Small Screen Seagulls; The Rise and Fall of Gus Poyet

Small Screen Seagulls LogoGustavo Augusto Poyet Dominguez, or Gus Poyet to you and me, made a name for himself as a talented midfielder for Zaragoza, Chelsea and Tottenham. The Uruguayan spent seven years in the Premier League picking up the FA Cup, Charity Shield, UEFA Super Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup. At international level, although he didn’t earn too many caps, he did lift the Copa America in 1995. Affectionately nicknamed “the radio” due to his incessant talking, there was no doubting he would go into coaching. Not many would have earmarked League One Brighton and Hove Albion as the club to give him his first managerial break. In November 2009 that’s exactly what happened, as Poyet brought a South American touch to the South Coast. 


Gus Poyet Brighton Manager 10th Nov 2009-23rd Jun 2013

Poyet's first game interviews (1)Gus Poyet had been assistant manager at Tottenham, Leeds and Swindon but now was given the top job for the first time. It was undoubtedly a gamble from new chairman Tony Bloom, but he was no stranger to playing the odds. Having taken over from Dick Knight in May, Bloom arrived as Brighton had just saved their skin on the final day with victory over Stockport at Withdean meaning they would remain in League One for another season. But the following campaign saw more misery at the start and Russell Slade’s short tenure was over. After Slade’s dismissal, Bloom said he received lots of applicants for the vacancy but when Poyet’s name was thrown in, he became ‘very interested’ before adding, “His reputation as being a top quality coach shone through, as well as being a top man… I am certain he will be a big success at the Albion.” Poyet certainly agreed, stating in a BBC Sussex interview “This is another challenge for me to take the club where everybody in Brighton wants to be and that’s in the Championship… Being realistic I think eighteen months is possible. If that is the goal of the club, it’s no problem.” He signed an initial contract until the end of the following season, which would be Albion’s final one at their makeshift home of Withdean. There was an immediate interest in the club from the media and it just so happened that Poyet’s first match in charge would be televised Live five days after taking charge. As a well known player in the Premier League, he scored some fantastic goals and assisted many more. As assistant coach he worked alongside big names, the likes of Juande Ramos and Dennis Wise. He was well used to lots of attention, but Brighton were not. The main focus in the spotlight was usually about the club’s fight for a stadium, a battle which dragged on for over a decade. Now, with Gus at the helm, there was an increase in coverage purely to see how the Uruguayan would be getting on. It turned out to go rather well.

Poyet appointedClimbing the table and building his own style was the first aim for Poyet. Results started to arrive and the style of play was overhauled. It was about getting the ball on the floor, playing out from the back, enjoying possession and passing the ball as much as possible. It was his philosophy and he only wanted to play one way. The club finished thirteenth in League One in May 2010 and sights were set on the top six. Poyet’s free-flowing Brighton side went even better in the 2010/2011 season, Poyet’s first full campaign, as they stormed to the top of the table and ran away with the title at a canter, soaring to the top of the table in September and never letting up. The club played some of the best football the supporters had ever seen. It culminated with a whopping 95 points to be crowned Champions as they bid farewell to life at Withdean and welcomed in the new stadium in Falmer with Championship football after five years away. In the process, Poyet earned the PFA League One Manager of the Year award and went on to claim the Outstanding Managerial Achievement prize at the Football League Awards. Praise was flying in from everywhere and the momentum continued in the second tier. His Seagulls narrowly missed out on the Play Off places in the 2011/2012 season as they took naturally to the higher League. One big push the following year saw them finish fourth and reach that end of season showdown for the first time at this level since 1991. That time it was ended at Wembley by Notts County, but for Gus it was Crystal Palace who did for us in 2013. And everything immediately fell apart in the days and weeks that followed. It ended with a bitter public fallout in which Poyet lost his job and Brighton had to start again. Here, we take a look at some of the media appearances Gus Poyet made whilst in charge of Brighton. A natural in front of the camera, he interviewed with passion and honesty and was a favourite in the studio. It all began by taking his new side along the South Coast for a birthday to remember.

 

First Match in Charge; v Southampton (A), 15th November 2009

#28 Southampton 15/11/2009 Table on Poyet's arrival

Five days after signing on at Brighton, Gus Poyet took his new club along the Coast to Southampton for a big clash at the foot of the League One table. Sky Sports couldn’t believe their luck, having already chosen this match in advance for Live television coverage over the international break weekend. Having a high-profile new manager in charge, and on his birthday, was the icing on the cake. Brighton sat 20th and in need of a rethink having shipped four goals in the previous match at Wycombe. In contrast, Southampton were in great form yet propped up the table for most of the season so far due to a ten-point deduction owing to financial irregularities but a win would take them out of the drop zone and above Albion. Sky Sports reporter Greg Whelan spoke to Poyet before his debut in charge and began by asking how much he was looking forward to the challenge. “We’ve done everything possible, because it’s only three days normally you have normally have a month of pre-season but, like I always say, I don’t complain at the situation and we have to accept it.” He spoke of the “talent and quality” of the squad he inherited but emphasised the need to shore up the back line, which he immediately tried to address by dropping captain Adam Virgo from the starting XI. The match couldn’t have gone any better, a full report is available here, as Brighton surged to a terrific three-one away victory with goals from Andrew Crofts and a Glenn Murray brace. Afterwards, a slightly hoarse Poyet spoke again with Whelan. “The lads were superb. We had two or three days to train, they adapted themselves to the situation very well.” He was pleased with the effort from the defence and debated whether the Southampton goal from the penalty spot should have been given in the first place. His focus was now about taking it game by game whilst he worked out exactly what to do with this squad and where strength was needed. “We need to think about keep improving as a team, keep working hard, keep believing in the strength of the team and work hard on the weakness.” In the studio, host George Gavin and pundit Peter Beagrie predicted brighter things for the Albion. “It’s a big task for Gus but I think, because you’ve got somebody with such kudos attached to it, I think he’s gonna be given time to build something at Brighton,” Beagrie said. That time spent during the rest of the 2009/10 campaign was enough to lift the club up the table steadily and with an attractive, open style which was enough to secure thirteenth place the following May, well clear of the relegation zone this time. Times certainly were changing.

SOU Poyet SOU Studio


Football League Weekend studio appearance; Sky Sports 2, 21st October 2011

FLW Titles FLW Poyet

In Poyet’s first full season in charge, Brighton were unstoppable as they stormed their way to the League One title. He built an exciting, attacking team dominating possession with free-flowing, passing football. The 2010/2011 campaign would be remembered amongst the greatest in Albion’s history as they took on and defeated all comers. The championship was secured in the final season at Withdean with four games to spare and ensured the opening of The Amex in Falmer would be as a second tier club again. A massive ninety-five points were obtained along the way, with Poyet named LMA League One Manager of the Season earning him huge acclaim. He strengthened over the summer to twice break the club’s transfer record – first on Will Buckley and then Craig Mackail-Smith – and began life in the Championship in superbly dramatic style with a last-gasp two-one opening day win over Doncaster. However, form over the next couple of months had stalled after positive opening weeks. Sky Sports had selected the home match against West Ham for Live television coverage on the Monday night. To preview that and the rest of the weekend’s fixtures, Gus Poyet was invited into the Football League Weekend studio to accompany George Gavin on the Friday evening. He admitted that he found the step up in League “very hard, very competitive” citing more power, strength, quality and experience in the Championship. After a dozen matches the Seagulls sat in tenth place on nineteen points going into this weekend. Poyet’s achievements so far earned him a contract extension beyond the original eighteen months and boasted a terrific win ratio of more than 50% over a century of matches. The stats were looking fantastic.

FLW Studio FLW Record

Gavin and Poyet discussed the move from Withdean to The Amex and how that impacted the club. Gus made his feelings clear about the old athletics ground; “I know people love it but I don’t. I’m the only one at Brighton who said that it was one of the horrible places to play football!” Of course by contrast he loved life in Falmer; “It’s totally the opposite – it’s massive, it’s comfortable, even the seats now!” He made a number of improvements on the playing staff too, bringing in the likes of Mackail-Smith, Buckley and Vicente as well as younger talents like Will Hoskins and Romain Vincelot. Poyet singled out Scotland’s newest striker Mackail-Smith for his outstanding workrate; “He’s the type of player that, when you are a defender, you don’t want against you. He’s quicker than what people think, he’s always running, desperate to play”. The Tuesday before the show, Brighton drew one-all away at Millwall which featured one of the weakest penalties in club history from Ryan Harley. Poyet’s response; “I was not a penalty taker so I’m not gonna blame anyone who takes penalties.” Without a win in six, form had gone off the boil having not lost in the opening six matches. A tough period was ahead for Poyet as clashes with West Ham and Southampton were coming up but Poyet was in buoyant mood. “I look at that as a manager, as a player, the fixtures – where is West Ham? There. Where is Birmingham? There. That’s the games you want to play… I love it.” Poyet talked through his own methods of coaching. On his preparation, he said “I’ve done everything possible to win this football game… I’ve done my job, then it’s up to the players” He didn’t join in playing during training whereas assistant Mauricio Taricco did. And the programme drew to a close with a quick mention of the success in League One; “I think it’s incredible what we did last year… The way we played we surprised people early doors and got points ahead and it was difficult for them to get back.” His aim of a top ten finish was in sight. “We’ll see.”

FLW Signings FLW Fixtures


Football League Weekend interview; Sky Sports 1, 2nd March 2012

FLWI Forster Poyet's Office

After a bit of a blip, Brighton were firmly back on course in the Championship. By March the club were on the fringes of the Play Offs in their first season back. Sky Sports preview programme Football League Weekend sent their reporter and former Albion striker Nicky Forster to the manager’s office to catch up with the boss. This was a particularly enlightening interview, given what we know subsequently. It began by discussing the situation at the time; Brighton were in seventh place level on points with the final Play Off team and thirteen matches remaining. Poyet admitted that placing was “just a little bit better than expected” as he was “expecting to be in the middle really”. He continued to play things down, saying “I don’t think we should be real contenders but I think we’ve got a chance because we are a little bit different.” To give a real insight into the mind of Poyet, Forster questioned him on the inevitable links to bigger clubs that come when a manager does as well as Gus had done thus far. “It’s good because that means we’re doing something right. I try to wait for the time it happens, I try to live with it. Sometimes it’s a shock and it’s crazy for a few days but I’m lucky.” The attention feeds into a crucial part of the man; his ego. The success in League One earned Poyet a new long-term contract but, he said, “at the same time, like any other job, there is a time frame that you need to set up… depending on how we do, you can stay forever or not.” He then spoke of some of the positives of the future, with the academy on the horizon and a plan in mind but didn’t want to commit to too much detail for fear of everything changing and then “looking stupid”. Perhaps this attention from other clubs and talk about promotion was a bit much as things quickly began to go off the boil. After this interview, Brighton won just two of the thirteen matches to drop down to tenth. Was their eye taken off the ball and heads were allowed to turn, we’ll never probably know. But what was known amongst the footballing community was how good a job Poyet was doing. The studio team of host George Gavin with Simon Grayson and Phil Brown echoed that afterwards, demonstrating it with the excellent results since the New Year.

FLWI 2012 Results FLWI Presentation team


Football League Award Winner; BBC One South East, 12th March 2012

LKO Titles LKO Award

Gus Poyet’s great work at the Albion was recognised by the Football League at their annual awards dinner in March 2012. He was honoured with the Outstanding Managerial Performance across the three Divisions for transforming the Seagulls from relegation candidates to League One Champions within eighteen months of taking charge. BBC regional magazine show Late Kick Off reported on the event the following evening. The Brighton area was now served by the “London and South East” BBC region, meaning a new line up for the 2012 series of Late Kick Off, with Football Focus presenter Dan Walker at the helm as the Albion shared the spotlight with the clubs from the capital. Walker was joined in the studio by former Charlton and Wimbledon striker Jason Euell and ex-Crystal Palace front man Mark Bright. Poyet said of his award; “I’ve been lucky to be at the right club at the right time… The key is the players. If you make sure you get the right players, you convince them, you make sure they want to play for the football club and they believe in what we do… you got a chance.” By the time the gong was handed out to him, Brighton were sat fifth in the Championship table with ten matches of the season to go, such was the lateness of this award we had almost completed the following season. In fact, Poyet was doing such a great job to carry on the momentum of promotion into the higher tier and in the new stadium, he wouldn’t have looked out of place on the shortlist for the award for this 2011/2012 campaign either. In the studio, Mark Bright was full of praise for the job done by the former Chelsea midfielder. “The move into the new stadium was fantastic for the Brighton fans and for the team. But the style of football they play, they’re now looking at back to back promotions – and seriously as well – I think they are big contenders. There was a lot of respect in the room for Gus Poyet.” The final few matches of the season saw the Albion tail off and miss out on the Play Offs but over the course of Poyet’s first two seasons in charge he won plenty of plaudits for the open, attractive passing style of play and were candidates to go one step further into the top six the following season.

