#15: Brighton 2-1 Plymouth 31/01/2004

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

PLY Titles

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

PLY Ident PLY Sponsor PLY Intro

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

PLY Brighton PLY Formation PLY Plymouth

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

PLY Gavin PLY Cotterill PLY Studio

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

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

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

PLY Kick Off PLY Comms PLY Benjamin goal PLY Benjamin

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

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

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

PLY Table

BRIGHTON 2 PLYMOUTH 1
Benjamin, Knight Lowndes

PLY Goal PLY Replay

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

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

#14: Brighton 2-1 QPR 18/08/2003

#14 BRIGHTON 2-1 QPR Division Two
Monday 18th August 2003 Image result for

QPR Titles

PRESENTER George Gavin GUEST Peter Taylor
COMMENTATORS Ian Crocker & Chris Kamara REPORTER Guy Havord
8pm Kick Off; Withdean Stadium     7.55-10pm Football League Live on Sky Sports 1

2003 Ident QPR Promo QPR Intro

Context of the Match: The final day of last season away at Grimsby proved to be one dramatic hurdle too many as the Albion were unable to escape the drop. Back in Division Two after a year away, many people saw Brighton as being well-equipped to challenge for a promotion place once more. But they’d have to do it without star striker Bobby Zamora who, after speculation all season, transferred up to the Premiership with Glenn Hoddle’s Tottenham Hotspur in the summer. The fee of £1.5 million was a huge boost to the Albion coughers, but the loss of his eighty-three goals in one-hundred-and-thirty-six appearances was always going to be tough to replace. The first man tasked with getting the goals in Zamora’s absence was Leon Knight. The twenty-year-old signed on loan from Chelsea in July, which was made a permanent transfer in the days after tonight’s QPR match. Another front man brought in was Darius Henderson, on a two-month loan from Reading. 1997 FA Cup Final goalkeeper Ben Roberts returned to the club this season, joining permanently after a brief three match spell back in January during the ‘keeper crisis that eventually saw veteran Dave Beasant see out the season with us. Beasant played his last competitive match in that final day draw with Grimsby but did sign on the books of Premiership Fulham this campaign ‘just in case’. Possibly the most important summer signing was of the manager, Steve Coppell. When he came in during the lowest period last year, the club were rooted to the foot of Division One and seemingly cut adrift. He got the most out of a downbeat squad but had only signed on for a year. Chairman Dick Knight managed to extend that for a further year, despite offering a longer deal. The sticking point for him, and any manager, was always going to be the facilities, or lack of, with no good news on the Falmer front forthcoming. Withdean Stadium remained our makeshift home, entering its fifth season. The opening home game of the Division Two campaign pitted the Albion against last season’s beaten Play Off Finalists Queens Park Rangers. Ian Holloway’s side pushed Cardiff all the way to Extra Time in May but couldn’t quite get the breakthrough. They were strongly tipped to go again this time round so tonight saw an early opportunity for Brighton to test their mettle against leading opposition. The clash intrigued Sky Sports enough to shift the tie from Saturday to the Monday night, bringing with it more vital income for the public inquiry fund. The opening match saw a triumphant return to the League, leaving Oldham with three goals and three points. More of the same here, please.

QPR Brighton QPR Formation QPR QPR

The Teams: Steve Coppell was able to keep hold of the majority of the squad which dropped down from Division One, minus the glaring space left by talisman Zamora. His initial two replacements, Leon Knight and Darius Henderson, made the perfect start on the opening day. Both men scored in the three-one win away at Oldham, with Knight bagging a brace. The good start was followed up by a one-nil win away at Bristol Rovers in the League Cup First Round last Tuesday, with the majority of the line-up starting both. Young striker Chris McPhee scored the winner there and a bigger involvement was planned for him. He made his debut at the age of just sixteen back in December 1999 but had largely spent his time in the reserves and youth sides since. He was an option on the bench tonight. The return of Ben Roberts in goal this season resulted in just one conceded in two matches. He was protected by a back core that established itself throughout all three Divisions these past three years; Paul Watson, Danny Cullip and Kerry Mayo. Cullip’s centre-back partner had changed throughout, with Dean Blackwell fulfilling the role during occasions in Division One but injuries hampered that. Graduate Adam Hinshelwood, nephew of Martin, was the man filling the role in all three matches so far. In the middle of the park, Paul Brooker left after three seasons when his contract expired and linked up again with Micky Adams for a third time, now at Premiership Leicester. Simon Rodger and Nathan Jones played in the two previous matches and made it three in a row here. However Jones would be missing in future, after he picked up a red card in the Cup win. Charlie Oatway famously is named after all eleven players in the 1973 QPR first team but only made the bench tonight. Other Albion stalwarts, Gary Hart and Richard Carpenter, completed the first eleven. For Ian Holloways’ Rangers, their team began with seven of the eleven who started that unsuccessful Play Off Final back in May. This included defender Clarke Carlisle, who gained notoriety in January 2002 when he won ITV’s quiz show Britain’s Brainiest Footballer, competing against such renowned wise men as former Sky co-commentator Alan Brazil and England World Cup winner George Cohen! Cautious-when-naming Danny Shittu was solid at the back. Tom Williams, on loan again from Birmingham like last season, joined Marc Bircham in the middle. Experienced striker Paul Furlong enjoyed two loan spells with the Rs before moving permanently in 2002, having also started his career there was a youth player. Amongst the subs was former Everton trainee Kevin McLeod who made a permanent move to Loftus Road this week. Their opening result saw a five-nil victory over a Seaside team in Blackpool, hopefully this would not continue on the South Coast. Tonight’s referee was Mark Warren.

