Small Screen Seagulls; Leicester (H) 07/12/2013

Small Screen Seagulls LogoPicking up the pieces after the fallout from the Play Off defeat and departure of manager Gus Poyet, the 2013/2014 campaign had a mixed start for the Seagulls under new head coach Oscar Garcia. Approaching the half way point of the season, Albion spent most of that first period hovering in mid-table. More draws than wins were costing the club in the race to make the top six for the second successive season. Just when form looked to be improving, the Championship would throw a surprise result curve ball. In the first week of December, table-topping Leicester City were next to visit The Amex. The BBC highlights show went on the road to present from Falmer with extended coverage of this memorable match.


Brighton 3-1 Leicester, Championship; 3pm, Sat 7th Dec ’13

The Albion didn’t get off to the best of starts in the League under new coach Oscar Garcia. The former Barcelona midfielder lost his opening two Championship matches – away at Leeds and home to Derby – despite an encouraging 100% record in pre-season. The season properly launched with back-to-back victories over Birmingham and Burnley before three successive draws cemented a mid-table spot early on.

Form dropped off in October with a complete lack of victories. A point was rescued with just a minute to play at home to Sheffield Wednesday. The following Saturday saw a disappointing blow dealt by Nottingham Forest as they came from behind to take all three points at The Amex. Draws at Yeovil and home to Watford closed a famished month which saw Brighton slip out of the top half.

A terrific November came next, with important wins at Doncaster and Blackburn, plus a crucial victory at fellow promotion hopefuls Wigan, saw the club begin to climb again. A one-all draw at fellow South Coast club Bournemouth Live on Sky Sports saw another point added to the tally. Just when things were going well, struggling Barnsley claimed a shock midweek victory in Falmer as Paddy McCourt helped the Tykes to all three points. Brighton went into this clash with Leicester in eleventh place.

The Foxes, by contrast, were enjoying a sensational season. Five wins from the opening seven matches saw them hit top spot in mid-September under Nigel Pearson’s leadership. Two losses and a draw from their next nine saw them bounce around the top three in subsequent weeks. A convincing three-nil win over Millwall sent Leicester back on top but, like the Albion, went into this clash with a surprising midweek defeat, losing two-one at Hillsborough. It was all set up for an entertaining match at The Amex. Sky Sports highlights come later, but first; the BBC’s Football League Show made the trip to Sussex for a rare opportunity to host the programme on location.

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The Football League Show, BBC One, 11.50pm (Saturday 7th December 2013)

FLSL Titles

FLSL Ident FLSL Introduction

Clubs from Leagues One and Two had FA Cup duties to fulfil on the weekend of the 7th December, leaving the Championship to take centre stage. As a result, the BBC decided to present their highlights programme on location from Saturday’s biggest match. Thankfully for the Albion, this meant the spotlight on The Amex as the League leader Leicester paid a visit.

With just one of the three Divisions in action, the programme ran for a reduced forty-minute duration beginning just before midnight and following on from Match of the Day. The BBC were in festive mode, with special Christmas idents used throughout December across their output. After the ident, the show’s titles kicked in with classic Football League clips and memories soundtracked by Snow Patrol’s In the End.

FLSL Bhasin FLSL Comm

As usual, Manish Bhasin hosted the programme. Since The Football League Show launched in 2009, Bhasin rarely missed an episode. But even rarer was to present it from a Football League ground so The Amex was granted special treatment. The previous highlights incarnation, ITV’s The Championship, always presented from the stadium and today’s edition felt very much a throwback to that era. So much so that the BBC went without a pundit as Bhasin just linked things together on his own from various points around the ground.

In fact, Bhasin even kicked it off at one of Brighton’s most iconic landmarks, in front of the Palace Pier on the Seafront. He also walked past the Brighton Wheel. Similar in principle to the London Eye, Brighton’s version opened in October 2011 costing £6million to transport it from South Africa where it was used during the 2010 World Cup. After outlining what was to come during this edition of the popular highlights show, Bhasin handed to match commentator Laurence Herdman, who was incorrectly captioned as ‘Lawrence’.