LKO Poyet LKO Studio


Last Match in Charge; v Crystal Palace (H), 13th May 2013

PAL Titles PAL Poyet

The club missed out on the Play Offs in 2012 having dropped too many points in the final third of the season and winning just one of the last ten. Poyet signalled to the board that, in order to go one step further, investment was much needed. Tony Bloom answered by providing funds to bring in top class players such as Tomasz Kuszczak, Bruno, Wayne Bridge, Andrea Orlandi and David Lopez over the summer. The squad was sharp and solid. The Albion even led the Championship briefly in September. Too many draws cost us in November and December as Brighton slipped down the top half. Leonardo Ulloa and Matthew Upson were brought in to add even more quality in January and result picked up again for Poyet. Just one defeat in the first eleven matches of 2013 saw the club back in the Play Off pack and an unbeaten last nine games cemented fourth place in the second tier, the highest finish for thirty years since relegation from the old Division One. It set up a crunch clash with Crystal Palace in the Play Off Semi Finals and, after drawing the away leg nil-nil on the Friday, it was all down to this Monday night in May at The Amex. Brighton were favourites and dispatched of their rivals three-nil as recently as March here. Gus Poyet was one match away from a Wembley Final. It turned out to be a dreadful night. Palace won the game two-nil and went on to gain promotion with a Final win over Watford. An incident in the away dressing room prior to kick off enraged their boss Ian Holloway and fired up the Palace players.

After the televised match, Poyet spoke to Sky Sports reporter Jonathan Oakes in a conversation which fuelled speculation about the Uruguayan’s future with the Albion and saw him lose the support of the chairman and board. It began with Poyet’s summation of the campaign; “You have a very, very good season, better than expected. You done something very good and then because of this Play Off you go home with a terrible feeling and I’m really sad.” Over the course of the two Legs, Poyet thought Brighton should have edged it. He praised the First Leg performance in particular, dominating that first half but not getting the reward. But complained of his side’s poor showing in this match; “We were not ourself, too much tension, too much responsibility… That is not us.” The damning moments came at the end of the interview when asked about recovering from this and his future with the club. “I don’t want to make any decisions or any comments right now because the feelings are not the best so I will sit down, check properly everything… Where is the roof? Did we hit the roof today and there is nothing above? What is going to be the situation next year? But we’ve got time.” Asked if he would be here next season he replied, “I need to analyse my personal diary.” Emotions played a big part of Poyet’s success, being fiery and passionate and feeling all the highs and lows. But when it came to interviews, particularly just after a defeat or if something hadn’t gone his way, Poyet showed his managerial immaturity too many times. It wasn’t his place to question the ambitions of the club in the minutes after a heart-breaking defeat in this manner. Blame was being placed at everyone else’s door instead of his own. Brighton’s squad was better than Crystal Palace’s but he couldn’t get past them. And for that he should have faced up to it. It was silly to talk about ‘hitting the roof’ and touting himself as available for other jobs in such a manner. This was noted immediately by the board, who acted to suspend him from his job pending an internal inquiry in the subsequent days. Poyet was in danger of undoing all the great work he put in to this club and it was his own fault for the bitter ending.


TV Pundit Poyet dismissed by Brighton; BBC Three, 23rd June 2013

TV Studio TV Poyet

Never one to go quietly, the manner of Gus Poyet’s eventual dismissal from Brighton following a period of suspension caused headline news. Not necessarily for the sacking itself though, more for the way the news reached the public domain. On Sunday 23rd June 2013, Poyet was working as a pundit on BBC Three’s Live coverage of the FIFA Confederations Cup match between Nigeria and Spain. Sat in the warm Salford studio alongside fellow guest Efan Ekoku and host Mark Chapman, the news was delivered to the viewers at home during the half-time break that Gus Poyet’s contract with Brighton had been terminated with immediate effect. Chapman began the coverage by announcing, “We will look more at that first half during half-time, but we’re gonna start half-time by talking about Gus because it’s been a slightly odd first forty-five minutes for those of us in the studio and particularly for Gus because after three-and-a-half-years as Brighton manager, whilst we’ve been on-air this evening Gus has been told that his contract has been terminated.” The official statement, below, issued by the football club on the Seagulls website was read out. Poyet insisted that the first he heard of the decision was when a member of the BBC production staff printed out the statement and handed it to the studio team whilst the match they’re covering was in play. Brighton and Hove Albion refute these claims.

TV Statement

Poyet began by saying, “I think BBC have got a great story forever, really. Because a manager getting information that he’s been released from his employment by the BBC during the time of a programme is quite surprising.” He said he did not receive any form of communication from the club prior to this statement being released. He added a veiled barb towards the Albion hierarchy by saying, “I think everybody, the viewers and everyone, can take their own conclusion about the way that I’ve been informed.” He confirmed that he intended to appeal the decision and had already spoken with his lawyers around the next steps but was limited in what he could say right now. He was most sad with the fact that during the suspension period, lasting for over a month until this point, Poyet had not been allowed any form of communication with his players or staff for legal reasons. After the match, they returned to the subject of Poyet’s dismissal to delve a little further and reiterate the news to any latecomers. Chapman asked him if he was now on the job market again, to which he replied, whilst reaching for the piece of paper in front of him, “From what I read from the statement is that I am unemployed.” If he genuinely didn’t know about this before coming on-air then he handled it brilliantly. If he did know, it was a masterclass in hamming it up and feigning surprise. Given the nature of his fiery personality on the touchline, you tend to think that he would have been a bit more outspoken if this was genuine news to him. He did look rather emotional though as the questions wore on. Gus Poyet’s time in charge of the Albion concluded with the following message at the end of the programme; “First I would like to thank every single Brighton fan for being so patient with me, supportive. They’ve been outstanding. I know how difficult it was in the beginning to change a way of understanding football and they’ve been excellent with me all the time. They were patient, they believed, they got convinced and I’m sure they are proud of the football club and the team they’ve been watching over the last three-and-a-half-years.” Gus Poyet did not go through with his appeal and his tenure at Brighton came to a sad end after such highs.

TV Chapman TV Studio 2


The relationship between Brighton and Hove Albion, the supporters and Gus Poyet completely broke down after that terrible Play Off night in May 2013. Poyet was soon suspended by the club, along with coaches Mauricio Taricco and Charlie Oatway, pending an inquiry after comments made after the Crystal Palace match. The full truth probably will never emerge about exactly what happened behind the scenes there but it was all rather unsavoury. When he was dismissed from the club in June, Poyet insisted the first he heard of it was when he was making a punditry appearance Live on the BBC, who broke the news to him on-air. The club statement said Poyet was already aware of their decision. Whatever happened, it was a very sad ending to what had been a fantastic period for both Poyet and the Albion. He oversaw the move into the new stadium with a seamless transition from Champions of League One at Withdean to promotion candidates in the Championship at the new home of The Amex. He transformed the playing style of the club, moving away from long-ball plodders struggling at the foot of the third tier to an attractive, flowing passing philosophy knocking on the door of the Premier League. He was at the helm for almost two-hundred matches emerging the victor in eighty-six, that’s a win ratio of 44.3%. Too many draws cost him a Play Off spot in the 2011/12 campaign but it still built up the points, losing just forty-nine matches in charge. As far as first managerial jobs go, Poyet had a stormer and was highly sought after and respected in the wider football community, both at home and abroad.

Poyet Manager

Defeat in the Play Offs to your biggest rival and then a bitter fallout with the club hierarchy did mean that Poyet was enemy number one amongst sections of the Seagulls support for a time after his sacking. But to gloss over the fantastic achievements he had with the club would be foolish. Without Poyet, Brighton could well have begun life at Falmer in the bottom Division of English football and going nowhere fast. It wasn’t just results he was able to get, but he improved players too. The best example was probably with local lad Adam El-Abd, who was transformed from a big bruising old-fashioned centre-half into a ball-playing modern defender. Poyet’s fiery style and passionate displays didn’t endear him to everyone and several high-profile names fell foul of him. Nicky Forster and Glenn Murray’s partnership didn’t last nearly long enough. But he was able to attract a whole new calibre of player, the likes never seen before in Sussex. Former Valencia playmaker Vicente was somehow convinced to join and, in the limited game time he got, showed glimpses of brilliance. Kazenga LuaLua flourished. A host of other top Division players dropped down to the Championship to earn their stripes with the blue and whites. Gus Poyet was a huge factor in that. He gave us a glimpse of the potential this football club had now the stadium and training facilities had started to take shape.

Poyet Memory Lane

In his final post-match interview, he questioned if we’d ‘hit the roof’. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The foundations were laid, they just needed someone to crank it up a notch. Should Poyet have been the man to have taken the club into the Premier League? Possibly. It may have been a case of trying to go too far too soon. Brighton were not a top level club in 2013 and had overachieved to get within 180 minutes of making it. Allowing Glenn Murray to slip away for nothing in 2011, and to end up at Palace, was a terrible error of judgement and his goals we struggled to replace for a long time. Poyet’s passion would sometimes boil over into petulance, he received his marching orders from the touchline and saw rage transfer to his players on the pitch too often. Establishing the club in the second tier soon attracted interest from bigger clubs and Poyet didn’t exactly hide his delight at that. For a while it seemed we were destined to lose him to the Premier League as former stomping grounds Chelsea and Tottenham sniffed around. As much as his philosophy brought huge success, it could sometimes be stifled in the Championship as clubs learned how to counter it and frustrate Brighton. Plan B was rarely in the offing and this harmed the promotion charge in both second tier seasons. His ego got the better of him and when the final, crucial battle was won by Ian Holloway’s Palace, blame lied everywhere except at the manager’s door. In the end it became a tussle between manager and board and there would only ever be one winner. Poyet paid the price.

He was responsible for the best of times as an Albion fan. We were making headlines for the attractive football and fantastic facilities, showcasing the club and the city to the world in the process. Players flocked to Falmer from far flung corners of which Poyet was usually a big factor. We came so close to achieving the dream of top flight football, but just fell short. Poyet questioned if that was as far as the club could go. But as far as he could go with the club, come June 2013 it was adios, Gus, and thanks for the memories.

Huddersfield Poyet

Small Screen Seagulls; Play Off Final v Notts County, 02/06/1991

Brighton on TVEight years after slipping out of the top flight and reaching the Wembley Final of the FA Cup for the first time, Brighton were poised for a return to the big time. The club were ninety minutes away from getting back into Division One, all that stood in their way were Notts County in the Barclays League Division Two Play Off Final. This was the Albion’s first visit back to the National Stadium since the 1983 Cup Final Replay defeat to Manchester United. Since then, Barry Lloyd had rejuvenated the club and snuck into the Play Offs in sixth position in the Second Tier. Highly rated Neil Warnock was the County boss aiming to thwart Lloyd’s plan. A Sunday out in the Wembley sunshine in June determined the victors. Would the Seagulls fly high again or was it the turn of the Magpies to perch on the top branch? ITV’s South and Central regions were there to see.


Notts County 3-1 Brighton, Play Off Final; 3pm, Sun 2nd Jun ’91

91POF Titles

The Football League Play Offs were introduced in 1987 as a way of determining the final promotion place in Divisions Two, Three and Four. As of 1990, they were contested by the four teams finishing just outside the automatic spots and consisted of two two-legged Semi Finals and a one-off Final held at the National Stadium of Wembley. The Play Offs were credited as being a huge success in harbouring excitement for special occasion of a showpiece Final, as well as ensuring many more meaningful and competitive games towards the latter stages of the campaign as more teams had things to play for. ITV held exclusive television rights to the entire Football League from 1988 to 1992, with regular networked Live matches from Division One as part of The Match presented by Elton Welsby or Jim Rosenthal mostly on Sunday afternoons. The regions were sometimes utilised for highlights programming, showcasing the goals from the local games, but Live games took priority. With the Play Offs still in its infancy in 1991, this match between Notts County and Brighton was not broadcast Live. As a somewhat rare treat, thirty-minute highlights were shown later that Sunday night in both the Central region and TeleVision South.