QPR Gavin QPR Taylor QPR Studio

Presentation Team: This was Sky’s second season back covering the Nationwide, and the team established then remained largely in place now, with one or two additions. George Gavin was very much Sky’s face of the League, hosting Live games and the Thursday evening Football League Review magazine show. He spent a greater time in the studio this year with the move of the Saturday evening kick offs to be hosted from Isleworth in order to incorporate the First Division goals at the end of the broadcast. Whereas last season, this didn’t tend to be the case and the majority of matches came from the stadium. His workload was reduced slightly with the arrival to the broadcaster of Ian Payne from BBC Radio 5 Live. He was drafted in to take some of the matches from chief football anchor Richard Keys given Sky now held Live rights to the UEFA Champions League. Therefore Payne did every Live English match on Saturday lunch time, whether that be Premier or Football League. In addition, he hosted the top flight Monday Night Football coverage in the studio with a panel of fans. Other than Saturday 12.30pm kick offs, George Gavin did the rest of the Football League. His guest tonight at Withdean was Peter Taylor. He left his post as Brighton manager in April 2002 after winning the Division Two title. By November of that year he was back in the game, taking the job at Hull City, just in time for the opening of their brand new stadium; a factor which proved the stumbling block in agreeing a new deal on the South Coast. His Hull side were currently competing in Division Three and hoped the new facilities would provide a boost to their bid in climbing the ladder. Taylor was also a pundit on the Seagulls Live televised match at Wolves last season. In the commentary box were Ian Crocker and Chris Kamara. They were Sky’s number one League pairing, with Crocker beginning that role with the new rights cycle in 2002. Kamara still managed his commentary commitments around his work on Sky’s other high-profile shows reporting on Gillette Soccer Saturday and co-hosting Goals on Sunday with Rob McCaffrey. Taking Kammy’s place on the gantry on Saturdays and Sundays were, from this season, Garry Birtles and Tony Gale, with occasional other guest co-commentators drafted in too. This pretty much signalled the end of Alvin Martin and Ray Houghton’s involvement on this coverage, though Houghton continued to cover Republic of Ireland games and Martin was heavily involved with Talksport radio. After being introduced to the coverage on the final day of last season, reporter Guy Havord was much more involved from this season. Fraser Robertson still did the bulk but Havord now did all Live Division Two and Three games as well as helping out in the First. He also reported on the top flight for pay-per-view channel Premiership Plus from this year. It was Havord on the Withdean touchline tonight, with it being a Second Division clash.

QPR New beginning QPR Tunnel

The Coverage: The broadcast was short and sweet, perhaps cautious of the huge problems experienced the one and only previous time Sky showed a match Live from Withdean back in 2001 against Rushden and Diamonds. That afternoon both pictures and sound were lost, with host Rob Wotton and guest John Byrne having to keep popping up to fill the dead air until normal service could be resumed. There hadn’t been a Live match at the athletics ground since until tonight. Host George Gavin and his pundit Peter Taylor were situated behind the goal, and therefore behind the athletics track, left of the open-air South Stand on a makeshift gantry. Coverage came on-air just five minutes before the 8pm kick off and finished almost as soon as the match was over. This was how the 5.35pm kick offs started off last season, before extending the post-match to include analysis, interviews and round ups after a couple of months. So it was disappointing that this top Division Two clash had reverted back to the basic coverage. Nevertheless, a Live match was definitely a bonus for Brighton and provided a much-needed cash injection. The programme was still sponsored by the flatmates at SkyBet, with the theme tune remaining as The Skids’ Into the Valley. The titles were basically the same, just using more up to date clips and action as you’d expect. The graphics were also as they were last season, with the red and blue astons flying in from the edges of the screen. The replay transition was still the respective competition’s trophy, which for us this year was that pretty Division Two silverware. The scorebar and clock though had evolved to look more like the Sky Sports logo, with straight, full blocks instead of a slanted translucent strap. All of it complete with those big whooshing noises. The programme began by reminding us of the two sides heartbreak in May; the Albion relegated and QPR losing in Extra Time of the Play Off Final, before a more uplifting message of ‘A New Beginning’. Host George Gavin billed it as “an early opportunity to assess the chances of two of the form teams.” He then introducing his guest, the last man to manage Brighton in this Division, Peter Taylor.

QPR Coming Up QPR Full Time stats

The set up was improved this season to include multiple cameras for the studio at the ground instead of the single-camera setup for our games last year. There was barely time to say anything other than reminding the neutrals that Bobby Zamora was no longer ours, before handing up to the gantry as the teams emerged from the tunnel over in the North East corner of Withdean by the away supporters. Up in the box were commentators Ian Crocker and Chris Kamara. Some kind words were said by the pair about the club and supporters ahead of kick off regarding the stadium situation, with a decision due. “All credit to the Brighton fans who have stayed faithful to their club and they’ve had to spend four years now here at the Withdean Stadium, which is never going to feel like a football ground. A decision is expected in October as to whether Brighton can build a new stadium, a 22,000 seater stadium, in Falmer. The ultimate decision lies with John Prescott and let’s hope they get that new stadium because they really need to move onwards”, said Crocker. Kamara added “Well it should be a foregone conclusion. Brighton’s a footballing town and let’s give them a new stadium!” At half time, the stats showed an equal amount of shots on target, with Brighton shading the corners, in what was an even contest. The studio team analysed the goals, with Taylor calling the conceding of the free kick for the opener “a really, really cheap foul… a nothing free kick.” Plaudits went the way of both Hart and Knight for Brighton’s equaliser, with Knight praised for his sharpness and movement, Hart for the excellent delivery. Reporter Guy Havord had a quick word with a few of the fans at the end of the half time segment, with Knight again singled out for good work. There was no time to wrap things up after the final whistle owing to the tight scheduling. Chris Kamara summarised that there were three deciding factors in the result; “Leon Knight probably the first one. Danny Cullip and his superb defensive play. But it’s the lad, Terrell Forbes, who’s the turning point in the game.” George Gavin ran through the full-time statistics, which reinforced the scoreline and Albion’s deserving win. They were the early season pacesetters at the top of the Division Two table. Just a brief sentence from guest Peter Taylor at the end to close before signing off for the evening from Withdean.