Herdman began his broadcasting life relatively later than most, having had a career in the Royal Navy for seventeen years and served in the Gulf War. He joined BBC Radio Solent in 2002, specialising in football and sailing commentary. Herdman made his BBC Match of the Day commentary debut in November 2011 and followed it up with appearances on The Football League Show. He added television reporting to his repertoire early in 2012, covering news and sport for BBC South Today. He was also heard on ITV covering the FA Cup and Africa Cup of Nations.

FLSL Brighton

Oscar Garcia was having to make do without talisman Leonardo Ulloa. The Argentine striker missed large chunks of the campaign firstly through a red card against Reading Live on Sky in September, then injury forced him out since early October. Ashley Barnes’ four goals in all competitions helped counter the issue. Adding his name to the sidelines, first choice goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak got injured in the warm up, elevating Peter Brezovan to a starting spot for the first time this campaign. Youngster Christian Walton also was promoted to the bench.

Gordon Greer marshalled the back line, captaining the Albion for another year. He was partnered by vastly experienced former England centre half Matt Upson. The defender was on loan from Stoke for the second half of the last season before joining permanently in the summer on a one-year deal. Following Wolves relegation to the third tier, confirmed at The Amex in May, left-back Stephen Ward moved to Sussex on a season-long loan. Protecting the defence was Liam Bridcutt, winner of the Albion Player of the Season for each of the previous two years.

David Lopez was part of the Athletic Bilbao side that finished runner-up in the 2012 UEFA Europa League before moving to England later that year. Rohan Ince was initially signed for the development squad in February before Garcia promoted him to the first team at the start of this season. Andrew Crofts added goals to his game, netting the winner at Wigan a fortnight ago. Scottish winger Craig Conway joined on a three-month loan from Cardiff back in September. The last goal he scored secured the draw Cardiff needed to secure the Championship title on their way to Premier League promotion. A striking option on the bench sat Leroy Lita, leaving Swansea for a short-term loan in mid-October.

FLSL Leicester

Nigel Pearson’s starting line-up featured a man with big connections to the Albion. Midfielder Dean Hammond left Brighton for Colchester in 2008 after a decade with his home club man and boy. The following season he joined Southampton where he got his career back on track, overturned a financial points deduction, became captain and won back-to-back promotions from League One all the way up to the Premier League. After struggling to nail down a place in the top flight last year, he rejoined the Seagulls on loan for the campaign and made a permanent switch to Leicester this August.

Elsewhere, star names included Peter’s son and Danish international goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. Experienced centre back and former Nottingham Forest man Wes Morgan skippered the side. Impressive young midfielder Danny Drinkwater was a youth product at Manchester United before joining the East Midlanders in 2012. Winger Lloyd Dyer joined from Milton Keynes in 2008 and was signed by Pearson during his first spell in charge.

Striker Jamie Vardy spent the best part of a decade in non-League with Stocksbridge then Halifax Town before firing Fleetwood to the Conference title in 2012. That earned him a £1million transfer to Leicester, a record fee for a player outside the top four Divisions in this country. Chris Wood played more than thirty games for the Albion on loan in the League One title winning side, scoring nine goals. He took his place on the bench today alongside French winger Anthony Knockaert. In front of the highest Football League attendance of the weekend, referee Bobby Madley took charge at The Amex.

FLSL Barnes 1st FLSL Conway goal

The eight-minute highlights edit began with stand-in ‘keeper Brezovan forced into making a good, low save from Danny Drinkwater’s effort. The midfielder marauded through a couple of Albion defenders before getting his shot off from the edge of the box. But it was the home side who took the lead thanks to a terrific through ball from David Lopez for Ashley Barnes to finish. The midfielder, affectionately known as ‘Spanish Dave’, drove forward twenty yards to the edge of the box. His assist was inch-perfect to the back post where Barnes evaded his marker to tap home from close range. But it was all about that pass which cut out three Leicester defenders and the goalkeeper to give the Albion a ninth-minute lead.

