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

#12: Reading 1-2 Brighton 04/04/2003

#12 READING 1-2 BRIGHTON Division One
Friday 4th April 2003 Image result for

REA Titles

PRESENTER George Gavin GUEST Ray Houghton
COMMENTATORS Ian Crocker & Chris Kamara REPORTER Fraser Robertson
8pm Kick Off; Madejski Stadium, Reading     7.30-10.10pm Football League Live on Sky Sports 2

REA Promo REA Ident REA Intro

Context of the Match: What a turbulent season Brighton had back in the second tier for the first time in a decade. Having lost Peter Taylor due to budgetary restraints after securing the Division Two title, new manager Martin Hinshelwood was moved upstairs by the start of October. When Steve Coppell was appointed he couldn’t halt the slide of twelve successive defeats and inherited an Albion side low on confidence rock bottom of the League. It took a couple of matches to get the team playing the way he wanted but results soon picked up. In the last televised match back in November, Brighton picked up an invaluable point away at high-flying Wolves and were fifteen minutes away from a shock win. A win against Derby and a point at Preston saw the club close the gap on those above and suddenly relegation didn’t seem quite so nailed on. Coppell brought in a few players of his own, changed the formations up and made them a more solid, resilient side. A win away at Norwich sparked an unbeaten January in the League, with Steve loanee midfielder Steve Sidwell chipping in with three more vital goals to support star striker Bobby Zamora. Yet the Seagulls were still on the brink of the danger places towards the foot of the table. A thumping four-one victory over Wolves got the ball rolling for a fantastic three wins in a row to close February with renewed hope. This was scuppered by a costly defeat at relegation rivals Stoke but the team spirit was clear to see in battling wins against Rotherham and Play Off candidates Nottingham Forest. Draws in the last two outings – away at Ipswich and at Withdean to bitter rivals Crystal Palace – meant the Albion came into tonight’s televised clash with Reading having lost just once in five. In contrast, Reading were in with a real chance of a Play Off place up to the Premiership in only their first season back in the second tier. The Royals finished runners-up to Brighton last campaign but nine draws in their final ten matches cost them the title. This was clearly something that had been noted had drawn just four League games in this entire season. Five wins out of five in February saw them soar further up the table into the top six but March was very inconsistent, with each win immediately followed by a loss. It summed up this topsy-turvy Division in which anyone really could beat anyone. Having won at Bradford last time out, form would suggest Reading were due a loss tonight. The clash was moved forward to the Friday, kick starting the weekend’s action, to be televised Live by Sky Sports. It’s fourth top against fourth bottom. Under the Madejski Friday night lights, who would emerge the victor in this Meridian regional fight?

REA Reading REA Formation REA Brighton

The Teams: Brighton suffered an almighty goalkeeping crisis throughout the second half of the season. Number one Michel Kuipers started the campaign but injury forced him out for two long spells. First Andy Petterson replaced him for eight games before recovering until the New Year. Then a second setback saw a number of ‘keepers taking to the net. Ben Roberts made a brief cameo on loan from Charlton for three appearances before veteran Dave Beasant made the move from Wigan for the rest of the season. The forty-four-year-old triggered a clause in his contract in order to make the switch to Sussex in persuit of first team football and grabbed the opportunity with both hands. In his ten starts thus far Beasant kept four clean sheets as the Albion picked up eleven crucial points. If the last line of defence was constantly changing, the manager enjoyed a settled group in front of him. Paul Watson, Kerry Mayo and captain Danny Cullip were amongst the first names on a Steve Coppell teamsheet. Dean Blackwell hadn’t featured due to injury for a while so Coppell brough in another of his former players; Ivar Ingimarsson. The Icelandic defender slash midfielder came in on loan from Wolves. His start tonight meant he had the distinctive honour of playing in three of Brighton’s last four televised matches – and for three separate teams; for Brentford last January, for Wolves in November and now for us tonight. In the middle of the park, long-serving Gary Hart and Richard Carpenter rose through the Leagues with the Albion. Tricky winger Paul Brooker scored the decisive goal in last month’s win over Forest. Up front, striking duo Bobby Zamora and Graham Barrett’s partnership had been hampered by the latter’s niggling injuries and spells on and off the sidelines. Former West Ham and Newcastle forward Paul Kitson was one of Martin Hinshelwood’s first summer signings but rarely featured due to a number of injuries. The lesser-spotted Kitson featured in just five matches, with the last coming off the bench back in January. Patience ran thin with the Seagulls supporters who had barely witnessed him in consecutive matches let alone see a goal from him, but was on the bench tonight nevertheless. He sat alongside Albion stalwarts Charlie Oatway and Nathan Jones, waiting to come on and make an impact. Alan Pardew’s fourth placed Reading kept largely the same side that won promotion from Division Two behind the Albion last season. Top scorer that year and this, Nicky Forster, was the key man up top. Jamie Cureton got the goal on the final day last May to secure second place at Brentford’s expense but began on the bench today. Glen Little, signed on loan from Burnley a few days earlier, got the nod in his place. Manchester United midfielder Luke Chadwick was drafted in on loan initially for a month back in February before extending it the deal until May. Right-back Graeme Murty has made more appearances for the Royals than anyone else this term and last. American goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann spent a short period on loan before joining permanently in the summer. On the bench was Steve Sidwell, who enjoyed a successful loan spell with the Albion in the autumn but were outbid by Reading when Arsenal sold him on permanently in January. Refereeing at the Madejski was Mark Cowburn from Lancashire.