91POF Table

The final Division Two table saw Oldham promoted as champions along with West Ham and Sheffield Wednesday. Missing out by just two points were Notts County who had to settle for fourth and a place in the Play Offs in their first season back at this level. They gained promotion via the Play Off Final in 1990, defeating Tranmere by two goals to nil to take the Third Division trophy. Manager Neil Warnock was being touted for the vacant Chelsea job ahead of this match but had a job to complete; back to back promotions. They dispatched of seventh-placed Middlesbrough to reach this stage, as a Paul Harding goal with twelve minutes to go in the Second Leg made the difference. They drew the First Leg at Ayresome Park one-all. Brighton meanwhile did the double over Millwall to book their spot at Wembley. A comprehensive four-one win at the Goldstone on the Sunday set them in great stead for the trip to The Den. Mark Barham’s equalising goal just before the break was followed by a quickfire three further in the space of seven second half minutes as Mike Small, Clive Walker and Robert Codner all added their names to the scoresheet. The rematch three days later saw Millwall take the lead early on, as they did in the First Leg. But goals from Codner and John Robinson in the second half ensured a fantastically comprehensive six-two aggregate win. This was in stark contrast to the regular League results, where there was a stalemate at the Goldstone and then a three-nil defeat in South London. It was a similar story against Notts County, again a goalless draw at home was paired with an away defeat. It would be a close Final to call.


Television South & Central Sport Special, ITV (Sunday 2nd June 1991)

91POF TVS ITV Central 91

The ITV region serving Brighton and the South Coast was TVS; TeleVision South. They took over the franchise from Southern on New Year’s Day in 1982. The flagship broadcast of the station was Coast to Coast, the daily regional bulletin which won the RTS award for Best News Programme in both 1989 and 1991. Faces of the South included Fred Dinenage and Fern Britton, whilst the famous logo on the ident featured a six-coloured symbol rotating. For the ITV network, it produced such hits as gameshow Catchphrase, classic kids favourites Art Attack and Finders Keepers, and part of long-running morning talk show The Time, The Place. TVS improved the regional sport programming launching with their own weekly football highlights show in ’82, Sunday Sportshow and latterly The Saturday Match, whereas Southern had often just simulcast LWT’s The Big Match. The likes of Dinenage, David Bobin and Gerald Sinstadt were involved over the years before the main highlights were networked across the country from LWT. Both TVS and Midlands region Central broadcast thirty-minute highlights of the showpiece Play Off Final here.

91POF Newbon

Commentary on Notts County versus Brighton was provided by ITV’s main voice, Brian Moore. Joining the broadcast in 1968 for the launch of LWT and The Big Match, he established himself as a personable frontman and outstanding commentator covering all the showpiece occasions at home and abroad. Interviewing the players and managers was reporter Gary Newbon. He had a long history with the midlands, working as a reporter for ATV in the 1970s (ITV’s first midlands region) before holding the position of their Controller of Sports for more than two decades as well as presenting the local Central sports news and shows. He worked on football, darts and boxing for ITV Sport and was the touchline reporter on Live football from the 1980s onwards. For today’s broadcast, he introduced the programme for Central viewers with a brief piece to camera pitchside before handing over to Brian Moore.

91POF Brighton

Moore talked us through the team news, starting with Brighton. Barry Lloyd joined the Albion as Alan Mullery’s assistant in 1986 and took over the main job the following January. He couldn’t do enough to prevent the second relegation in five seasons though. An immediate return to Division Two came about in his first full season in charge, finishing second behind Sunderland. Lower half finishes in 1989 and ’90 were forgotten about when he guided them to this Play Off spot and just one game away from the promised land of the top flight. He made just one change to the starting line-up that defeated Millwall in the Semi Finals, Clive Walker returned to the fold having had stitches in the First Leg when colliding with an advertising hoarding. Perry Digweed in goal joined a decade earlier from Fulham. Also joining the club in 1981 was defender Steve Gatting from Arsenal who, unlike Digweed, played in the ’83 Final the last time Albion were at Wembley. The club broke the record transfer fee for a non-League player when Nicky Bissett joined from Barnet for £20,000 in March ’88. Colin Pates concluded his loan spell from Arsenal. This was Dean Wilkins’ second spell at the Albion, having played a handful of times in the 83/84 season. Midfielder Mark Barham won two international caps with England in the eighties. Winger Clive Walker was most known for his eight-year spell with Chelsea, a club synonymous with defender Gary Chivers who spent his first five professional years there. Romanian Stefan Iovan recently joined from Steaua Bucharest where he played for more than a decade. Mike Small was the top scorer this campaign with twenty-one goals in his debut season at the Goldstone. He partnered Robert Codner up top. Options on the bench were defender Ian Chapman and Republic of Ireland international striker John Byrne.

91POF Notts County

Notts County managed by Neil Warnock were an industrious, hard-working side. The world’s oldest Football League club named talented young midfielder Mark Draper and twenty-year-old striker Tommy Johnson in the starting eleven. The pair graduated through County’s youth system. Goalkeeper Steve Cherry hadn’t missed a game in the previous two campaigns. An experienced defence included ex-Peterborough right back Alan Paris and former Hull man Charlie Palmer. Centre back Craig Short was a signing from Scarborough in 1989. Midfielder Don O’Riordan scored a cracker against Spurs in the FA Cup Quarter Final back in March, ultimately losing two-one. Dean Thomas spent five years in Germany with Fortuna Dusseldorf. Phil Turner established himself as a stalwart of the County side over the previous two years. Striker Dave Regis was the younger brother of Cyrille and cousin of sprinter John. On the bench was Paul Harding, whose winner was the decider against Middlesbrough in the Semis, and forward Kevin Bartlett, who scored when the two sides met on New Year’s Day. Refereeing was Harrow schoolmaster David Elleray.

91POF Tunnel 91POF Warnock tunnel 91POF Referee 91POF Kick Off

Brighton wore their change kit, the so-called ‘Chewit wrapper’, of red and white. Notts County kicked the match off in their familiar black and white stripes, shooting from right to left in the first half. Neil Warnock emerged from the tunnel in the suit before dashing off to change into the tracksuit just as the game got underway following referee Elleray’s signal. The Albion had the first real chance of the match, beginning brightly. Dean Wilkins corner from the right was swung towards the back stick. A flick on saw the ball fall at the feet of Clive Walker. His shot almost snuck through the legs of goalkeeper Steve Cherry and in, instead deflecting it narrowly wide. The resulting corner was cleared all the way up the other end and almost presented County with a great opportunity, but for the alertness of Digweed to smother. He was forced off his line when a proposed backpass from Barham didn’t quite have the legs after it deflected off Gatting, Tommy Johnson not quite able to nip in. Cries from the Seagulls supporters of “There’s only one Perry Digweed” rung round loudly.

91POF Corner. 91POF Opening goal

However the opening goal came shortly after, with Notts County the ones celebrating and cheering. It came about after a dubious corner was awarded the Magpies way. Albion defender Gary Chivers was adamant the final touch did not come off him but Elleray disagreed and awarded the corner. Replays suggested that Chivers played it onto the foot of Dean Thomas. That was played short before being whipped in by Phil Turner from the near side. Tommy Johnson ran across his marker and glanced the header home from the six-yard line. There was very little Digweed could do about that one from such close range. The delivery was excellent and Johnson just needed a slight touch to guide it in for one-nil just before the half hour mark.

91POF Small 91POF Brighton bench 91POF Post 91POF Half Time

As Barry Lloyd, Martin Hinshelwood and co watched on from the bench unlucky to see Brighton behind, Clive Walker almost came up with the goods to equalise. He was the width of the post away from doing so just a minute before the break. Barham crossed from the right and Walker flew across the box to meet the delivery with his head, very unlucky to see it crash against the post (above, bottom left). This encouraged the crowd once more. “Seagulls! Seagulls! Seagulls!” On the break, Notts County created a half chance for Johnson which was comfortable for Digweed and so it remained one-nil to the black and white stripes at half time.

91POF 2nd Half 91POF Crossbar

Brighton got the game back underway after the break, trailing by that Johnson goal. They began the second half much like the first; well. Having struck the post earlier, it was now the turn to strike the crossbar (above right). Dean Wilkins floated a lovely ball towards the net from a free kick some thirty yards out. It beat Cherry in goal but didn’t quite dip enough and bounced off the top of the bar right in front of many of the travelling Albion faithful. But County always posed a threat and went close again through an excellent chance for Johnson. A terrific through ball from Thomas sent Johnson clear goalside of his marker. He took the shot early on the edge of the area but dragged it wide of the post.

91POF Johnson 2nd 91POF Subs

A quarter of an hour into the second period brought about the second goal, also for Notts County. Strong work by Regis on the far side to hold off Bissett was supported by Johnson nearby, County’s biggest threat. He got his shot away low, hard and, crucially, early from the far corner of the box. It flew in, beating Digweed’s hand to nestle into the bottom of the net. As commentator Brian Moore pointed out, there looked to be no danger until it was too late; “Played in by Dave Regis, taken by Tommy Johnson, wallop! And that’s two-nil.” This brought about a Brighton double substitution almost immediately, with Byrne and Chapman coming on for Iovan and Gatting.

91POF THAT Kit 91POF 3rd goal

It’s worth taking a closer look at that kit! Above left, Gary Chivers is sporting the incredible ensemble sponsored by Nobo, the office supplies company. With just under twenty minutes remaining, sub Ian Chapman scythed down Turner just outside of the right-hand side of the penalty area. The resulting free kick was curled in to the far side of the box by Mark Draper. Up jumped Dave Regis who gently cushioned the ball into the goal off his chest from six yards. An unconventional finish but an effective one none the less and that put the game out of Brighton’s reach, if it wasn’t already.

91POF Replay 91POF Mid game interview

From a coverage viewpoint, even though the match was not televised it had the unusual distinction of replay transitions. These came in the form of a picture flying into the centre with a yellow border, then flying back out again when it’s finished. Another peculiar part was when reporter Gary Newbon interviewed County boss Neil Warnock on the bench just after the third goal went in! Warnock remarked “Brighton have never worked as hard all season and I think it’s been a cracking game.” That feature was probably not going to catch on, with Warnock surprisingly accommodating despite being in the midst of a Wembley Final.

91POF Wilkins goal 91POF Brighton fans

The match wasn’t quite over as there was still time for an Albion consolation. After some terrific work from John Byrne, jinking into the box from near the left touchline he squared it. Barham let it run through for Dean Wilkins to finish first time (above left). His left footer sent the ball through the legs of defender Craig Short and out of reach of Cherry. It was celebrated in true consolation style, with little more than a handshake and a trot back to the centre circle with the game already up. But at least it gave those travelling Seagulls supporters something to cheer about. Just shy of half the 59,940 in attendance at Wembley were pleased with that last-minute strike.

91POF Trophy

There it was, the final whistle blew and Notts County were promoted back up to the top Division. Two goals from Tommy Johnson and a third from Dave Regis were the difference, with Wilkins adding no more than a personal highlight at the end. It was the black and white stripes who climbed the Wembley stairs up to the Royal Box to receive their trophy. Commentator Brian Moore crowned the moment; “Out of the Second Division and into the First by way of a Play Off victory at Wembley this season. Phil Turner raises the trophy, Notts County are back in the First Division.” Congratulations to the club and Neil Warnock, who was interviewed more traditionally by Gary Newbon to close the programme in the dressing room, followed by goalscorer Tommy Johnson. Brighton were so close but fell at the final hurdle. The top Division suddenly seemed a long way away again now.

