity was again utilised by fans, this time to voice their support for the proposed new stadium site in Falmer; “Stand up if you want Falmer” ringing round during the match. It was to be the start of another long, arduous battle. To reach this stage of the competition Brighton knocked out Shrewsbury 1-0 in the First Round at Withdean, whilst Rushden & Diamonds won away at Worcester City by the same scoreline. A place in the Third Round awaited.

img_5620 img_5622 img_5621.jpg

The Teams: Brighton striker Bobby Zamora was grabbing all the headlines for his incredible goals tally; scoring in eight consecutive games. If he were to score for a ninth game today he would set a new club record. Commentator Rob Hawthorne’s team news were pun-laden focussing on it “reading like a Radio 2 playlist” with Rogers and Hart, Richard Carpenter and Nathan Jones all starting. Jones had enjoyed notoriety for his stepover trickery on Sky’s Saturday morning magazine show Soccer AM during the previous couple of seasons, showboating the ‘Rhondda two-step’ complete with mickey-taking Welsh voiceover in a mock Soccer School. Manager Peter Taylor had only been in the job a matter of weeks, after title-winning boss Micky Adams left in October to become Dave Bassett’s assistant at Premiership Leicester replacing, of course, the incoming Albion boss who was sacked after a poor start to the season at Filbert Street. Taylor had enjoyed a good start to his reign here, unbeaten in the League and only lost once; the midweek before today in the LDV Vans Trophy. He inherited a good squad, largely unchanged from last year’s success, with Simon Morgan brought in at the back to shore up the defence alongside club captain, and one of my childhood heroes, Danny Cullip. For Rushden & Diamonds, they lined up 4-4-2 with two players who featured at the last World Cup in France in 1998; Onandi Lowe up front for Jamaica, and Paul Hall in midfield. Northern Irish central defender Barry Hunter was a vastly experienced rock that Zamora, Hart and Brooker needed to negotiate past if the Seagulls were to progress. Rushden wore their yellow away kit and taking charge was ref Steve Bennett.

img_5618.jpg img_5616 img_5619

Presentation Team: The match was part of an FA Cup double on Round Two Saturday Live on Sky Sports, with Exeter v Dagenham & Redbridge at 5.30pm, and therefore was hosted from their studios in Isleworth. As mentioned above, Sky had lost Live Football League rights from this season (initially for three years but it turned out to only be one) to ITV Digital. Therefore the team that had covered the 72 outside the top flight had all been moved on to other roles; Marcus Buckland began hosting Sky’s pay-per-view football on Premiership Plus where Brian Marwood was the co-commentator forming a long partnership with Alan Parry, Rob Hawthorne was promoted up to Monday Night Football alongside Alan Smith, Alan Brazil left Sky to join Talksport in 2000 and reporter Alan Bentley changed direction completely to form a production company specialising in betting. Without a regular lower division team Sky called upon whoever they could for these early round matches. That opened up the opportunity for Rob Wotton to host, more familiar on Sky Sports News and (for this season only) Live German Bundesliga coverage. His pundit was former Brighton striker John Byrne, a regular contributor to local radio in Sussex watching the majority of Albion’s games. He was part of the Brighton side that struggled in the mid-nineties, and had the distinction of scoring in every round of the FA Cup for Sunderland except the final in 1992. A few weeks before this match, at the age of 40, he had turned out a couple of times for local side Whitehawk under former Albion teammate Ian Chapman. In the commentary box were Rob Hawthorne and Chris Kamara, survivors of the Football League Live years. Kamara began reporting for Sky’s Football League Review show in the 1998/99 season before moving to the studio and commentary box in the subsequent years. From 2000 Kamara was also co-presenter of Goals on Sunday next to Rob McCaffrey, where he would stay in the chair for the majority of his broadcasting career. Kamara was also a Soccer Saturday regular, and the first reporter to get his own in-vision camera (dubbed Kamara Cam) on location, laying the foundations for his excitable ‘unbelievable Jeff’ catchphrase. Kammy was a mainstay of Sky’s early round FA Cup coverage for years to come.

img_5623 img_5624

The Coverage: With the game being a midday kick-off, coverage began on Sky Sports 2 just five minutes earlier. This meant an extremely brief pre-match chat in the studio between Wotton and Byrne, where they were excited to see Bobby Zamora play, before handing over to Kamara and Hawthorne at Withdean to see the teams emerge onto the field. The title sequence for every season before and after this match for Sky’s FA Cup coverage was basically the same and used a version of Jerusalem as the theme tune. Tweaks were made to the pictures as they got updated over time with more modern goals. Sky had a new set of graphics for this season, ones which set their stall out for years to come as they got more and more modern and animated. This set marked the first real steps away from the simple fade in and fade out they had throughout the 90s. In their Premiership coverage, with these graphics the red and blue curves either side of the aston would fly in from the edge of the screen however a more simplistic fade actually appeared for this match. When the commentators names were revealed this was done by flipping over. The scoreboard would still disappear when a goal is scored however, and the replay graphic (pictured at the bottom) had been similar in principle for a couple of seasons now; flash up an image of the competition trophy over a colourful background.