REA Studio REA Kick Off REA Comms

Presentation Team: Sky Sports stuck with much of their team throughout the season that were hastily assembled in the weeks before the campaign began, having secured exclusive Live rights to the Football League at short notice in the summer. This followed ITV Digital’s collapse and liquidation, ceasing broadcast in May 2002 following the Live transmission of the Division Two Play Off Final. George Gavin hosted Sky’s Football League broadcasts, both Live and magazine programming. This was his busiest season to date for Sky, having joined in the mid 90s as a touchline and features reporter. With games being presented from the stadium, as much as possible this year, Gavin travelled the length and breadth of the country but so far had not taken in Withdean; both our Live matches had come away from home thus far. Joining him in the Madejski stands was Ray Houghton. The Glasgow born midfielder played internationally for the Republic of Ireland, scoring famously in World Cup ’94 and the winner against England at Euro ’88. His club career took off at Fulham before winning his first major trophy with Oxford in 1986, scoring in their League Cup Final victory. He then secured a move to Liverpool where he made the most appearances for the Reds than any of his other clubs, winning two League titles and two FA Cups in the process. At the start of the Premier League era Houghton was a major signing for Ron Atkinson, coming close to another League title in the first season. He later had spells at Crystal Palace and two years at tonight’s hosts Reading before ending his career in 2000 with Conference side Stevenage. He moved into media work with his distinctive Scottish accent, co-commentating and punditing for Sky Sports on Republic of Ireland internationals and Football League matches as of this season. He also became a regular voice on radio with Talksport. Houghton, along with Alvin Martin, would commentate on the League when number one Chris Kamara’s workload would not permit. This was usually Sundays, due to presenting Goals on Sunday, and some Saturdays, when he’d be at a ground reporting in-vision for results service Soccer Saturday. With this being a Friday, Kamara could take up his usual position alongside first choice Ian Crocker on the commentary gantry. The pairing covered our last televised match, the creditable one-one draw away at Wolves. During that match, Crocker pointed out Albion had never won a Live League fixture on the box. Quirky research, puns and enthusiasm were all key components to an Ian Crocker commentary, with his excitable, memorable goal calls often featuring in promos and adverts for upcoming matches. He made his name in Scotland and is very fondly thought of North of the border, leading Sky’s SPL commentaries for four years from 1998 before they lost the rights. Completing Sky’s broadcast team was a new name to Seagulls on the small screen – reporter Fraser Robertson. The Scotsman began television work on STV before moving to Sky in the late 1990s. He was a familiar voice on Sky Sports News reports and covered the 2000 FA Cup Final by reporting from the Aston Villa team hotel. Robertson joined the Football League team in November and has become the number one reporter since, replacing Bryn Law who began the season in the role.