Small Screen Seagulls; Play Off Final v Bristol City, 30/05/2004

Small Screen Seagulls 2000sThe story of Brighton and Hove Albion around the turn of the Millennium was of a club finally on the rise again. After a disastrous decade in the 1990s – losing at Wembley in a Play Off Final, embarrassing exits in the FA Cup to non-League teams, almost becoming one of those non-League teams but for the skin of our teeth at Hereford and, of course, corruption in the boardroom leading to the sale of the Goldstone and nowhere to call home – the 2000s began with back-to-back titles flying up the Football League. By May 2004, still homeless and fighting, Brighton had the chance to enjoy a moment in the spotlight in the Nationwide Division Two Play Off Final. It was the opportunity for the Seagulls to take flight into the second tier, win a trophy, play at a National Stadium and, most importantly, champion the Albion cause in public. The match was Live on Sky but for those at the game or who didn’t have digital telly, ITV in the Meridian region broadcast a full thirty minute highlight programme.


Brighton 1-0 Bristol City, Play Off Final; 3pm, Sun 30th May ’04

POFHL Titles

Meridian Broadcasting gained the ITV franchise for the South and South East from 1st January 1993, taking over from Television South (TVS). Since then the ITV regional programmes for that part of the country fell under the Meridian (or ITV Meridian) branding. What this meant in terms of the football coverage, not much changed initially. TVS did not have their own production for the Live matches involving the regions Football League teams once ITV lost top flight rights in 1992. Instead they showed the networked or LWT (London) productions. When Meridian took over this continued until the beginning of the 1994/95 season, when weekly highlights show The Meridian Match was brought in. Every Sunday afternoon, Andy Steggall would round up the weekend’s action from our local Football League teams; Portsmouth, Reading, Bournemouth and Brighton as well as Southend and Swindon who were on the edges and also covered by other regions. Southampton were predominantly a Premiership club during this period but would often be spoken about and featured whenever rights permitted. The Meridian Match would also feature occasional Live matches up until 1997 and then again in 2001/02, where highlights of the other teams would fit around. When Sky gained exclusive Live Football League rights, the regional programme would continue with half-hour highlights shows instead. Supplementing The Meridian Match on Sundays would be a midweek version; Meridian Soccer Night, also usually hosted by Steggall. This afforded the regions clubs regular exposure and highlights on the main commercial network and was how the majority of fans would view their team goals. For matches of significance, a special edition of the programme would air. When Reading reached the Play Offs in 2001 this was the case, and it was repeated in May 2004 when Brighton and Hove Albion travelled to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to take on Bristol City. At stake was a place in the second tier – to be renamed the Championship from August. Having followed Albion closely all season on Sunday afternoons, it was only right that Meridian got their chance in the Cardiff sunshine to see how it all ended.


Soccer Night, ITV1 Meridian, 11.45pm (Monday 31st May 2004)

POFHL Ident

A thirty minute highlight programme in the Meridian region was slotted into the late night Bank Holiday Monday ITV1 schedule to cover Brighton’s Division Two Play Off Final with Bristol City. Monday nights were football nights on ITV that season, with the regular edition of The Premiership on Monday chaired by Matt Smith and his panel of experts from 11pm. This was followed into the early hours of Tuesday morning by Nationwide Football League Extra, ITV’s weekly round up of all the goals from the three lower Leagues and voiced by the trio of Tom Skippings, Trevor Harris and Tony Jones on a whistlestop tour of goals and features. UEFA Champions League Weekly was also part of the late night/early morning three course football feast, as the best of the action from the continent’s premier competition got an airing. But on this particular Monday night, with the regular League seasons done and dusted, it was here where ITV1 Meridian could broadcast Soccer Night, showcasing the action and reaction from the Albion’s final match of a long season, complete with the regional ident featuring long-serving Meridian Tonight news presenters Debbie Thrower and Fred Dinenage.

POFHL Semi Final 1 POFHL Bristol Semi POFHL Semi Final 2

The programme began by having a quick recap of the Semi Final matches for both Brighton and Bristol City, seeing how they got to this stage. Fourth placed Brighton’s journey began away at fifth in the table Swindon Town on a very sunny Sunday afternoon in mid May. Richard Carpenter’s deflected goal the difference as the Albion claimed a one-nil victory. Bristol City, the highest placed side in third, secured a one-all draw away at Hartlepool in their first leg thanks to Tony Rougier’s opener after just five minutes. In the second leg it took two late, late goals to overturn the ‘Pool lead given to them midway through the second half. First Goodfellow in the 88th, then Christian Roberts in stoppage time saw the Robins of Bristol progress to the Final in dramatic circumstances. However, the Seagulls showed them what drama really was the following evening in their second leg! Sam Parkin’s goal ten minutes before the end of the ninety meant Extra Time was required. Rory Fallon then gave Swindon the advantage overall until that Adam Virgo header in the last minute of Extra Time dragged the Albion level once more and headed for a penalty shoot-out. With Mooney missing, Virgo put Brighton in the ascendancy meaning Andy Gurney had to score or Swindon were out. The crash of the ball against the crossbar sent Brighton fans running onto the pitch, boss Mark McGhee sprinting for his safety to avoid a mobbing and, most importantly, set up this Final clash with Bristol City at Cardiff’s magnificent Millennium Stadium.

POFHL Steggall

Familiar face to the Meridian region for ten years, Andy Steggall presented from pitchside at the Millennium Stadium. Steggall’s career in broadcasting began in local radio for the BBC in Leicestershire having studied at university there before moving to Southern Sound – the precursor to Southern FM in Sussex. He transferred into sports television in the local area with TVS for eight years from 1984 as well as working for Channel 4 on their daily breakfast show at the start of the 1990s. After a year doing the sport for GMTV, in 1994 he moved into the role he’s had to this point; presenting the sport for Meridian. This incorporated news programme Meridian Tonight as well as weekly highlights show The Meridian Match. During the early part of his time with Meridian he presented Live Football League matches when ITV held the rights from the studio in Southampton. The region’s highlights show has seen him travel the country following the exploits of the likes of Reading, Bournemouth, Pompey and the Albion through real highs and desperate lows. He introduced this programme before handing straight up to the action with our match commentator.

POFHL Kick Off POFHL Commentator

Voicing the best of the action from the gantry was Phil Duffell. He had long been ITV’s voice of football in the West (HTV) region, commentating on their version of Soccer Sunday (The West Match) regularly from around 1995. These commentaries would then be heard across other regions on occasions, and even the main networked highlights show Football League Extra. During the 2001/02 season, he got the opportunity to commentate on a Live match for HTV West, as Bristol Rovers took on Plymouth, when the various ITV regions were able to broadcast occasional Football League matches as part of Soccer Sunday Live. For today’s Play Off Final, he was primarily there commentating for HTV covering Bristol City, with Meridian opting to use the commentary too. During the regular campaign this season on Meridian, the usual commentator was Ross Dyer. If he wasn’t around, Andy Ford would voice the goals. The pair took over from John Roder who had been a mainstay of The Meridian Match since 1997, including the couple of Live outings in 2001/02. Roder benefitted during the 2003/04 season from British Eurosport having the Live rights to Serie A, meaning his association on the South Coast came to an end. With Premiership highlights returining to the BBC from the upcoming 2004/05 season, Roder would become one of the new voices on the programme.

POFHL Brighton

Mark McGhee made one change from the last Brighton match; the topsy-turvy Semi Final Second Leg with Swindon. In came Gary Hart as Paul Reid made way. Captain Danny Cullip was named in the PFA Division Two Team of the Season whilst centre-back partner Guy Butters was voted the fans Player of the Year. Hero of that Swindon night Adam Virgo took his place at right-back with another local lad on the left; Dan Harding. Welshman Nathan Jones joined Englishmen Richard Carpenter and Charlie Oatway in the middle of the park. Club top scorer Leon Knight wanted to add to his tally of twenty-five goals. The big man/little man striking combination was completed by Chris Iwelumo. His victory in this game for Stoke two seasons ago made the big Scotsman the only Albion player to have featured on this Millennium Stadium surface before today.

POFHL Bristol City

Ex-Albion midfielder Danny Wilson brought his Bristol City side back to this Cardiff pitch for the second time having secured the LDV Vans Trophy last season. Three of his starting eleven were named in the PFA Divisional Team this term; Steve Phillips in goal, Louis Carey at the back and Brian Tinnion in the middle. Striker Tony Rougier made a handful of appearances for Brighton towards the end of the last campaign. Scottish forward Lee Miller played in the majority of the club’s matches but had only netted eight goals thus far. Christian Roberts was born in the host city. Refereeing the clash was Richard Beeby.


POFHL Roberts flap POFHL City chance

Story of the Match: The prize was spelled out by commentator Phil Duffell right at the start of the match. “It’s five years since Bristol City last played in Division One. Brighton’s exile at present stands at just one season. In ninety minutes time, maybe more, one of these teams will be mixing it with the likes of Leeds, Sunderland, West Ham and Wolves. It’s a cast they all want to join.” The first action shown was a nervy moment for Albion ‘keeper Ben Roberts, who flapped at a cross as he dropped it onto Guy Butters before bravely throwing himself in the way of any follow up as the stripes were able to clear. Moments later he again failed to clear danger from a ball into the area, as big City centre half Tony Butler got in his way. The ball dropped to Butler who blazed way over, with the linesman’s flag only slightly sparing his blushes. It wasn’t the brightest of starts for the man who had performed so well between the posts all season. Bristol City were considered by many as favourites for this match and they began accordingly.

POFHL Knight crossbar POFHL Half Time

Brighton’s first chance of note came when Leon Knight took a free kick from just outside the box. Welsh winger Nathan Jones, playing in the National Stadium of his home country for the first time, was tripped at speed by the smallest of contacts to earn the foul. Up stepped Brighton’s top scorer to curl the set piece towards the goal. It had Steve Phillips scrambling on his line to get there but he was assisted by the crossbar. It was a terrific effort to get it up over the wall and back down from a relatively short distance but just didn’t quite have enough to sneak in. But it was a warning shot that the Albion weren’t here for a day out. The first half lacked quality from either side as the tension of the occasion perhaps got the better of one or two, and the first half highlights came to a close with the score goalless.

POFHL Iwelumo shot POFHL Caught in possession

The match continued to be too close to call, with nothing able to separate them as the second half wore on. Both were restricted to half chances at best, with long range efforts and weak attempts on goal. As soon as one team had the ball, the other would win it back shortly after but not able to do much with it before being dispossessed. It would not be one of the famous Play Off classics, that’s for sure! An excellent crossfield pass from Semi Final hero Adam Virgo found Chris Iwelumo who took it on his chest. He created space and had time, more time than he perhaps realised as he rushed into a volley some thirty yards out which skipped off the turf and bounced well wide. Brighton almost created a problem for themselves out of nothing at the other end when Butters was caught in possession on the edge of his own penalty area. The ball was being casually played around the back line and goalkeeper when the former Gillingham defender was guilty of being too relaxed. Tony Rougier charged him down but the dispossession took the ball flying out behind for a goal kick towards the corner flag. One mistake was probably going to be all it took to decide this, as the ninety minutes drew closer and Extra Time loomed large.

POFHL Sub POFHL Iwelumo header

It’s never a good sign on a highlights programme when a substitution being made is shown in full. That’s how light we were on match action I’m afraid! But John Piercy came on to replace Jones, who had enjoyed a little bit of rare success on the day and was unlucky not to last the full ninety. Piercy was involved straight away and it was his cross from the left which saw an Iwelumo glancing header drop just wide of the far post as Phillips gathered before it fell behind the line. The Seagulls supporters sensed an opportunity and sung loudly to galvanise the side to get it done within the regulation time. And they were right to lift those spirits as, with time running out approaching the final five minutes, Brighton rewarded them with the crucial breakthrough.

POFHL Foul POFHL Penalty

Adam Virgo gathered a loose ball on the half way line and chipped it down the line for Iwelumo to chase. The big Scotsman held it up whilst support moved ahead of him. He shrugged off one challenge before dribbling the ball forward towards the area. Faced with two red shirts he pushed it through for Leon Knight. The diminutive striker couldn’t quite collect the pass under the challenge of Danny Coles but Iwelumo had continued his run. Just as he got his foot to the ball and looked like he was about to unleash an effort to trouble Phillips, Coles took a big swipe in an attempt to hoof the ball away but Iwelumo was too quick for him and ended up being scythed down. It was a definite penalty, for which referee Richard Beeby had no doubt. Up stepped Knight to coolly slot the spot kick home and Brighton had the lead! “One nil Brighton and Hove Albion! Who else but Leon Knight has the goal which has Brighton one step nearer to Division One. The shirt’s off, the celebrations have started,” was the call from our commentator Phil Duffell. The seconds ticked away before the full time whistle had blown. Brighton were back in the second tier at the first time of asking.

