#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

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