REA Robertson REA Salako REA Reading form REA Little

The Coverage: Pre match build up began half an hour before the 8pm kick off, with Reading’s midweek matches usually beginning at this time instead of the regular 7.45pm start most others use. This extended the Sky coverage beyond the usual 7.30-10pm programme by an extra ten minutes or so. Still sponsored by SkyBet with those blokes enjoying a pizza and a gamble in their living room, the title sequence soundtracked by The Skids’ Into the Valley remained as it was for our last televised match at Wolves back in November. Host George Gavin introduced the programme by highlighting the contrasting fates of tonight’s two clubs; “They’re nervous, both sets of supporters, but for different reasons. Can Reading go up to the Premiership? Can Brighton avoid going straight back to Division Two?” With the intros done, Gavin brought in his guest for the evening, Sky regular Ray Houghton, up on the gantry. The studio coverage was still a single-camera set-up, meaning both were in shot when the other was speaking at all times and with a less experienced guest could make for slightly uncomfortable viewing. Houghton though was becoming well versed in telly since retirement. A glance at the table showed how precarious Brighton’s position was, out of the relegation zone on goal difference only and having played a game more than Stoke; both on thirty-seven points. There was a further six point gap to the team above in twentieth place – Derby County. At the other end, a win for Reading would move them one place up to third for the time being at least, though they’ve already played once more than current occupier Sheffield United as well as fifth placed Nottingham Forest. The Sky graphics were backed by Albion shirt sponsors, Skint records; their band Mighty Dub Katz and their track Let the Drums Speak, which I absolutely loved. The team news was brought to us by touchline reporter Fraser Robertson where the headline was Bobby Zamora’s return after two games out with a hamstring injury. The first VT piece centred around Reading, with their experienced midfielder John Salako talking us through their squad and the campaign overall. He was well placed having played under Steve Coppell and alongside Alan Pardew, both whilst at Crystal Palace. He singled out striker Nicky Forster for praise; “Great pace. I think Nicky would scare the life out of defenders and do really well in the top flight. I think he feels, at twenty-nine, that it may have passed him by but he’s got all the attributes and all the requirements to play at the very top level.” Reading’s form this season was documented, with 100% records in both November and February propelling them up the table. Manager Pardew spoke with Robertson on the touchline in cautious mode; “We need to have calm heads tonight and if we do that we’ll win… No-one gives up anything lightly, this is proper football tonight and looking forward to it.” Debutant Glen Little was in the spotlight, having joined from Burnley on loan; he’d be sure to be one to watch having already scored past us this campaign for his parent club.

REA Beasant REA Palm Reader REA Crystal Ball REA Zamora stats

When the attention turned to the Albion, the first man focussed on was the oldest; forty-four-year-old goalkeeper Dave Beasant. What followed can only be described as one of the most bizarre VT ideas in football as Beasant was sent along with Seafront to visit a palm reader! The full package is available to view at the foot of this post. With the Harry Potter music playing, Beasant was sat alongside this reader who predicted a bright future. “I’m very happy to see that you, and the people are you, are going to rise above where you are right now. I’m pleased to see that you and your team are going to do well because the outcome is what we’d all wish.” Presumably that wish being for this madness to end. I can only think that because of his big, goalkeeping hands they thought this palm reading idea up otherwise I’m really struggling. Because, after her empty platitudes (what else was she going to say? ‘I see you and your team being relegated by the end of the month’?!), Beasant had a normal interview in a normal surrounding. He told of the similarities between here and previous clubs; “The day I walked in the dressing room door at the training ground, the atmosphere in there was one that was very, very similar to what I left at Wimbledon all those years ago. It had got some characters in there; Charlie Oatway, Bobby Zamora.” Following this, the studio team analysed a man half Beasant’s ago; Zamora. Houghton was full of superlatives; “Fantastic player, a real livewire. Got all the ability, all the tricks and it’s tremendous news for Brighton this evening that he is fit and well and he looks like he really is up for this game.” His stats were displayed alongside him warming up, proving just what a huge part he played in the two title successes. His absence was sorely missed, with no wins this season when he didn’t play. The man trying to get the best out of him, Steve Coppell, then spoke in the tunnel to Fraser Robertson. He explained the team selections and the remaining games, taking his usual calm, measured approach to things. When asked why he believed they can save themselves from the drop, he responded with “I don’t know whether we can to be honest! If we’re good enough we can but that’s something we’ve got to prove over the next six games.” Sometimes he was a bit too honest. After a little more studio chat it was time to head for the adverts as kick off fast approached. Upon the return, the teams were in the tunnel and our commentators took over; Ian Crocker and Chris Kamara.