POFHL Scoreline


“There goes the final whistle. Brighton and Hove Albion are back from whence they came last season. It’s Division One for the Seagulls thanks to Leon Knight’s penalty. It’s Knight’s day in Cardiff,” commentator Duffell exclaimed. The twelve minutes or so of match highlights that ITV Meridian had managed to scrape together during a tight, turgid affair had came to an end and the result was that it would be Brighton going up, with Bristol City suffering Play Off heartache for the second successive season. Before the interviews and celebrations could begin, it was time for the advert break so the final ten minutes of the programme could be spent basking in Albion’s jubilation.

POFHL Full Time POFHL Medal POFHL Trophy Lift

The celebrations began with the trophy lift. Manager Mark McGhee led the players up the platform on the pitch to collect their winners medals, followed by everybody involved from Nathan Jones and Chris Iwelumo through Gary Hart and Charlie Oatway right up to Adam Virgo and, of course, captain and Man of the Match Danny Cullip. A sea of blue and white remained in the Albion end, with the contrast shown over in the City side where the pain was very real once more. Cullip lifted that lovely looking trophy to signify once and for all that the Seagulls were soaring up to Division One!

POFHL McGhee POFHL Knight

Andy Steggall conducted the interviews with the winning team, beginning with the gaffer. McGhee began by stating the importance of the victory in the wider context; “It means so much to us not just about playing in the 1st Division, about playing at Molineux, The Den and Walkers Stadium, the Stadium of Light instead of some of the places we’ve been this year, but also about our own stadium. This is a demonstration to anybody why we need a ground.” Goalscorer Leon Knight was up next, who admitted his penalty didn’t need anything special just do the job. “It weren’t well hit but it was in the corner and that’s the main point and it went in the back of the net”, having described it as the best penalty of all his.

POFHL Dick Knight POFHL Fans

The chairman was just an important role in the recent successful years at Withdean as much as any of the playing staff. Dick Knight heaped praise on the squad as well as sending out the rallying cry in the need for Falmer’s permanent home. “A wonderful achievement by our players and Mark McGhee. But it also makes such a strong statement about the incredible support that we have. We brought nearly 30,000 people here today so, frankly, they’re chanting behind me ‘We want Falmer’, they deserve Falmer.” Nobody had featured more or done more in the campaign for the new site than Mr Knight himself; always there, always ready with a soundbite and fought the Albion cause so, so well.

POFHL Virgo POFHL Oatway

Sussex born Adam Virgo held the trophy in his hands as he was interviewed by Steggall. We’ll gloss over the fact Meridian captioned him as Gary Hart though! With the backdrop of the ecstatic fans over his shoulder, Virgo gave credit to his fellow players for their efforts and talked about the emotions of the day. “I was in the hotel room, so excited to get out it was like Christmas Eve! I just wanted to get out and play and if I wanna play at the top I’ve got to play under the biggest pressure.” Midfielder Charlie Oatway, who had been in and out of the side all season, discussed his part in it all. “You can’t bottle what this club has got. For me personally it’s been up and down, but I’m so pleased it’s finished up with a high.” The interviews were interspersed with shots of the crowd celebrating and the other players lifting the trophy. It was a joy to watch all connected with the Albion having the day out they deserved. Danny Cullip had the Nationwide promotion flags wrapped around him and a big blue and white soft hat on, beaming with his winners medal around his neck.

POFHL Goodbyes POFHL Endboard

And with that, presenter Andy Steggall stood pitchside and rounded off the final programme of the season for Brighton and indeed the other clubs in the Meridian region. “As Fatboy Slim nearly said,” he began to close, “First Division football starts right here, right now. And what of the future? Well, on a personal basis thankyou for all your support, your letters, your questions – no, this isn’t a perm! Thankyou to all of your teams who’ve supported me so well throughout this season. On behalf of all the production team, we couldn’t do it without you, we wouldn’t want to. From all of us, for another season goodbye.” The credits rolled to an Oasis cover of David Bowie’s classic “Heroes” and the curtain came down on a successful season for Brighton and Hove Albion – going back to the big time.

POFHL Celebrations

Full report on the Sky Sports Live programme covering this Play Off Final is available HERE.

#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

#55: Derby 4-1 Brighton 11/05/2014

#55 DERBY 4-1 BRIGHTON Championship Play Off Semi Final 2nd Leg
Sunday 11th May 2014 Image result for

DERA Titles

PRESENTER Simon Thomas GUEST Uwe Rosler
COMMENTATORS Bill Leslie & Don Goodman REPORTER Jonathan Oakes
5.15pm Kick Off; iPro Stadium, Derby     5-7.30pm FL72 Live on Sky Sports 2

DERA Ident DERA Sponsor DERA Intro

Context of the Match: The 2nd Leg of this Championship Play Off tie came just under three days after the original. At The Amex on Thursday the spoils went to the away side as they turned around a blistering first twenty-five minutes for Brighton. On loan winger Jesse Lingard gave the Albion a deserved lead early on, finishing at the second attempt after a fierce defensive block. But a foul from club Player of the Season Matt Upson in the box gave Chris Martin the chance to level things from the penalty spot. And on the stroke of half time, Martin’s shot cannoned off the crossbar and onto the back of goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak to give the Rams the lead. They saw out the second half without any more goals, meaning that slender advantage is how things stand going into this Sunday late-evening decider at the iPro Stadium. Derby were the third best supported club in the Championship this season with an average attendance of nearly 25,000. The Albion had the highest, averaging 27,283 during the regular campaign. Today’s hosts were expecting a bumper crowd for their last chance to see the team at the iPro until next season – whatever Division they’d be playing in. Derby were favourites to progress to the Wembley Final in just over a fortnight and had already done the treble over the Seagulls. Both the First Leg and the League meeting at The Amex ended two-one to the away side, with Martin netting three of those four. The last meeting at this stadium ended one-nil, with Patrick Bamford getting the decisive goal in January. Derby’s first taste of the Play Offs came twenty years ago in this Division, when they made the Final after knocking out Millwall. They went on to lose to Leicester at Wembley. Brighton’s first experience also saw them defeat Millwall in the Semis before losing in the Final, back in 1991 to Neil Warnock’s Notts County. Brighton’s finest hour at the business end of the season was a decade ago in the third tier, when a Leon Knight penalty defeated Bristol City in the Final. They joined Derby in the new Championship for the 2004/05 season, at the end of which Derby surprisingly lost to Preston in the Play Off Semi Finals. Finally, their most recent venture saw a one-nil win over West Brom in the 2007 Final to gain promotion to the Premier League in Derby’s one and only success thus far. Who would progress to the big one this time round? The Sky cameras were present to find out.

DERA Derby DERA Subs DERA Brighton

The Teams: Oscar Garcia made two changes from the First Leg defeat; one enforced and one tactical. Jake Forster-Caskey dropped to the bench, replaced by the club’s Young Player of the Season Rohan Ince in midfield. At the back, Matt Upson’s season was over due to a reoccurrence of his previous ankle injury. Lewis Dunk stepped up once more to take his place alongside captain Gordon Greer and full backs Inigo Calderon and Stephen Ward. First Leg goalscorer Jesse Lingard maintained his run of starting every match since joining on loan in February from Manchester United. Lingard and Will Buckley were supporting Leo Ulloa up top in the quest for goals to overturn the two-one deficit. Six of the starting eleven also began the Play Off Semi Final Second Leg last season against Crystal Palace including Kuszczak in-goal and Andrea Orlandi in the middle. Stephen Ward also had experience of these ties, having lost at this stage for Wolves against West Brom in the 2007 Championship Play Offs. Keith Andrews continued his spell in the side, coming towards the end of his season long loan from Bolton. A surprise inclusion was named on the bench; Kemy Agustien hadn’t featured since the last time we were here back in January. For Derby, Steve McClaren named Will Hughes on their team sheet in the only change from Thursday, replacing Craig Bryson who was absent through a back injury. Hughes was awarded the PFA Championship Young Player of the Year gong by the Football League. Striker Chris Martin added to his twenty League goals this term at the Amex from the penalty spot, the club’s top scorer. On the subs bench, Connor Sammon was an option for the Rams, he came on during the first match. Both bosses had been named Championship Manager of the Month during the season; Garcia taking November’s prize whilst McClaren got the nod the following month. With Brighton needing goals to add to their aggregate tally, they could take inspiration from the fact Derby conceded four here back in October in an amazing draw with Ipswich, the joint highest scoring game in the League this year. Taking charge of tonight’s affair was Craig Pawson.

DERA Thomas DERA Rosler DERA Studio

The Coverage & Presentation Team: With this match taking place on the day of the final set of Premier League fixtures, the Play Off game was scheduled on Sky Sports 2 for a Sunday evening 5.15pm kick off. Super Sunday concentrated on the Premier League title race as it went down to the last day. With both Manchester City and Liverpool in the running, their games were both shown Live kicking off at 3pm. On the back of the full-time whistle at Anfield in which the Reds ended in second place, coverage concluded there to allow our match in Derby to receive fifteen minutes build up. Regular host Simon Thomas was joined in the studio in the corner of the iPro Stadium by the Wigan manager Uwe Rosler. His side finished a point and a place above the Albion in the Championship standings, and drew nil-nil with QPR in their First Leg of the Play Offs on Friday night. The return fixture at Loftus Road would take place tomorrow, giving Rosler a chance to weigh up his potential Final opponents here today. The East German took over the Latics in December earlier in the season and guided them to the FA Cup Semi Final at Wembley, losing on penalties to Arsenal. During his playing career, he first came to the attention of English football supporters when he joined Manchester City in the mid 90s having spent his career in Germany until that point. He returned to his native land after City before moving to Southampton in 2000. He had the honour of scoring the final ever goal at Saints old home of The Dell during a friendly with Brighton in May 2001. Brighton were selected to close the ground as they had also been the first ever opponents there back in 1898 under the guise of Brighton United. Thomas and Rosler spent the first part of the programme discussing the Play Off picture so far. This included Rosler’s own Wigan and their First Leg with QPR. He was the manager of Brentford when they got to the League One Final last season, losing to Yeovil, and was able to draw from that big game pressure to explain what it might be like for today’s sides. The inclusion of Will Hughes due to Bryson’s injury was analysed, both very good but very different prospects for the Albion to face. After the break, the teams were in the tunnel. Using the familiar split screen we’ve seen all season, we saw the interviews with both managers played out as the players entered the field. Jonathan Oakes spoke to Oscar Garcia, who summed up the First Leg as “We played much better, but they were better than us in front of goal and that made the difference.” As with that match, the commentary pairing here were regulars Bill Leslie and Don Goodman.

DERA Garcia DERA Analysis

One change for the graphics from the last match was in the replay transitions, which now reverted back to the Play Off trophy as opposed to the logo. I can only assume the trophy animation wasn’t ready in time for that opening game. The aggregate score was tacked onto the scorebar as is customary for Second Legs. At half time, pundit Uwe Rosler believed the turning point was the enforced substitution bringing Greer off and shuffling the defence around. As a consequence, Will Hughes wasn’t picked up well by his marker, allowing that little bit of space to turn the ball home for one-nil. He said the defence looked unsure, particularly when Ward almost made it two-nil, with Stephen Ward not used to playing centre back and Lewis Dunk and Adam Chicksen not regulars. Just under fifteen minutes was left after the full-time adverts to conclude the game and Brighton’s season. Jonathan Oakes heard from victorious manager Steve McClaren in the tunnel, who as usual spent the majority of the game up in the stands watching from a high vantage point. You could hear the supporters chants and songs in the background as they crowded the pitch to celebrate. Some of the Derby players gathered in the stand above the tunnel with the stadium PA to join in, whilst for the viewers our studio team talked over these pictures for a couple of minutes. Their task was then to analyse the five goals we witnessed, four of which came in the second period. Rosler was especially impressed by scorer number three, George Thorne, believing he should have been awarded Man of the Match over Will Hughes. Having gone most of his Live games not able to emerge from the dressing room in time before the end of the programme to give his post match interview, we were afforded that with Oscar Garcia after this match. When speaking with Jonathan Oakes he told of how Derby deserved to go through despite Brighton’s excellent showing at The Amex; “The First Leg I think we deserved much more but, to be honest, they are better than us and they showed today.” With a nod to his frustrations in the transfer market, that later became apparent, the final question about strengthening over the summer was met with “That’s a question for the club, not for me.” Telling. The final couple of minutes were spent with Rosler discussing his own Second Leg fixture at QPR the following night. The final whistle was blown on Albion’s season Live in front of the Sky Sports cameras, as Simon Thomas bid farewell from another broadcast. A lot would change in the period between now and the next Live Brighton match both on and off the pitch.