Brighton were stroking the ball around with confidence. They were rewarded with a second goal just before the half hour mark when, again, David Lopez was central to all things good for the Seagulls. The Spaniard picked up the ball mid-way inside his own half and pushed forward with purpose. He delayed the pass over the top until the right moment. Craig Conway’s run was timed brilliantly, his pace and determination getting the better of the back four. The pass landed on Conway’s chest, who controlled outstandingly to drop it down to his feet, wait for it to settle and bury past Schmeichel into the bottom corner of the net for his first Albion goal. It was one of the best counter-attacking goals seen at The Amex, magic from start to finish, only needing a couple of touches in the process. The Seagulls were flying high against the leaders.

FLSL King goal FLSL Leicester go close

Into the second half, Leicester had to make a change if they were to force their way back into the contest. Anthony Knockaert replaced Dean Hammond to provide more flair and attack. Later, they added former Brighton loanee Chris Wood, along with Gary Taylor-Fletcher, to the mix. The extra threat up top seemed to work as, with twenty-six minutes to go, Leicester pulled a goal back through Andy King. Knockaert floated in a free kick from the far side which missed the large group of bodies in the centre. But unmarked at the back post was King who executed a lovely diving header to power the ball past Brezovan from close range. The delivery was good, but the marking was dreadful. Game on again at two-one Brighton.

The Foxes tails were up and pushing for an equaliser. Knockaert again was causing problems. His cross into the box from the right this time found its way to Taylor-Fletcher. Not learning from previous mistakes, he too was left unmarked. His header was just too high, with Brezovan needing to palm it behind above the crossbar just to make sure. Soon after, when Liam Bridcutt was dispossessed in his own half, Paul Konchesky bundled his way forward. His blocked shot squirmed out to Taylor-Fletcher in the area. Brighton bodies stood firm not once but twice. The ricochet found King but his instinctive shot wasn’t powerful enough, allowing Brighton’s Slovakian goalie to maintain concentration and gather the ball into grateful arms.

FLSL Penalty incident FLSL Barnes penalty

As commentator Laurence Herdman pointed out, “the more Leicester City commit players forward, the more open spaces there will be at the back”. Right on cue, Brighton broke forward down the right with Conway. His ball was centred towards Ashley Barnes but as he leaped, Leicester centre back and captain Wes Morgan clattered into him to send Barnes sprawling. Referee Bobby Madley pointed to the spot and Brighton had a chance to restore the two-goal advantage, perhaps somewhat innocuously, with thirteen to play.

The visiting ‘keeper tried to convince Barnes he was aware of where the spot kick was going, repeatedly nodding his head and shouting “I know, I know”. But Kasper Schmeichel didn’t know, and Barnes converted the penalty for his second goal of the game. He smashed it down the middle, just past the Danish stopper who dived to his right. Schmeichel close but not close enough and Barnes could repay the taunting by pointing to the name on the back of his shirt right in front of the beaten player.

FLSL Full Time

FLSL Garcia FLSL Pearson

The full-time whistle blew to signify a huge win for Brighton and Hove Albion, probably the biggest in Oscar Garcia’s short time at the club to date. Manish Bhasin spoke with the Spanish manager pitchside after the result. A positive Garcia said, “I think the first half was our best performance, for sure, here at home… We needed a reaction and we did it. The performance of the players was really good.”

Losing boss Nigel Pearson drew comparisons with his side’s disappointing defeat to Sheffield Wednesday four days earlier, in his interview with Bhasin. “We’ve had two particularly poor first halves, we’ve conceded some cheap goals and given ourselves an awful lot to do.” He was more pleased with how the second half went at The Amex though credited the Albion as “a decent side”.

FLSL Presenting 1 FLSL Reporter

The rest of the programme was devoted to rounding up all the Championship action. Manish Bhasin hung around to link the action together, presenting from various points around The Amex stadium. The first of the voiceover wraps began with Harry Redknapp’s Queens Park Rangers hosting Blackburn, as the programme worked its way down the League from top to bottom.