QPR Kick Off QPR Comms QPR Opening goal QPR Equaliser

Story of the Match: Rangers got the game underway kicking from left to right in the first half in the August late evening haze. The perimeters of Withdean were decorated with messages to deputy Prime Minister John Prescott asking him to “Listen to the people” with regards to the 60,000+ signatures petitioning for the stadium site to be approved. Paul Furlong smacked the post for QPR after three minutes but the linesman flagged for offside anyway, as the away side made themselves feel at home very early on. The crowd were buoyant, making lots of noise for the Albion’s return for the new campaign. But it was the visiting set of fans who were cheering loudest in the ninth minute. Gino Padula whipped in a free kick from the near side with his left foot. The QPR strikers couldn’t quite get their head on it but it didn’t matter as the bounce just before it reached Ben Roberts, together with the bend and pace, saw it skim off the surface and into the back of the net. Brighton fired back level within three minutes. Gary Hart delivered a fabulous cross on the far side towards the six yard area. Stretching, Leon Knight stooped to head home past Day for one-all. It was all about the delivery from Hart to enable Knight’s touch, a perfect response against a team high on confidence and goals after the early season form. Credit too must go to Knight’s movement, as highlighted on commentary by Chris Kamara; “Two great bits of quality. One is the cross to begin with but look at the movement of the little fella. He’s hovering around that eighteen yard box. As soon as it’s on its way, he knows that he’s just got to get the other side of the big centre half. Once he does that then he’s in with an opportunity.” The game continued in this end-to-end fashion. Roberts had to be alert and sensible when Danny Shittu sent through Sabin for QPR, the goalie off his line to smother well. The intensity dropped off from the halfway point of the first half, not helped by a couple of stoppages for injuries, and it fizzled out slightly to a draw at the break.

QPR Red Card QPR Forbes headbutt QPR Knight winner QPR Winner

The second period began a little brighter, with the Seagulls creating a flurry of half-chances in a row, first with Knight unable to connect with Henderson’s fine cross, then Hart’s effort blocked and Carpenter’s follow up volley saved by Chris Day. At the other end, substitute Kevin McLeod created his own chance with his pace. Picking up a loose ball after Hinshelwood slipped, McLeod skipped past him with ease into the near side of the penalty box. With Roberts rushing out, he jinked just wide of him to get the shot away, it lacked any sort of power from a very difficult angle and Hinshelwood got back to put it behind. On the hour mark, the match changed due to a moment of petulance from QPR defender Terrell Forbes. He received a straight red card for a headbutt on Kerry Mayo. The pair went in for a fifty-fifty challenge strongly, neither wanting to back out. Whilst both were getting up off the ground, Forbes kicked out at Mayo’s ankle. They then squared up to each other and that is when Forbes pushed his head onto the Albion number three, with the referee nearby he rightly received his marching orders and Rangers were down to ten needlessly. With the game more open, Brighton were finding a bit more space to get into and test Day further. Two shots in quick succession, firstly from Knight and then Henderson, forced the ‘keeper to dive around and stay alert. But, with twenty-two minutes to go, there was nothing he could do about Leon Knight’s next effort to put Brighton in the lead. Danny Cullip’s free kick on the half way line was launched up field. Darius Henderson flicked it on with his head from the edge of the area. It looped over Danny Shittu and Leon Knight stuck out a leg to toe-poke it towards goal just as it hit the ground. From seven yards or so out, any touch on target would beat Day, who could just scramble low to his left and see the ball sail past him into the corner. The Seagulls were confident. They were on top with both a man and a goal advantage. With a quarter of an hour to play, Leon Knight almost turned provider for Henderson, his header blocked by Clarke Carlisle. Nathan Jones picked it up from there and went past Carlisle who appeared to have caught the Welshman with his leg for a potential penalty. The referee wasn’t having it and replays seemed to show there wasn’t contact. Charlie Oatway got his chance to play against the team he grew up supporting, providing commentator Ian Crocker with the go-to line about the midfielder; rattling off all eleven of his given names! Three minutes of added time were played but, in truth, it was elementary. QPR never really threatened after the sending off and Brighton held firm to maintain the one-hundred-per-cent start to the season. Injury to Carlisle in the additional minutes meant we’d played ninety-six before full time was finally called, but joy at the whistle as Brighton got their home season off to a flyer.