DERA Kick Off DERA Comms

Story of the Match: The First Leg fixture three days earlier was a very open, attacking match with chances for both sides and three first half goals. If Brighton were to get through today they’d need a repeat performance being more clinical in their change kit of yellow with thin blue stripes today. The opening exchanges were equally as open, with both sides pushing forward. Jesse Lingard enjoyed a positive charge towards the Derby box but was ultimately crowded out. He was having to do a lot on his own going forward. A risky challenge with his studs showing cost Jeff Hendrick a caution when it could potentially have been more. Don Goodman in commentary believed so. As the half went on, the home side grew into the match and began shooting from the edge of the area on a number of occasions. Craig Forsyth had got forward from left back as a chance opened up for him, his effort curling into the outside of the netting. A formation change with a quarter of the match gone was required for Brighton as Gordon Greer picked up a knock injuring his hamstring. He had to be replaced by Adam Chicksen, usually a left-back. Consequently Stephen Ward moved into the centre to accommodate Chicksen’s arrival in a slightly makeshift defence. To make things worse, Lewis Dunk picked up a silly yellow card with an hour still to play for a late lunge. In the thirty-fourth minute, the first goal was scored. Forsyth got forward once more, providing a low cross from the left into the danger area. It was backflicked goalbound expertly by Will Hughes around twelve yards out to career into Kuszczak’s bottom left-hand corner. The pace of the touch gave the ‘keeper no chance and Derby deservedly increased their aggregate lead. Another goal was almost gifted their way four minutes before the break, when Jamie Ward chased down a backpass to Kuszczak. As he attempted to launch up field, the goalie’s kick cannoned off the striker only to see the ball bounce down into the ground and just over the bar. Brighton’s solitary first half chance fell to Leo Ulloa just a minute or so later. A clever ball over the defence from Lingard was matched by a clever run from Ulloa to allude his marker. Leaping outstretched, he brought the ball down but his body position ended up side-on facing the touchline. He quickly swiveled to get the effort on target but by this time Grant in-goal had gained on him and thwarted the shot well with his legs for a crucial save. With away goals not counting double in the Play Offs, an equaliser then would have reset the match for the second half with just the First Leg deficit separating them. Alas, it was not to be.

DERA LuaLua DERA Pitch Invasion

It took just ten minutes of the second half for Derby to increase the lead and effectively put the game out of Albion’s reach. The front three all combined to give Chris Martin his now obligatory goal against us. Russell crossed on the right-wing for Ward. His header back across the face of goal found Martin to tap home from just a couple of yards. His determination to get to the ball first, ahead of two defenders who had better starting positions than him, said all it needed to about the confidence at the back for Brighton. They didn’t react quick enough to the danger and it was game over at the aggregate scoreline became four-one. Garcia threw on his final two subs in reaction; Craig Mackail-Smith and Kazenga LuaLua for Buckley and Orlandi, but the task was nigh-impossible for the team with the sixth lowest away scoring record in the Division. A brief pause from the crowd occurred to applaud and remember the fifty-six people who lost their lives twenty-nine years ago on this day in the fire at Bradford City’s Valley Parade stadium. The shots continued to pepper the Brighton back line with Derby showing no signs of letting up. Frustrations started to get the better of the players, with Leo Ulloa the latest to pick up an unneccesary yellow card for backchat. The scoring wasn’t complete yet as with less than a quarter of an hour remaining, Derby got their third of the day in some style. An attempted shot from sub Dawkins was blocked as far as the edge of the area. It fell to George Thorne to whack one on the volley into the bottom corner for a tremendous finish. Don Goodman described it as the cherry on top of the icing on the cake for Derby. And it got even better with a few minutes left as they got their fourth. Jeff Hendrick burst forward showing a turn of pace to skip away from Chicksen, he passed it to sub Bamford and continued his run into the penalty area. Bamford cut it back to an unmarked Hendrick who finished emphatically from around the penalty spot to compound the Albion misery. With a minute to go the travelling support had a small amount to cheer about when Kazenga LuaLua scored the scantest of consolation goals with a minute left, any emotions for it were long gone by this stage. Calderon cut back for the winger on the edge to sidefoot low into the corner. It was a neat finish, a shame it meant very little for only his second of the season. And so it would be Derby who would contest the Play Off Final at the end of May, as the fans spilled onto the pitch upon the final whistle. Their side clinching victory on aggregate by six goals to two. Steve McClaren headed back to Wembley for the first time since the end of his dismal England reign seven years earlier. A last-minute Bobby Zamora goal won the day for QPR in the Final. Whilst Brighton’s own managerial set up would be thrown into chaos just hours after today’s defeat, with Oscar Garcia handing in his resignation. The club reluctantly accepted the following day and had to begin the search for a new boss for the second successive summer. Garcia was clearly unhappy with the recruitment structure at the club, with David Burke in charge of transfers and a limited amount of funds available. The January transfer window hit him hard, losing key players without replacing them, and it was a massive achievement to drag this side into the Play Offs in the first place. I don’t think many Seagulls fans believed they would do it this season. The manner of the defeat and the resignation of a popular manager so soon after though were gutting and a rethink during the break would need careful consideration.

DERA Schedule

DERBY 4 BRIGHTON 1
Hughes, Martin, Thorne, Hendrick LuaLua

DERA Replay

PREVIOUS; #54 BRIGHTON 1-2 DERBY 08/05/2014

NEXT; #56 BOURNEMOUTH 3-2 BRIGHTON 01/11/2014

#54: Brighton 1-2 Derby 08/05/2014

#54 BRIGHTON 1-2 DERBY Championship Play Off Semi Final 1st Leg
Thursday 8th May 2014 Image result for

DER Titles

PRESENTER Simon Thomas GUEST Peter Beagrie
COMMENTATORS Bill Leslie & Don Goodman REPORTER Jonathan Oakes
7.45pm Kick Off; Amex Stadium     7.30-10pm FL72 Live on Sky Sports 1

DER Ident DER Sponsor DER Intro

Context of the Match: The final few minutes in the away end at Nottingham Forest would live long in the memory for Albion fans, as the club snatched the last Play Off place in the most dramatic circumstances. Reading were drawing at home with Burnley with just a minute left to play, whilst Brighton were level at Forest. In stoppage time up stepped Leo Ulloa to connect with a perfect Craig Mackail-Smith cross to send Seagulls supporters wild, leapfrog Reading into sixth and extend the season by a couple more games at least. The message didn’t quite filter through to all in Berkshire as a mini pitch invasion ensued before the fantastic sight of them suddenly realising it wasn’t to be their day, as Oscar Garcia and his men couldn’t contain their joy upon the final whistle at the City Ground a minute or so later. What a day. Now, the tension was only about to be ramped up as we enter the so-called lottery of the Play Offs. For Brighton fans, nothing could be worse than the sight of rivals Crystal Palace claiming victory at this stage last season so really, things couldn’t be as bad as before. Could they?! The reward for finishing sixth was a trip to the highest ranked team; third placed Derby County. They were favourites for promotion of the four teams remaining whilst Brighton were the outsiders. County finished thirteen points better off and scored the most goals of any team in the League with eighty-four, that’s a whopping twenty-nine more than the Albion. The First Leg would be held at The Amex on a Thursday night, kick starting the Football League Play Offs across the three Divisions. A lead would be needed to take to the iPro Stadium on Sunday if Brighton were to have any chance of progressing. The best attack were facing the best defence in terms of shut-outs. Something had to give.

DER BrightonDER Derby DER Subs

The Teams: Following the dramatic Final Day victory to catapult the Albion into this Play Off match, Oscar Garcia named an unchanged starting eleven. That meant the back line which served him so well throughout the season remained intact, with captain Gordon Greer partnering former England international Matt Upson. The Englishman and the Scotsman were joined by an Irishman; last week’s goalscorer Stephen Ward at left back. Whilst it was Upson who took the fans Player of the Season honour, Ward was runner-up and goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak poled third. Jake Forster-Caskey won the Goal of the Season for his long-range left-foot piledriver away at Doncaster in a three-one win back in November. Jesse Lingard’s loan spell from Manchester United was extended to include the Play Off matches. Leo Ulloa netted the winner to take us to this match and he also scored at The Amex when Derby were last here, a two-one defeat in the first home game of the campaign in August. Last week’s assist maker Craig Mackail-Smith continued to fill a space on the bench and would be hoping to feature for more than the handful of minutes he impacted at Forest. Steve McClaren’s Derby County secured their spot here with games to go and could afford the luxury of resting many first team regulars during their draw with Leeds on the Final Day. In all, six changes were made for tonight’s clash as the likes of Craig Bryson and Johnny Russell returned. Jamie Ward and Chris Martin were absent from the squad completely last week, both were straight back in here as McClaren reverted to the same starting line up that played against Watford two games ago. Only Ward has previous Play Off experience in the Derby side; he was sent off in the 2009 Final for Sheffield United in their defeat to Burnley. The referee for tonight’s encounter was Roger East.

DER Thomas DER Beagrie DER Pitchside DER Studio

The Coverage & Presentation Team: Number one pairing Simon Thomas and Peter Beagrie hosted Live coverage of the first of the Play Off matches, kicking off a mammoth run for Sky Sports who were once again televising all twelve Semi Finals and all three Finals over the coming days and weeks. The programme began fifteen minutes before the quarter-to-eight kick off, allowing time to focus on the big match and soak up the atmosphere. As with last season, the title sequence was adapted using the same style as the regular campaign but with classic action from previous Play Off matches culminating with the trophies lined up at the end. The graphics and music remained as they were before. The dramatic introductory VT welcomed us to the entire Play Off picture, mentioning all twelve teams involved and heightening the tension and drama the occasion brings before joining our hosts who were standing by pitchside for the pre match build up. They ran through the odds, highlighting Derby’s tag as favourites and Brighton’s as outsiders. The form guide pitted the best two against each other, with both unbeaten in their last six matches. They were struggling to make themselves heard over the noise from the crowd and the music blaring from the PA system. After the advert break and with the teams in the tunnel ready for kick off, reporter Jonathan Oakes spoke with each manager – Oscar Garcia and Steve McClaren – played out on a split screen adjacent to the Live pictures. The Brighton boss told of his delight at the team reaching this stage; “I couldn’t be prouder of my players for what they did last game. They deserve to be here fighting for our place.” The build up was complete, time to hand over to the commentary team. Completing Sky’s A team were Bill Leslie and Don Goodman on the gantry.

DER Form DER Garcia pre match DER MOTM Award DER Analysis

As with last season at this stage, the Play Offs logo was added to the back of the club crests on Sky’s graphics so they rotated between each image. The logo was also used for replay transitions, spinning in and zooming towards us, as opposed to the Play Off trophy which was present last year. At half time the presentation team moved up from pitchside to the familiar North Stand box studio to analyse that great half of football. With three goals to look at, time was of the essence. Peter Beagrie described Lingard’s finish as “instinctive”, giving the goalkeeper no chance. He called for Brighton “not to panic… do not let the deficit increase”, praising them for much of their play so far but not getting the rub of the green with the own goal. Derby’s goalkeeper Lee Grant was named as the Man of the Match and he was interviewed along with Gordon Greer in the centre circle after the full-time whistle by reporter Jonathan Oakes. After the break more than ten minutes remained to review this entertaining Play Off encounter. Steve McClaren described it as “half the job done” before pointing out to Oakes that Brighton have a good away record and it would be a tough fixture. Thomas and Beagrie talked through the goals again, having no doubts about the award of the penalty. Reviewing what turned out to be the winner, Beagrie questioned four or five Albion defenders in the box but nobody closing down Martin as he struck the effort which would crash in off the ‘keeper. Lee Grant’s saves were highlighted, saving everything Brighton threw his way. The pundits said the referee should have awarded at least one penalty for shirt pulling on the home attackers, whilst Calderon’s collision in the first half was perhaps hindered by his over-reaction when falling. The programme concluded by looking ahead to the following night’s Play Off encounter between Wigan and Queens Park Rangers before signing off for the evening.