REA Infobar REA Coming Up REA Added Time REA MOTM

The Sky Sports Infobar at the bottom of the screen kept viewers up to date with the latest scores from the other match being played tonight; in Division Two between Northampton and Wigan. During half time, Gavin and Houghton looked back at the key incidents of the first period, which centred around the excellent decision making of Paul Brooker and Bobby Zamora to combine for the goal. The infobar showed Reading having had more attempts and corners but it was the goal that mattered most. George Gavin described it as “the cleverest goal you’ll see all season.” Houghton had no qualms over the decision to award the free kick saying it was a “definite backpass”. He did think Brighton rode their luck during the half at times and probably didn’t quite deserve a lead at the break. I think the 8pm kick off may have caught the schedulers out somewhat, as some listings had the programme down to finish at 10pm. As such, Sky actually continued until 10.10pm but did not take an advert break after the match, once it had finally finished following five minutes stoppage time and a referee change. This meant we got around ten minutes or so of post match reaction and analysis, beginning with a word from Man of the Match Bobby Zamora. On the unusual circumstances for the opening goal, Zamora explained his thought process; “It’s worth a try. You know, quick free kick and resulted in a goal – if he says no then we just take it again.” He paid tribute to the tireless defence for giving them a shout of survival before picking up the bottle of Champagne. The table made for much better reading for Seagulls fans, putting pressure on those above them now as well as inching clearer of those below. The studio team analysed the goals in more detail. Praise was placed upon Carpenter for his delivery in the second Brighton goal but the lack of marking of Paul Kitson was Reading’s undoing. Remarkably that was Kitson’s first goal since November 2001, when he scored a hat-trick for West Ham in their televised match with Charlton. Seeing the replay of the Cureton goal for the home team, the amount of swerve on the ball was evident. The surprising stat was the amount of corners; Reading having nine and Brigthon not a single one. But Beasant dealt with them all extremely well, commanding and claiming like the experienced pro he is. We also heard from Steve Coppell with Robertson. He said he could see Reading had the initiative as the final fifteen of the first half went by and wanted to quieten things down in the second, which is exactly what happened. Ray Houghton called for Coppell to be manager of the year if he kept Brighton up. After tidying up the other result from the night and looking at the League standings, it was time to shut down for the evening as George Gavin bid us farewell and “bye for now”.