QPR Table.JPG

BRIGHTON 2 QPR 1
Knight (2) Padula

QPR Replay QPR Goal

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

NEXT; #15 BRIGHTON 2-1 PLYMOUTH 31/01/2004

#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

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

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

#20: Brighton 0-1 Reading 21/03/2005

#20 BRIGHTON 0-1 READING Championship
Monday 21st March 2005 Image result for

REA Titles

PRESENTER George Gavin GUEST Micky Adams
COMMENTATORS Ian Crocker & Garry Birtles REPORTER Greg Whelan
7.45pm Kick Off; Withdean Stadium     7.30-10pm Football League Live on Sky Sports 1

REA Promo REA Sponsor REA Intro

Context of the Match: With the Albion’s fight for Falmer dragging on and no fixed date in sight, budgetary constraints forced the chairman’s hand in selling the best assets. Impressive summer transfer Darren Currie didn’t hang around long on the South Coast, as promotion-chasing Ipswich snapped him up for a £250,000 December transfer whilst captain Danny Cullip also headed out of the club. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was due to make a decision on the planning permission for the site in October 2005. To ramp up the pressure on Prescott and keep the cause in the public conscience, the club released a version of 1950’s original song, but later made most famous by The Piranhas, Tom Hark. The 80s version gained notoriety amongst the football community by being used as goal music by a number of League clubs. Brighton fan John Baine, AKA Attila the Stockbroker, reworded the lyrics to fit with the Albion’s chant of “We Want Falmer”, and the song was a big success. It reached number seventeen in the UK charts outselling Robbie Williams and Elvis Presley. On the pitch goals were hard to come by. To counter the lack of end product, various strikers were tried. Veteran Football League journeyman Steve Claridge spent a month here but failed to find the back of the net before moving on to Brentford. Maheta Molango fell out with manager Mark McGhee and rarely featured before being shipped out on loan to Lincoln. Albert Jarrett was another who didn’t find his feet and was also sent on loan, to non-League Stevenage. The club were going through a difficult spell of results, with five defeats in seven. However, consecutive wins over table-topping Sunderland and top-half Millwall dragged Brighton to within reach of surviving the drop but it would be a close one. This was aided by a very promising Christmas, unbeaten in the Championship from Boxing Day through to the end of January. With a bit of a makeshift squad and disruption in goal due to injuries, the Albion had shipped nine goals in the past two matches including a humiliation at fellow strugglers Plymouth five-one in which Richard Carpenter saw red. Tonight’s match against Reading was the last before the Easter international break. Managed by our former gaffer Steve Coppell, the Royals had their eyes on a Play Off place. They defeated the Albion in the reverse fixture on the opening day of the season, with goals from Molango after just twelve seconds and academy star Jake Robinson not enough to prevent a three-two loss. Crunch time in the second tier required cool heads and hard work as the Sky Sports cameras came to town.

REA Brighton REA Reading REA Formation

The Teams: Brighton approached the final stages of the season with a much changed side from that which began life in the Championship. Battling midfielder Charlie Oatway was made captain following the sale of Danny Cullip for a quarter of a million back in December. Brighton’s cult hero joined the top end of the Division, moving to Sheffield United after rejecting a new deal at Withdean. His time with the Blades was unsuccessful after a promising start, as he joined Watford on loan earlier this month. Adam Hinshelwood filled Cullip’s place next to Guy Butters at the back. Right sided Paul Reid and midfielder John Piercy both came off the bench in last year’s Play Off Final victory but had suffered contrasting fortunes since. Piercy was forced in retirement at just twenty-five in November suffering from the illness colitis. He made just two appearances this season. Reid though flourished in the Championship after making his move permanent, becoming a regular figure in defence and midfield. Kerry Mayo continued on the opposite flank combining with Dan Harding playing further forward. The midfield area continued to be a work in progress, with Adam Virgo now filling in after a spell up front. Leon Knight continued to struggle for form in the higher League, with just four goals to his name. A good sign though was that when he did score this season, Brighton did not lose; three wins and a draw. McGhee turned to former club Millwall for an answer, with Mark McCammon coming on loan in December before making the switch permanent in February. The twenty-six-year-old was prevented from making a huge impact due to first a back injury then illness but netted thrice including a crucial winner against League leaders Sunderland. On the touchline, stalwarts of previous promotions, Paul Watson and Nathan Jones, made only a handful of starts between them this term as their time with club was coming towards the end. Former trainee Chris McPhee burst into the first team squad last season but starts were now rare, as he once again occupied the Seagulls bench. Keeping nets was Swedish goalie Rami Shaaban who signed in February until the end of the season following his release from Arsenal. He joined to alleviate the goalkeeping crisis which saw injuries to Ben Roberts and Michel Kuipers with only inexperienced teenager Chris May on the books. Tonight’s fixture saw former boss Steve Coppell return to Withdean with the Reading side he left us for in October 2003 following relegation from the second tier, citing the lack of finances at the club for his departure. Another who left Brighton for Reading was midfielder Steve Sidwell, who chose to leave Arsenal for the Royals in 2003 after an impressive loan spell with which we wanted to make permanent. Ivar Ingimarsson played for Brighton fifteen times in the League on loan from Wolves but found his way along the Meridian region at Reading shortly after. Two further Albion connections were on the bench with Paul Brooker and Martin Keown. The latter spent a few months on loan at the Goldstone in the beginning of his career and now sat on the bench to see it out. Midfielder Paul Brooker was at Withdean when the back to back titles saw the Seagulls fly up the Leagues but was poached by Micky Adams at Leicester before Reading. The experienced Nicky Forster was an option up front if Dave Kitson or Dean Morgan needed assistance. Refereeing was Kevin Friend.