DER Kick Off DER Comms DER Lingard goal DER McGhee

Story of the Match: Brighton kicked off the first of this season’s Play Off encounters, shooting from left to right in their familiar blue and white stripes. The atmosphere was great early on, with Seagulls supporters fully embracing the extra bonus match at the wonderful stadium. Inigo Calderon was booked within eight minutes for a late lunge, putting extra pressure on him for the rest of the match. He was involved straight away at the other end of the field, when a tangle of legs with Forsyth could easily have been given as a penalty to Brighton. Referee Roger East was not interested on this occasion. The home side took the game to Derby in the first quarter, enjoying more possession and attacking threat. And in the eighteenth minute, that threat turned to a goal. Again Calderon was at the heart of things, driving forward down the right hand side and bursting into the penalty area. He cut the ball back for Jesse Lingard level with the penalty spot. His first attempt was blocked but he was not going to be denied a second time, as the England under-21 international fired past the ‘keeper to huge roars from the crowd. It was exactly what Brighton deserved after an excellent start. The old adage of being at your most vulnerable after scoring was almost proved right when a Derby free kick was whipped in and somehow missed everybody as it bounced just wide of the post. Despite the domination in corners and the ball spending half the time in the Derby third, Brighton were pegged back just before the half hour mark through a rash challenge and a penalty. A rapid counter attack from the away side saw Craig Forsyth burst from inside his own half right up to the Albion penalty box and, after a neat one-two with Hendrick, his run continued into the area. With three striped defenders around him one of them was bound to make contact, it was Upson’s reckless challenge which brought the left back down for a clear penalty. It fell to Chris Martin to convert the spot kick, sending Kuszczak the wrong way to calmly equalise against the run of play. Now it was Derby’s fans turn to make all the noise. The last successful Brighton manager in the Play Offs, Mark McGhee, was watching on in the stands. He was part of Gordon Strachan’s team with Scotland.

DER Own Goal DER Action Areas

Derby continued to threaten on the counter attack and almost took the lead but for the goalkeeper and Gordon Greer clearing away a dangerous cross. As the half eased to a close, Derby struck a killer blow with virtually the last kick. Johnny Martin controlled a ball drilled towards him well with his back to goal. He was able to lay it off to the edge of the box where Martin was shaping up to shoot. His left footer smacked against the crossbar and crashed in the net off the back of the outstretched Kuszczak in the most unfortunate of fashions. It was cruel luck for the goalkeeper who could do absolutely nothing about it. Derby took a two-one lead into the interval when it could have been oh so different. Garcia changed things at half time, with Buckley picking up a knock so LuaLua came on. Commentator Bill Leslie produced a great stat as the number 25 featured off the bench for the twenty-fifth time this season. Derby almost increased their lead within two minutes of the second half as Ward drove the ball across goal for Kuszczak to deflect onto the outside of the netting for a corner. With half an hour remaining, the Albion hit the crossbar. Orlandi’s cross from the left of the box was hit towards goal by the left foot of Ulloa. His connection wasn’t the greatest, hitting it down into the ground rather than true towards the net. The bounce though almost deceived Lee Grant in-goal, as he flung himself towards the effort and managed to get a palm on it to push onto the woodwork. There was no such luck from the rebound like Derby received at the end of the first, their defence clearing this one away. Brighton were upping their game more and more as the half wore on, with large spells of possession and much of the action occurring in Derby’s final third. The only thing lacking was the equaliser. For the third televised game in a row, Garcia turned to Solly March to come off the bench to chase a goal. Grant was increasingly getting called into action, first from a long-range Lingard attempt and then a follow-up effort on the edge of the box from Stephen Ward. The crowd was buoyant but it just wasn’t to be. The match finished with Derby edging Brighton by two goals to one, it would be a tough ask for the Albion but all was to play for on Sunday.

DER Coming Up

BRIGHTON 1 DERBY 2
Lingard Martin, Kuszczak own goal

DER Replay DER Goal

PREVIOUS; #53 NOTTINGHAM FOREST 1-2 BRIGHTON 03/05/2014

NEXT; #55 DERBY 4-1 BRIGHTON 11/05/2014

#46: Brighton 0-2 Crystal Palace 13/05/2013

#46 BRIGHTON 0-2 CRYSTAL PALACE Championship Play Off Semi Final 2nd Leg
Monday 13th May 2013 Image result for

PAL Titles

PRESENTER Simon Thomas GUEST Peter Beagrie
COMMENTATORS Bill Leslie & Don Goodman REPORTER Jonathan Oakes
7.45pm Kick Off; Amex Stadium     7.30-10pm Play Offs 2013 Live on Sky Sports 1

PAL Promo PAL Sponsor PAL Intro

Context of the Match: It was now a one game shoot-out to decide who would go to Wembley in a fortnight to contest the Championship Play Off Final. After the most dramatic of last gaps finishes the previous day saw Watford prevail over Leicester. Anthony Knockaert missed a penalty, had the rebound saved and then Watford dashed up the other end to score and seal their place in the one-off match. Brighton and Crystal Palace knew who they’d be facing, it was now just a case of getting through to it. Following on from the nil-nil draw in the First Leg, Brighton would probably be the happier of the two sides with the decider tonight at The Amex. The Albion hadn’t lost here in 2013 so far, whilst Palace’s overall form was the worst of any side going into the Play Offs at this level for six years. They had just one win in eleven, just two away from home since November and yet the joint-most prolific strike force in the League. A curious stat surrounded the first goal; Brighton hadn’t lost when scoring first however they’d not won after conceding first all season. In a contest as tight and as closely fought as these Play Offs would be, the opening goal was even more crucial following Friday’s stalemate. The Albion would probably have been feeling the more disappointed of the two sides having created a couple of absolutely great chances in the first half; particularly Speroni’s save from Dean Hammond’s point-blank header. That was closely battled as had been the battles with the rivals so far this campaign. The head-to-head records didn’t separate the pair either, with both sides winning by three goals to nil at home on each of the two fixtures. The goalless First Leg was Albion’s seventh stalemate of the campaign, perhaps highlighting how good the defence was compared with a similarly goal-shy attack. Prior to last season, this fierce rivalry had gone six years since the previous meeting so there was understandable nervousness and animosity for this winner-takes-all bonanza. Whilst Gus Poyet had never experienced the Play Offs, Brighton had; most recently gaining promotion to the second tier by beating Bristol City in the Division Two Final. Mark McGhee was in charge then, how would the Gus bus cope with the high-stakes contest now? Brighton were aiming to return to the top flight for the first time in thirty years after relegation in 1983 the week before the FA Cup Final. This was our Cup Final now.

PAL Brighton PAL Palace PAL Subs

The Teams: After a decent trip to Selhurst Park on Friday, Brighton were unchanged from the draw. The defence conceded just forty-three times in the League all year making them the most frugal in the Division. Calderon, Greer, Upson and Bridge all started in front of goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak. The Pole only missed three of the forty-six regular season matches since arriving from West Brom last summer. Wayne Bridge was named in the PFA Team of the Season after a wonderful campaign including three goals. Player of the Year Liam Bridcutt was once again in fine form and picked up the Man of the Match award for Friday’s performance. David Lopez scored a terrific free-kick during the Albion’s three-nil rout last time Palace played at The Amex in March. Leonardo Ulloa netted the other two in that match and would be looking to add to his tally of nine League and one FA Cup goals since arriving in January. With top-scorer Craig Mackail-Smith not likely to return until 2014, Ashley Barnes was the back-up option on the substitutes bench. Ian Holloway named one enforced change to his Crystal Palace line-up with Aaron Wilbraham coming in after the horrific innocuous injury to top-scorer Glenn Murray sustained to his knee ligaments on Friday. His thirty-one goals fired him into the PFA Team of the Season for the Division, alongside his teammate Yannick Bolasie who only made the bench again tonight. Jonny Williams in midfield was a doubt as he came off in the First Leg but recovered well enough to begin here. Wilfried Zaha looked lively in the final half hour at Selhurst, having switched wings to get the better of Calderon because he had no luck against Bridge. Julian Speroni made one or two good saves in-goal. Owen Garvan hadn’t featured much during the calendar year, missing twenty matches, but continued in the middle for the third time in a row. A big game required a big name, Mark Clattenburg got the refereeing gig.

PAL Thomas PAL Beagrie PAL Studio

The Coverage & Presentation Team: The Play Offs continued to be hosted Live from the stadium with main host Simon Thomas at the helm. He was joined in the Amex studio by the number one pundit Peter Beagrie for the duration. Once the Play Off specific titles had played out fifteen minutes before kick off, clips from Sunday’s incredible other Semi Final rolled as Watford defeated Leicester in the most dramatic of fashions. Bill Leslie’s commentary would live long in the memory; “DEENEY! Do not scratch your eyes, you are really seeing the most extraordinary finish here with the very last kick of this Play Off Semi Final, Troy Deeney wins it for Watford.” The best bits from Friday’s First Leg followed, backed by dramatic music. The regular duo of Thomas and Beagrie were joined by Watford manager Gianfranco Zola in the studio for the first portion of the programme, before he headed to his seat in the stands to witness his Final opponents. The trio talked us through those incredible scenes from the previous day, as Anthony Knockaert missed his last-minute penalty for Leicester, as well as the rebound, before Deeney punished them in the most dramatic style. It was a moment that would live forever in Play Off history. Due to Zola’s presence, much of the first part of the show was devoted to Watford and his thoughts on tonight’s clash. Both Beagrie and Zola knew we would be in for a very close, tense match tonight. After the commercials, the teams waited in the tunnel whilst reporter Jonathan Oakes’ interviews with the two managers were shown on a split-screen. Gus Poyet hoped playing at home would be the advantage for Brighton, with the wide pitch and the victory over Palace just two months earlier all helping. “We are ready and we know how to deal with different situations,” he said. Everything was set, time to hand over to Sky’s premier commentary team of Bill Leslie and Don Goodman.

PAL Zola PAL Split Screen PAL Lynam PAL Analysis

The stats at half-time showed Brighton on top in terms of possession – 59% to 41% – and attempts on goal – five to Palace’s two, however only two on target. Peter Beagrie was surprised how the first half turned out to go the opposite way to what was predicted, as Palace took the game to Brighton rather than soak up the pressure to counter attack. After the final whistle, with Crystal Palace players jubilant on the pitch in front of their supporters, the pictures stayed with them for immediate reaction. Jonathan Oakes spoke with Man of the Match Wilfried Zaha, goalkeeper Julian Speroni and manager Ian Holloway all together. After the break, less than ten minutes remained before the scheduled finish so Thomas and Beagrie had to be succinct in their analysis. They had praise for Holloway’s superior tactics and clinical finishing. Gus Poyet’s post-match interview was understandably downbeat, but also interesting in terms of his future. “There’s plenty of things to check. Where is the roof? Did we hit the roof today and there is nothing above? What is gonna be the situation next season but we got time for that?” Asked on his immediate future he responded “Well I’m under contract.. I need to analyse as well my personal diary.” As a supporter there was no doubt Poyet would be here again next season, he’d done a terrific job and probably got us to this position quicker than we should have. But suddenly there was talk about his future and about our club’s ambitions. His comments about ‘hitting the roof’ were rather inflammatory. Did he believe he couldn’t take the club any further? Was the club not equipped to go beyond the Championship? There were many, many questions but so little time. The Sky Sports programme came off-air shortly after the interview but the questions continued for supporters for a long time to come. The main thing was it would be Crystal Palace, and not Brighton, who would be Live on Sky for the Play Off Final in two weeks time. The final, and most sensible words, went to Peter Beagrie who said of Brighton’s season; “You’ve got progression. They’ve done fantastically well, he’s a fantastic manager and it’s a bit raw to discuss his future at this stage.” With that, the team said their goodbyes for another broadcast.