FLSL Presenting 2 FLSL Round Ups

Voiceover reporters Chris Maughan, Jonathan Legard and Tony Lockwood put the carefully crafted words to the pictures. A second Championship game was afforded a full highlights edit with commentary; the day’s eventful lunchtime match Live on Sky Sports as Blackpool hosted Derby. Dan O’Hagan voiced the best of that one on a miserable afternoon for ‘Pool gaffer Paul Ince. The round-ups then continued, wrapping up the rest of the games starting with Huddersfield’s trip to Portman Road featuring a bearded Mick McCarthy.

FLSL Table top FLSL Table bottom

The final few minutes were devoted to showing the goals from the only two matches played in the bottom two Divisions with the teams knocked out of the First Round of the Cup taking the stage. Eighteen-year-old Jack Grealish’s goal inspired Notts County to victory over Gillingham in League One, whilst in League Two a late goal for Cheltenham saw off Morecambe.

A look at the League table showed the importance of Brighton’s three-one scoreline for both teams. Leicester slipped from first to third as Sean Dyche’s Burnley marched to the summit. Brighton were now within three points and four places of the top six. At the bottom, it was already looking bleak for Yorkshire as Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday occupied the final two positions and Doncaster looking over their shoulders in twentieth. Orient and Wolves led the way in League One. And in League Two, Torquay’s Football League status looked insecure, rooted to the foot of the entire structure. After a quick look around the messy state of the home dressing room at The Amex, Manish Bhasin signed off on a memorable day for those in blue and white.


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FL72 Review, Sky Sports 1, 6pm (Monday 9th December 2013)

FL72 Titles FL72 Studio

As the exclusive Live broadcaster partner for the Football League, Sky Sports made use of those rights by having regular magazine programmes throughout the season. This campaign, they broadcast from the cafe in Sky Studios for the Thursday preview and Monday review shows, going under the FL72 banner. The cafe setting gave the programming a more informal feel, with Sky staff wondering around in the background getting fancy coffees and light snacks.

The shows used the same graphics and titles as the Live coverage, with the red and white astons. The theme tune remained Candi Staton’s You Got The Love. Long-serving presenter George Gavin regularly hosted the magazine shows, with his opportunities for Live games decreasing as the seasons went on. He was joined for this Monday evening edition by Sky’s number one Football League pundit, Peter Beagrie. They reviewed the weekend’s Championship action, as well as the two games from the other Divisions. Like the BBC, Sky did not hold FA Cup rights so more was made of this League to fill time over the weekend.

FL72 Comm FL72 Final Score

With only around a third of the usual amount of games to review this week, Sky put together a couple of extra highlight edits with commentary than the show usually would fit into its one-hour duration. Normally only commentary was reserved for recapping Sky’s Live matches over the course of a weekend but exceptions were made here. The highlights edit was largely similar to the BBC’s one, albeit slightly more condensed. They showed all four goals as well as a couple of other key chances over the space of five minutes.

Mark Tompkins was the man behind the mic calling the action from Brighton versus Leicester. Tompkins was a familiar voice at this level, voicing reports for various highlights shows on Sky, ITV Sport Channel and BBC over the previous fifteen years or so. His commentary work was largely for the various world feeds and host broadcasters, particularly for FIFA and UEFA at tournaments – both major and minor.

FL72 Analysis FL72 Attendances

Back in the studio, George Gavin and Peter Beagrie dissected the game. Gavin in particular was full of praise for the David Lopez assist to open Austrian international Ashley Barnes’ account for the day; “Brilliant pass… I love the pass more than the goal!” Beagrie also singled out Albion midfielder Andrew Crofts as being pivotal in the centre. “He’s had a brilliant season. He’s added goals to his game but he’s also combative, he’s got a great range of passing.”

The studio team also mentioned the League attendances, with Brighton coming out on top as the best supported team in the Championship based on average number of fans buying tickets. Since moving from Withdean to The Amex, Albion’s attendances have gone through the roof. That was expected at the beginning, but stadium expansions happened within the first season as the demand for tickets quickly outgrew the capacity. Performances like this against top teams like Leicester would only increase the expectation and bring in even more people through those electronic barriers. Things were looking rosy for the Seagulls.