REA Gavin REA Adams REA Studio REA Whelan

Presentation Team: Regular Football League presenter George Gavin was once again at the helm for this clash between two Meridian region teams. Joining him in the scaffolding-clad studio at Withdean was Micky Adams. He made a return to his former home on a scouting mission for current club Coventry City, with the Seagulls travelling to the Sky Blues in their next fixture in two weeks’ time. Adams was in charge of the Albion between April 1999 and October 2001, guiding us to the Division Three title in the process and laying the foundations for much of the side which continued in the Championship here. Having spent three years at Leicester he resigned in October of this season after a poor start to life back in the second tier following relegation. Brighton’s last Live television match was against Adams’ Foxes, where Adam Virgo’s strike stole the three points back in August. In January 2005 Coventry appointed Adams as manager following a short-lived Peter Reid reign and sat a couple of places and points below Brighton in the Championship table, battling to avoid the drop. In the commentary box in the open air of Withdean were Ian Crocker and Garry Birtles. The pair were in the same spot less than twelve months earlier to witness one of the most remarkable moments of Play Off drama there’s been, when Virgo again cropped up to net the equaliser against Swindon to take the match to a penalty shoot-out. The rest, of course, is history. This was Garry Birtles’ second season regularly commentating on the lower Leagues for Sky Sports, having made his name in local radio in the Midlands. Ian Crocker was a near ever-present again this season for all things Football League, combining that with Scotland internationals and Champions League ties. Completing Sky’s line up was number one reporter Greg Whelan, in his first season promoted to Football League duties from the Conference and Soccer Saturday. His distinctive Midlands accent and confident line of questioning saw him instantly take to his new role and covered the vast majority of League games on Sky’s nationwide roadshow. All this season he regularly appeared in-vision during the build up to relay the team news as viewers became very familiar with the newest member of the broadcast squad.

REA Build Up Transition REA Mobile Shop REA Ref REA Prescott

The Coverage: A brand new title sequence was also in use for the first time on an Albion match. Out went The Skids and in came The Farm with their classic track All Together Now. The song was re-released for England’s Euro 2004 campaign the previous summer and must have caught the eye of the bosses at Sky but presumably too late to get it up and running for the start of the campaign. The new titles came in after the Christmas period rather than the beginning of the season which I’d not seen happen before. The ribbons of the Coca Cola Leagues now flew into the screen as we saw the contrast between how the Football League used to be, with old black and white footage, being replaced with how it is now; advanced technology, current players, stadiums and goals. It’s a very nice intro and the music soundtracks it superbly. Similarly, Sky’s coverage was now sponsored by Powerade, part of Coca Cola, who replaced Sky Bet at the same time. This came with new sponsorship bumpers involving West Ham’s Nigel Reo-Coker and other young England prospects. The rest was pretty much as you were when we were Live previously in August, only with a slight tweak to animate some, but not all, of the graphics for the studio portions of the show mainly. Host George Gavin introduced the programme by stating the Albion’s clear aim; “After four seasons of ups and downs, Mark McGhee’s mission is simple: keep the Seagulls up at all costs.” He was exactly right, Brighton got themselves into a decent position which included an excellent win over title-chasing Sunderland recently and survival was in their grasp. The last man to manage the club in the same Division for two consecutive seasons was tonight’s studio guest; Micky Adams. The pair came on air from behind the goal, and indeed behind the track, in the South West corner of Withdean Stadium in their lofty gantry perch. The programme began fifteen minutes before the 7.45pm kick off, giving enough time to run through the Championship standings and preview both teams. Comment was made about the surroundings, with Adams saying “Withdean is an unusual stadium, as you rightly say. I think there’s a better atmosphere for night games but having said that it takes teams by surprise.” He went on to say he wasn’t expecting Reading to be too bewildered owing to some of the players links to Brighton and, of course, Steve Coppell returning as manager. Reporter Greg Whelan brought the all-important team news from the touchline.

REA Sidwell REA Virgo REA Coming Up 2 REA Coming Up 

Micky Adams discussed some of the key men involved for both sides, with Dave Kitson’s recent goalscoring form a key for the Royals. The wingers would look to cross the ball into the box for the target man at all opportunities. Midfielder Steve Sidwell was another star player, with Seagulls supporters remembering him well for his loan spell here and his goal for Brentford against us Live on the ITV Sport Channel three years earlier. For the home side, Adam Virgo was once again highlighted in the build-up as being crucial. Having played at the back and up front this season, he was starting in midfield tonight. We saw some of his goals so far and Adams praised his tenacity, putting defenders under pressure and ability to come up with goods at the right time. He admitted when he was in charge he never saw Virgo as being a free-scoring centre forward but has impressed in the role. Greg Whelan spoke with both Coppell and McGhee in the interview area. The Brighton boss said he thought probably two more wins from the eight games remaining would secure survival now; “Prior to the games on Saturday I was starting to think it might be three wins, but when you look at the fixtures – everyone’s playing each other – I think it’ll come to fifty, fifty-one points.” Steve Coppell called for his Reading side to get back on track after a patchy run, with poor goalscoring form since Christmas time and wanted players other than the strikers to start contributing on the scoresheet. With that, the fifteen minutes were up and George Gavin handed over to commentators Ian Crocker and Garry Birtles as the teams ran out of the tunnel, with no pre match advert break. At half time Micky Adams was critical of Brighton’s play, allowing Reading to dominate possession. He thought the penalty for the foul on Kitson early on should have been given but could see why the referee and his assistants did not give it. They reviewed what little chances there were in the first half, which didn’t really take long. After the post-match break, the studio team returned to close the show with around ten or so minutes of the programme left. Reporter Greg Whelan spoke with Powerade Man of the Match from Reading, Ibrahima Sonko, and goalscorer Nicky Forster. In studio, the result would have pleased Coventry manager Micky Adams to ease the pressure on his side despite his Albion connections. He disagreed that Reading were good for the three points, praising Brighton’s second half fight back. Of the goal he said it should have been ruled out for handball from Nicky Forster and thought the officials between them could have done more to have a clearer view. He and Gavin talked through the rest of the key chances in the game from both sides, interspersed by interviews with the managers. Mark McGhee said “We’re disappointed to have lost the game but, you know, we’re fighting. We’ve got seven more games to compete with these other teams around us and I think we’ve shown we can compete.” After hearing from Steve Coppell and taking another look at the Championship table, it was time to say bye for now as Brighton headed into the international break with four straight defeats. The survival battle would go down to the wire.