REA Away fans REA Referee REA Quick free kick REA Brooker goal

Story of the Match: The Albion kicked off the match in their change kit of all red. It started positively with both goalkeepers getting early touches, with little concern. Referee Mark Cowburn signalled his intentions straight away by awarding Reading’s Steve Brown a yellow card in the fourth minute for a tackle from behind, forcing the centre back into having to be more careful for the entire match. The referee was involved again when the first real incident of note occurred after a quarter of an hour. Bobby Zamora brought the ball forward from the halfway line skipping past one defender before being dispossessed quite heavily by the next. A combination of Royals defenders then passed the ball back to goalkeeper Hahnemann who picked it up. Zamora appealed for the backpass, which the referee obliged with the indirect free kick in the area. The next thing you heard was the sound of the ball hitting the net and a cheer going up from the away supporters, whilst the camera had focussed in on Cowburn. It was a goal! The quick-thinking of both Bobby Zamora and Paul Brooker combined to break the deadlock in creative fashion. Once the kick was given, Hahnemann was being wrestled for the ball by Zamora. The ‘keeper threw the ball away but only as far as Paul Brooker on the edge of the box. He kicked it back to Zamora who was standing where the infringement took place, he settled the ball with his hand before tapping it to Brooker unmarked eight yards out who coolly slotted home for his sixth of the season, past the despairing dive. All this was done whilst Reading defenders stood around aimlessly, expecting the referee to disallow it. But he quite rightly deemed it a legitimate goal and it was their own fault for lacking concentration, just like the Sky match director in missing the goal Live. It was excellent work from the Albion, what a huge goal this was. It took Reading a full ten minutes to get over the goal and create a chance of their own. The ball bobbled around at the back post following a corner, Cullip couldn’t quite clear and it fell to Forster who scooped it high and wide when normally he’d bury it. As the half went on, Reading enjoyed a greater share of possession and many corners but very little was coming from this. That was until the thirty-ninth minute when James Harper’s corner was met by the head of Glen Little unmarked at the back stick. Paul Brooker was the man to rescue Brighton as he headed it off the line. A few minutes later it was Little again who had to be thwarted. It was chipped up to him to volley from fifteen yards which thankfully went straight down the throat of Beasant who was able to parry away and clear with the help of the defence. There were warning shots being fired Albion’s way for sure and the break probably came at the right time. Not before Nicky Forster was denied a penalty when Kerry Mayo tangled legs with him. The referee’s position prevented him from seeing the incident clearly enough and it was one-nil to the Albion at half time.

REA New Referee REA Subs REA Kitson goal REA Reading goal

One man heavily involved in the game that would not be returning for the second half was the referee Mark Cowburn. He picked up a calf injury and had to be replaced by Fourth Official Clive Penton, causing a momentary delay to the restart. Tottenham boss Glenn Hoddle was amongst those watching at the Madejski, with long-standing rumours about Spurs seeking Bobby Zamora. Brighton sat back and invited Reading pressure on them in the second half. Chances were few and far between as the Seagulls held strong. The usually dependable Forster for Reading just wasn’t firing tonight. In the sixty-seventh minute it looked like he had carved an opportunity out for himself when he cut inside Danny Cullip but sliced the curling shot high and wide. A minute later though he went very close to the equaliser. Harper’s excellent through ball beat the offside trap. Forster managed to hold off Ingimarsson and took a shot on the slide as he approached the six yard box, the effort trickling just wide of Beasant’s far post. It was not his night. With less than twenty left on the clock, Brighton made a double substitution. Gary Hart, one of the most underrated players in the club’s history surely, ran himself into the ground all night and was replaced by Nathan Jones, whilst Paul Kitson made a rare cameo too. Whilst Reading made their second change having brought Kevin Watson on earlier, Jamie Cureton now entered the fray too. With less than a quarter of an hour remaining, Simon Rodger burst down the left wing at pace, only stopped by Murty’s foul. The resultant set piece was swung in to the middle of the box by Richard Carpenter where newbie Paul Kitson rose to glance a header goalwards. The ball went through Hahnemann’s legs and squirmed in to double the advantage. What an impact substitution! Finally, Kitson gave the Seagulls supporters something to cheer about after a season of virtually nothing, mainly due to injuries. For that moment, for those fans, it didn’t matter what went on before because suddenly a vital, precious win was well within their reach. Things got a little nervy with six minutes remaining when sub Cureton pulled one back for Reading from nowhere. A bouncing ball some thirty-five yards out sat up for the striker who hadn’t featured since January. He just went for it and, with Beasant on the six yard line, it flew into the goal. It was a wonderful strike, bending into the top corner for two-one. Somehow an additional five minutes were signalled by the new Fourth Official at the end of the ninety, prolonging the Albion agony. As they had done all evening, the Seagulls stood strong and came away with all three points as Reading could not force an equaliser. It was a huge result, giving a three point cushion above the drop zone, albeit having played more. But suddenly the great escape looked a slight possibility when for so long it was but a dream. The Albion had broken the television hoodoo, this the club’s first ever Live TV League win. Oh what a night!

REA Table.JPG

READING 1 BRIGHTON 2
Cureton Brooker, Kitson

REA Replay REA Goal

PREVIOUS; #11 WOLVES 1-1 BRIGHTON 11/11/2002

NEXT; #13 GRIMSBY 2-2 BRIGHTON 04/05/2003

 

#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

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