For all the shiny graphics, the basics were letting Sky down during this broadcast. An early indication of this came just three minutes in when the picture faded to black and sound was lost for a couple of seconds. This was restored in time for Bobby Zamora to get the opening goal in the sixth minute however the celebrations may have dislodged some cabling somewhere as first sound, then pictures were lost in the eighth minute. Sky cut back to Wotton and Byrne in the studio to fill until normal service was resumed, meaning we lost about a minute early on, instead seeing a replay and Byrne’s analysis of the goal as Sky engineers scrambled frantically to restore the pictures. They went again just a few seconds later, and intermittently for only a few seconds at a time throughout the following few minutes. It was all hugely frustrating. An on-screen caption was put up for the first time in the fifteenth minute apologising for the ‘technical difficulties’. These had calmed down somewhat by the 20th minute or so but still sound dips crept in for the remainder of the half. Commentary went again with five minutes to go before half time, with Wotton and Byrne having to voice pictures for 30 seconds or so. Half time analysis provided respite from the technical issues, with another few chances to review the record-breaking Zamora goal. The issues did not continue into the second half thankfully and we could enjoy the sort of broadcast we had expected as the nerves began to creep in. The programme was scheduled to come off-air not long after the final whistle so there was no time for any interviews or reaction, so the reporter that day remains a mystery. It was most likely to have been Bryn Law who reported on women’s football and youth matches. It was Sky’s first visit to Withdean and Brighton’s first Live match of the 21st century, however the coverage and engineering was probably worse than Brighton’s first Live FA Cup home tie back in 1984. Sky needed to up their game as they would end up being frequent visitors to this ‘temporary’ home over the coming decade.

img_5625

Story of the Match: Both teams started the match brightly for an early kick-off but it was Brighton who would get the breakthrough goal after just five minutes with the first attack. It had to be Bobby Zamora, who broke the club’s all-time record for scoring in consecutive games – his ninth in nine. The ball was crossed into the area towards Zamora by Nathan Jones down the left-wing, goalkeeper Billy Turley went up to claim it but didn’t claim cleanly allowing Zamora to get his head onto it. As the loose ball was bouncing up cleared high into the air by the defence, Turley scrambled to get it away under pressure from Gary Hart and it broke for Zamora to just nod the ball home a few yards out for one-nil. Rushden were complaining of a foul from either Zamora initially or Hart on the loose ball, possibly both, but neither referee Steve Bennett nor the commentators and pundits were having it and signalled for the goal, Zamora’s eighteenth of the season. The rest of the first half went by without too many goalmouth chances but both Zamora and Paul Watson had efforts at goal. The second half started just like the first, with Brighton netting after five minutes. A throw-in from the right eventually found its way to centre half Danny Cullip on the edge of the Rushden area, who showed quick feet to turn on to his left foot, leaving the defender for dead, and curl a shot low inside Turley’s right-hand post for an excellent finish any striker would be proud of. It was Cullip’s first goal of the season and what a goal! Less than ten minutes later and Rushden would find themselves with a way back into the match as Cullip gave away a penalty. He was adjudged to have fouled striker Onandi Lowe by holding him across the neck during an aerial tussle. The ref gave it straight away but it seemed a little soft. Michel Kuipers in goal tried his best to delay the spot kick by tieing his shoe laces but Ritchie Hanlon kept his cool to smash the penalty into the bottom left hand corner of the goal for two-one, despite Kuipers getting a hand to it. A nervy last half hour ensued for the home team. Kamara commented shortly after the goal that “the crowd are giving Lowe the bird! But I don’t think he was feigning injury for that one.” A rare acknowledgement of crowd behaviour there! Kammy gave Cullip the man of the match award for his excellent display. Few threats came after that but three minutes into stoppage time Rushden really should have had another penalty after Charlie Oatway threw himself in front of the ball to block a shot which hit his arm, but the penalty wasn’t given. Brighton found themselves for the first time since 1993 in the Third Round, where Taylor’s men would host (and lose to) Division One’s Preston North End. Rushden & Diamonds fine form would continue all the way to the Division Three Play Off Final, which saw them lose out on promotion to Cheltenham. Whilst Brighton would feature in another two Live televised ties this season, starting with Brentford away the following month.

BRIGHTON 2 RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS 1
Zamora, Cullip Hanlon

img_5761.jpg

PREVIOUS; #7 CHESTER 1-1 BRIGHTON 15/01/1999

NEXT; #9 BRENTFORD 4-0 BRIGHTON 24/01/2002