REA Kick Off REA Comms

Story of the Match: Steve Coppell was reunited with his former chairman Dick Knight as they sat alongside each other in the Withdean stands at the beginning of the match, Coppell choosing a higher vantage point for the first half. A lively start saw action at either end within seconds of each other. Mark McCammon’s drive forward gave Gary Hart a crossing opportunity which Reading were able to deal with. They broke on the counter right up the other end, with Glen Little setting Dave Kitson through. The striker sprung the offside trap but was thwarted by Rami Shaaban who appeared to bring Kitson down with his hands. The applause from the home crowd drowned out any, if at all, away appeals with the referee confidently pointing for a corner. On closer inspection it should have been a penalty after just four minutes but the Albion got away with one, finding a Friend in referee Kevin. Shortly after, the goalkeeper got into all sorts of trouble again when trying and failing to claim on the edge of his box. His defence came to the rescue on that occasion. Reading began to dominate and Steve Sidwell came close with a diving header from a Nicky Shorey cross, the effort going wide. The goalkeeping errors weren’t confined to the Albion box though, as McCammon was presented with a chance by Marcus Hahnemann out of nothing when he slid to keep a backpass in play only to give it straight to the Brighton forward, via a deflection off Sonko, on the edge of the area. The first time effort was poor and in fact going wide of the open goal by which time Hahnemann got back to it. There was a lack of composure from Brighton perhaps due to the recent bad spell. After a collision with Hughes by the far corner flag, Adam Hinshelwood’s match was over a quarter of the way into it thanks to a jarred knee. His replacement Dean Hammond forced a tactical re-jig in the midfield, where Sidwell was restricting Albion to scraps. Adam Virgo dropped back to his more regular defensive role to compensate. After the early exchanges there was nothing by way of goalmouth action until just before half time. Sonko’s glancing header narrowly went wide and the teams went in level.

REA Coppell REA Stretcher

At half time Mark McCammon was seen being stretchered off around the athletics track. He had been suffering from flu in previous days and was clearly struggling today, going down for rest a couple of times and signalled to the bench for assistance. He was replaced by youngster Chris McPhee. With half an hour to go Reading tried to force something to happen as Nicky Forster replaced Dean Morgan up top. He made an immediate impact as within three minutes of his arrival, Forster broke the deadlock. Little’s cross on the near side went over Kitson to the back post where Forster was waiting. His initial header was parried by Shaaban but, like all good strikers, he was in the right place at the right time as it rebounded off him to sneak home. It appeared to go off his head and onto his arm for the initial contact but there was no chance of the referee spotting that. Despite the Albion looking better in the second half, going forward more and enjoying spells with the ball, there was just no attacking threat there. An equaliser looked hard to come by until the game was raised in the closing stages. With ten minutes to go a fierce half-volley from Virgo on the edge of the box needed to be palmed away by the ‘keeper. Five minutes later Brighton’s fans felt aggrieved by the lack of a penalty from the officials after McPhee appeared to be shoved over by Sonko, alas nothing was given. With just two minutes of the ninety to go, a corner from Knight was headed forward by Hammond with Charlie Oatway getting the final contact. His hook a couple of yards from goal went wide when he perhaps should have done better. The last chance saloon gave Leon Knight a free kick opportunity on the edge of the area. His strike flew over the wall and into the side netting. The resulting goal kick was the final touch of the match as Reading secured the three points and Brighton’s survival story would need a couple more exciting chapters to be written.

REA Table

BRIGHTON 0 READING 1
Forster

REA Replay REA Replay 2

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

NEXT; #21 BRIGHTON 1-1 IPSWICH 08/05/2005

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

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

LEI Titles

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

LEI Ident LEI Sponsor LEI Intro

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

LEI Leicester LEI Brighton LEI Formation

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

LEI Gavin LEI Warnock LEI Studio LEI Whelan

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

LEI Fixtures LEI Referee

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

LEI Baine & Samrah LEI Dick Knight LEI Division 3 Champions

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

LEI Leon Knight LEI McGhee LEI Infobar LEI Coming Up

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

LEI Kick Off LEI Comms LEI Yellow LEI Onside

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

LEI Corner LEI Sub

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

LEI Table

LEICESTER 0 BRIGHTON 1
Virgo

LEI Goal LEI Replay

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

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

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

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

POF Titles

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

swi ident sky bet sponsor POF Intro

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

POF Brighton POF Bristol City POF Formation

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

POF Gavin POF Kamara POF Strachan POF Studio

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

POF Robertson POF Havord

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

POF Graphic POF Crests

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

POF Oatway POF Suits

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

POF Two Shot POF Little and Large

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

POF Iwelumo Stats POF Coming Up POF Albion Support POF Tunnel

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

POF National Anthem POF Referee POF Kick Off POF Comms

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

POF Virgo Yellow POF Substitution

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

POF Goal POF Knight aston POF Goal Replay

BRIGHTON 1 BRISTOL CITY 0
Knight

POF Replay 1 POF Replay 2

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

POF Iwelumo POF McGhee POF Man of the Match POF Going Up

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

POF Trophy Lift POF Crowd POF Knight Trophy POF Chairman Trophy

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

POF Dressing Room POF Bent Trophy POF Link Up

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

POF Trophy Winners

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

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

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

#44: Brighton 1-0 Hull 09/02/2013

#44 BRIGHTON 1-0 HULL Championship
Saturday 9th February 2013 Image result for

HUL Titles

PRESENTER Simon Thomas GUEST Peter Beagrie
COMMENTATORS Ian Crocker & Andy Hinchcliffe REPORTER Jonathan Oakes
5.20pm Kick Off; Amex Stadium     5-8pm Football League Live on Sky Sports 2

HUL Ident HUL Sponsor HUL Intro

Context of the Match: January was an interesting month at Brighton and Hove Albion. It began with an emphatic away victory at Ipswich on New Year’s Day, after a winless December. That was followed up four days later by knocking out Premier League Newcastle in the FA Cup for the second successive season. Three points arrived courtesy of Derby but since then the wheels have stalled somewhat. Back to back away draws at Birmingham then Blackburn were not ideal preparation for the Fourth Round of the Cup and a visit from the megastars of Arsenal. As the Gunners had to get through a Replay before facing the Albion, the match wasn’t selected for Live broadcast unfortunately. The team put in a very good showing, being edged out by three goals to two. The final match before today was at Hillsborough, where Brighton’s poor record continued with a defeat last week. All of which had placed the team in eighth position ahead of Hull’s trip to Sussex for the Saturday teatime clash. The Tigers were going great guns in third place, having lost just once in their previous eleven League matches. The reverse fixture occurred on the opening day of the season, as the home side ran out one-nil winners. Brighton had improved upon their squad since then, with new additions in the January transfer window most notably that much-needed striker as Argentinian Leonardo Ulloa was signed from Almeria. If Brighton were going to go the distance this season and reach those much-coveted Play Off places, they needed to show they could stand up to tests like this against Hull. The away side came to town with the best away record in the League.

HUL BrightonHUL Hull HUL Subs

The Teams: Gus Poyet made two changes from the side that lost to Sheffield Wednesday last weekend; one enforced and one tactical. A formation change occurred with two strikers up front – Craig Mackail-Smith in alongside recent capture Leonardo Ulloa. The man from Argentina was signed for £2million from Spanish side Almeria and immediately made a fantastic impression by scoring on his debut in the FA Cup Fourth Round defeat to Arsenal. CMS replaced Ashley Barnes who was sent off in the previous loss. Bruno returned after a month out through injury, replacing Inigo Calderon. Gordon Greer had been out with a hamstring injury but was on the subs bench of late. Matthew Upson made his home debut after signing on loan from Premier League Stoke City, having not featured much there this campaign. Adam El-Abd was back from international duty after featuring for Egypt in midweek against Chile, which took place in Madrid for some reason. Will Buckley and Vicente had both suffered spells on the sidelines of late but were fit enough to make the bench tonight. Hull made just one switch from their previous fixture, with Hobbs at the back coming in for Abdoulaye Faye. David Stockdale played in-goal, currently on loan from Fulham. Our former loanee Paul McShane started for the Tigers. It was striker Jay Simpson who got the only goal of the game in the reverse fixture on the opening day, he was being relied upon for goals in the absence of top scorer Sone Aluko who was missing through injury. The manager’s son Alex Bruce began in the heart of midfield. Steve Bruce was in charge of Sunderland when they lost here in the League Cup last season. The match official was Stuart Attwell.

HUL Thomas HUL Beagrie HUL Studio

The Coverage & Presentation Team: Owing to Hull’s excellent form, this tricky looking match at our Falmer home was moved to the day’s late kick-off, televised Live on Sky Sports. Regular first choice pairing of host Simon Thomas and pundit Peter Beagrie presented coverage from the studio within the North Stand. The programme began at 5pm ahead of kick-off twenty minutes later as consisted of the familiar format of bringing us up to speed with the day’s 3pm results before building up to the big match. Goals flew in everywhere in the Division, with two-all draws between Wolves and Leeds and also Sheffield Wednesday with Derby. Second place Leicester lost at bottom-place Peterborough, which opened it up at the top for Hull to move into the automatic places if they avoided defeat. Brighton had a core Latino influence which Sky highlighted in a pre-recorded feature as Andrea Orlandi, Bruno, Inigo Calderon and David Lopez invited new signing Leonardo Ulloa to their local Spanish tapas restaurant, Casa Don Carlos in the Lanes, for a ‘chatear’. Ulloa didn’t speak much English but thankfully the quartet were all on hand to translate and help him settle in. When Sky’s Football League reporter Jonathan Oakes mentioned the fifth member – Vicente – they all laughed, saying he preferred the siesta. The piece showed how well they had all gelled, had a togetherness despite competition for places. They also knew the story of Brighton and Hove Albion, where the club had come from to reach this magnificent set-up now and where they all wanted to be in future. Oakes spoke live with manager Gus Poyet in the tunnel ahead of the match. He explained the change in formation today, with Ulloa now able to be Mackail-Smith’s foil. “Everybody knows that he plays better when he plays with a target man up front so they got the chance to show us, to all of us, that that’s the best combination right now.” It came across that Poyet was somewhat reluctant to change but would give it a go here and see.

HUL Spanish Restaurant HUL Bruno HUL Kick Off HUL Comms

After the break, and a quick chat with Hull manager Steve Bruce, Simon Thomas handed up to the commentary box where Ian Crocker and Andy Hinchcliffe were waiting. This was a rare appearance back in the Football League for Crocker, who was more familiar to viewers North of the border. He began his career at Sky in the mid-to-late 90s becoming the voice of the new SPL until the rights transferred in 2002. At this point Crocker became the number one on the Football League, covering the vast majority of Live matches up and down the country including our Play Off Final win over Bristol City. This continued until he joined Setanta in 2006 to once again take the mic for the Scottish Premier League. During his time with Setanta he also covered Live FA Cup and Premier League matches before the company went bust in 2009. He then made the extremely rare move back to Sky, rejoining with the SPL rights. For the first year back he was freelance, allowing him to enjoy Champions League nights for STV, as well as Cup highlights matches and then the 2010 World Cup for ITV. Since 2010 he’s been on the staff roster with Sky and predominantly voices Scottish games as well as helping out on occasions back in England on Live League and world feed Premier League commentaries. Alongside him was Andy Hinchcliffe, who began working for Sky towards the end of 2009 before quickly moving up the pecking order to cover the majority of weekends behind Don Goodman’s number one position. Crocker brought us the team news before it was time to kick things off. Titles and graphics remained as they had been all season.

HUL Half Time Stats HUL Coming Up HUL Goal Analysis HUL Goals Round Up

There was little for Simon Thomas or Peter Beagrie to analyse at half-time in terms of clear-cut chances. The Match Stats showed Brighton were on top at the break but lacked the killer instinct. After the final whistle, reporter Jonathan Oakes spoke with Liam Bridcutt and Man of the Match Tomasz Kuszczak on the pitch. Bridcutt praised Vicente for his “quality to kill teams”, something the Albion had really missed of late. The League table showed Brighton moved up to seventh just two points behind Middlesbrough. The Play Offs were now a realistic ambition. After the break, just under half an hour was left to review the game and the Division as a whole. Peter Beagrie described El-Abd’s influence on the goal as being a “wiley old fox”. Leonardo Ulloa was singled out for his performance too; offering physicality, honesty and hard-work. Beagrie believed goals would come for him with better service, as the likes of Buckley began to return. Oakes caught up with Poyet post-match, who believed “over the ninety minutes we were a bit better than them.” On Vicente, who Poyet almost decided to play from the start, he said “That quality around the box, that’s why he played at the highest level… That’s why we want him to be an important part between now and the end.” Hull’s Steve Bruce bemoaned his side’s missed chances and bad luck for missing an opportunity to go back up to the top two. The final portion of the programme was spent looking at some of the key goals from the day’s other Championship matches, talked through by the studio duo before time was up.

HUL Vicente On HUL Free Kick HUL MOTM HUL Poyet

Story of the Match: Draws had been costly for the Albion so far, with very few defeats but not enough wins keeping the side out of the Play Off places. Hull’s Robert Koren was lively in the early stages, seeing a long-range shot not far wide as well as El-Abd bravely blocking in the box – being caught in the process. Despite this, Brighton dominated the ball in the first quarter of an hour as usual; enjoying 70% possession but neither side created any shots to trouble the goalkeepers. Hull’s tactic was, when out of possession, to throw ten men behind the ball and make it difficult for the Albion to unlock the killer pass. David Lopez was restricted to a shot from outside the box which needed to be pushed away by David Stockdale. Andrea Orlandi struck from a similar position with a direct free-kick after half an hour, again Stockdale needing to leap into action. Right on half-time, Bruno’s cross from the right touchline was met by a powerful header from Ulloa, just unable to direct it on target and the sides went in level at the break. There was a moment of panic for Brighton after an hour when Stephen Quinn’s cross wide on the left took a huge deflection off Bruno high up in the air and with the wind swirling and the rain falling had Kuszczak scrambling. The ball crashed down and would’ve gone in had the ‘keeper not managed to parry away whilst losing balance. It took a while for the Albion to get started in the second period so something needed to change. The decision was made to bring on Vicente for the final half hour in place of Dean Hammond and push on a bit more. The Spaniard lifted the crowd instantly as they willed on the team for the winner. A fantastic chance fell Orlandi’s way after sixty-six minutes following a terrific passage of play that began with who else but Vicente. He held the ball up ten yards into the Hull half facing his own goal. He managed to get a little bit of space and fire an amazing reverse ball some forty yards to release Wayne Bridge on the wing. His low cross to Ulloa was touched away only as far as Orlandi who arrived with pace. He had time and space but bodies on the goalline. He opened his body up for a sidefoot finish but from fifteen yards he blazed the chance too high. That wasn’t to say it was only the home side going for it. Hull too made a couple of changes and nearly took the lead through Robbie Brady’s wonderful forty yard effort, Kuszczak having to stay alert. He needed to have a strong hand again a couple of minutes later as Elmohamady’s shot was heading into the bottom corner following a header out from Matt Upson. That was probably the pick of the saves. It was becoming increasingly clear that you had to do something special to get a goal today. Step forward Vicente. With seven minutes remaining his free-kick right on the edge of the penalty area was that something special. His left-footed strike was low and powerful, beating the goalkeeper who did gets a touch on the way. The wall jumped up as the ball stayed grounded and, aided superbly by Adam El-Abd’s presence to just nudge said wall out of the way, Brighton had the breakthrough. Commentator Ian Crocker usually had a good goal call in him and didn’t disappoint here; “Vicente! He finds a way through. That is the moment, that is the goal that could well edge Brighton closer to the Play Off pack.” To emphasis how difficult the kick was, Robbie Brady had one in an identical position just a minute later but hit the back of the stands rather than the back of the net. Gus Poyet brought on Inigo Calderon to shore things up for the final few minutes and the Seagulls ground out a hugely important victory to move within touching distance of the top six. The result didn’t damper Hull’s season too much as they remained in the hunt all season and gained promotion as runners-up behind Cardiff. With three of the next four fixtures taking place at The Amex, this would be a crucial period in Brighton’s season.

HUL Results HUL Table

BRIGHTON 1 HULL 0
Vicente

HUL Replay HUL Goal

PREVIOUS; #43 BRIGHTON 2-0 NEWCASTLE 05/01/2013

NEXT; #45 CRYSTAL PALACE 0-0 BRIGHTON 10/05/2013

#17: Brighton 0-1 Swindon 20/05/2004

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

Alt Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BRIGHTON 0 SWINDON 1
Virgo

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

Parkin, Fallon

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

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