PAL Kick Off PAL Comms PAL Referee PAL Stand or Fall

Story of the Match: Soprano singer Donna-Marie Hughes sang a Live version of ‘Sussex by the Sea’ to lead the teams out ahead of this monumental clash, the biggest game at The Amex so far. She previously performed at the Wolves game on the final day. The crowd was also provided with clackers – which weren’t so popular in hindsight- but did create a fantastic picture of blue and white stripes around the ground. Supporters were really up for this one, an electric atmosphere was created. Leo Ulloa clashed with Julian Speroni in the fifth minute chasing a loose ball, both requiring minor treatment. The full-blooded nature had spilled from the crowds onto the pitch. Zaha was caught in possession just outside his own box by Will Buckley who was able to get a shot away low to Speroni’s right, the ‘keeper equal to it. The Palace forward was not having a good time in his own half, giving fouls and the ball away, yet looked a danger in his more natural attacking role. Inigo Calderon was coping better than he did during the latter part of the First Leg. As on several occasions on Friday, Dean Hammond was a goal threat, shots from long-range falling just wide. Brighton saw more of the ball, it was a trademark under Poyet, but the final delivery was missing. There was panic at the back five minutes before half time when Zaha’s cross from the left was almost sliced into his own net by Hammond; his connection weak enough to slow the ball down for Upson to clear. It was every bit as nervy, every bit as tense as you’d expect. The deadlock continued.

PAL Policing PAL Poyet

The game’s first clear chance went the way of Palace and Jonny Williams. A classic counter attack was led by Zaha who thread through a pass on the half-way line for Williams to bring it forward one-on-one. He reached the edge of the box where he took his shot across the goalie, missing the target in the process. It was a let off for Brighton, who were really struggling to break down the Crystal Palace shape. The rain fell harder as the match went on. Gus Poyet decided to change things up with twenty-five remaining, Ashley Barnes replaced Andrea Orlandi. With his first touch Barnes hit the crossbar. A long ball forward was flicked into the area by Ulloa standing on the edge. Barnes was coming in behind and stabbed it forward as Speroni charged out, the ‘keeper got the faintest of touches to tip it onto the bar before the defence put it behind. The resulting corner also went Barnes’ way, his header then cleared off the line by Dean Moxey as the game really burst into life. Then in the 70th minute, disaster struck. Yannick Bolasie chased down an overhit crossfield pass. He delivered a ball into the box where Wilfried Zaha had run free of his marker Wayne Bridge. Zaha’s header was six yards out and centre of goal, he couldn’t miss and Crystal Palace took the lead. Aaron Wilbraham squandered a couple of decent chances before the final nail in the coffin came from Zaha again with two minutes to go. With his back to goal he rolled Gordon Greer with ease to absolutely thunder home a second goal with his left foot in off the woodwork from ten yards out. It was all over, the fans poured out as the rain poured down. Crystal Palace would go to Wembley to face Watford. They’d win promotion to the Premier League thanks to an Extra Time penalty from 39-year-old Kevin Phillips. Brighton would press the self-destruct button in the immediate aftermath of this result, as Gus Poyet, Mauricio Taricco and Charlie Oatway would all lose their jobs following a suspension and an internal disciplinary investigation. The full details of this may never emerge from what happened that night but it was a terrible shame to end such an incredible reign in that way. The final match of the Gus Poyet era drew to a close, the hunt now began for a new manager to start again on the trail for that elusive Premier League place.

BRIGHTON 0 CRYSTAL PALACE 2
Zaha (2)

PAL Replay

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

NEXT; #47 READING 0-0 BRIGHTON 15/09/2013

#45: Crystal Palace 0-0 Brighton 10/05/2013

#45 CRYSTAL PALACE 0-0 BRIGHTON Championship Play Off Semi Final 1st Leg
Friday 10th May 2013 Image result for

CPA Titles

PRESENTER Simon Thomas GUESTS Matt Lawrence & Craig Mackail-Smith
COMMENTATORS Bill Leslie & Don Goodman REPORTER Jonathan Oakes
7.45pm Kick Off; Selhurst Park, Croydon     7.30-10pm Play Offs 2013 Live on Sky Sports 1

CPA Ident CPA Sponsor CPA Intro

Context of the Match: Brighton had reached the Championship Play Offs in their second season back in the Division. The upwards trajectory under Gus Poyet continued, having raised the Seagulls away from the relegation zone in his first few months in charge, following that up with the League One title in his first full season, finishing a very respectable tenth in the second tier last season and now this, fourth place and into the Play Offs. The Albion had been in the top ten since August, briefly leading the way in September before a poor run of form drawing too many games saw them slide down the table. Form improved after Christmas and following a hard-fought win over eventual runners-up Hull City in our last televised match in February, Brighton found the consistency to catapult them into the top six. A Play Off place was confirmed in the final away match of the season with victory at Leeds and fourth was secured with a last day win at home to relegated Wolves. Just three League defeats in twenty-two matches this calendar year means Brighton are the form side of the four. Their opponents also happened to be their fiercest rivals Crystal Palace. They had hopes of an automatic spot in December but despite form slipping, they had been in the top six ever since October. They were in danger of dropping out of the Play Offs having not won in nine matches ahead of the final day of the season. A last-minute winner over Peterborough kept the Eagles in fifth place in dramatic style. Whilst Brighton had the best defence in the League, scoring goals wasn’t always straightforward with only Craig Mackail-Smith in double figures. Sky Sports televised every single Play Off game Live this season, meaning tonight’s clash took place under the lights on a warm Friday night in Croydon.

CPA Palace CPA Subs CPA Brighton

The Teams: Brighton were without top scorer Craig Mackail-Smith who was a long-term casualty due to an achilles injury. Having guaranteed a Play Off place with a game to spare, Poyet was able to rest key players for last week’s win over Wolves. Five changes were made to tonight’s line-up, bringing back core midfielders Dean Hammond, Will Buckley and Andrea Orlandi. Wayne Bridge returned after a slight injury and on the other flank Inigo Calderon came straight back in after a one-match suspension for a red card against Leeds. The best defence in the Championship was aided by former England defender Matt Upson, who slotted seamlessly into the side alongside captain Gordon Greer. Liam Bridcutt was named Albion Player of the Season for the second year running, crucial to why the club’s defence has been so well protected. Options on the bench included Ashley Barnes, Vicente and goalscorer last time out Kazenga LuaLua. Ian Holloway’s Crystal Palace side were spearheaded by former Albion striker Glenn Murray. He was inexplicably let go at the end of his contract in 2011 and as a free agent joined our rivals up the road. He was the club’s, and indeed entire League’s, top scorer this season with a fantastic thirty-one goals. The Eagles had lost that winning feeling in the final quarter of the season and made one change from the last-gasp victory on the final day as Jonny Williams replaced Yannick Bolasie – he’s the cousin of LuaLua. Danger man Wilfried Zaha was featuring at this stadium for the final time having already agreed to join Manchester United as incoming manager David Moyes’ first signing. Veteran striker, and no stranger to Play Off heartbreak, Kevin Phillips was on the bench. Refereeing matters was the Premier League’s Michael Oliver.

CPA Thomas CPA Lawrence CPA Mackail-Smith CPA Studio

The Coverage & Presentation Team: Sky Sports coverage of this Play Off Semi Final First Leg clash came on-air fifteen minutes before the 7.45pm kick off. Main Football League host Simon Thomas presented from the studio in the corner at Selhurst Park. The graphics were mainly the same as the regular season, with the addition of the ‘Play Offs 2013’ logo added. Club crests would now rotate to have that on one side and the Play Offs badge on the reverse. A specific title sequence was given to all Play Off fixtures with clips of great moments from down the years including Paul Dickov’s equaliser for Manchester City in 1999, Sasa Ilic’s save for Charlton in 1998 and all three of last season’s winners lifting the trophy. The overall look of the sequence and the music remained the same; Candi Staton’s “You got the Love”. The replay transition was the Play Offs trophy, the same that the League One and Two Champions receive. Thomas introduced the show by looking over last night’s other Championship Semi Final between Leicester and Watford before clips of tonight’s two teams played. His guests each represented the sides; Matt Lawrence for Crystal Palace and Craig Mackail-Smith for Brighton. Lawrence played in Palace’s defence for four years from 2006, making over a hundred appearances. He had Play Off experience at this level with Millwall under Mark McGhee back in 2002 and then again with Palace in 2008. Craig Mackail-Smith had a new look for the occasion, having had his trademark long hair shaved off recently. He was out with a serious achilles injury sustained in March that would prevent him from featuring for a long time. He too had Play Off experience having scored for Peterborough during the League One Final in 2011, his last match before joining the Albion. Glenn Murray for the home side and Brighton’s Liam Bridcutt were picked out as key men ahead of the clash, big games expected for both. Football League reporter Jonathan Oakes heard from both managers before the advert break, Poyet keen to stress the approach would be as usual; “the idea is to make sure we are strong enough mentally to play the game the same way.” After the pause, Thomas handed over to the number one League commentary team of Bill Leslie and Don Goodman. Leslie would do all Championship Play Off games, with Goodman and Andy Hinchcliffe accompanying him for each of the two pairs of fixtures.

CPA Play Offs CPA Schedule CPA Bridcutt CPA MOTM

At half-time Craig Mackail-Smith thought Poyet would actually be disappointed with the scoreline, Brighton had two great chances to take the lead but didn’t take them. Matt Lawrence saw Crystal Palace’s full-backs as the weakness that Brighton could exploit more in the second half. When the stalemate ended, reporter Jonathan Oakes got instant reaction from Man of the Match once again Liam Bridcutt, and Crystal Palace striker Wilfried Zaha, who played his final game at Selhurst before joining Manchester United. Bridcutt thought it was “a massive result for us” looking forward to the Second Leg with “a bit of an advantage now.” That seemed to be the general consensus; home advantage on Monday could be the deciding factor. Around ten minutes was allowed for post match discussion. Oakes chatted with Poyet who described the second half as “a bit more crazy, a bit more open and those are the games that are difficult to defend”, having been frustrated that his side didn’t take the lead in the first half. The injury to Glenn Murray was one of the talking points in the studio, how much he would be missed for the Second Leg but oddly it sparked Zaha into life having been largely anonymous before. There were several incidents of shirt-pulling ahead of corners and free-kicks, with Matt Lawrence believing Palace should’ve had a penalty for one of them. A rather sombre Ian Holloway spoke before the programme came off-air, clearly disappointed with the two injuries and not taking an advantage but “it’s all set for Monday night.” And following that we were done, all eyes would be on the return fixture Live on Sky Sports.

CPA Kick Off CPA Comms CPA Hammond header CPA Sub

Story of the Match: Brighton wore their change kit of luminous green and black stripes. The atmosphere was terrific as both sets of supporters were in full voice, albeit nervously, for this huge Play Off clash. The first chance fell Leo Ulloa’s way with a header six yards out from a free kick. He mistimed it as the flag spared any potential blushes calling offside. Minutes later he saw another header fly wide following a cross on the left-wing from Wayne Bridge. It was an encouraging opening six minutes for the Albion, the striker just needed to work on his direction. Young midfielder Jonny Williams had the first goalward effort for Crystal Palace, his long-range shot going wide. In the twentieth minute a golden chance was carved out by the Albion. Buckley did really well up against Delaney on the right-wing, beating his man for pace and getting a great cross in. Waiting centre of goal was Dean Hammond unmarked six yards out. His header had power but lacking in placement as it went straight at Julian Speroni in-goal who reacted well to keep it out. What a chance to take the lead. Hammond then had a strike that he sliced wide of the goal and too high for any attacking head to deflect home. At the other end Palace had attempts blocked when Brighton threw bodies on the line. It was tight and tense out there. Inigo Calderon picked up a yellow card just before half time for a late trip on Williams, meaning he’d need to err on the side of caution for the rest of the contest. Consequently, for the second half Palace switched Zaha from the right to the left flank to go toe-to-toe, as Wayne Bridge gave him absolutely nothing in the first. The change immediately brought the home side into the game, Zaha fired a ball right across the face of goal which both Murray and Williams were close to making contact. Dean Hammond remained the Albion’s biggest goal threat. A David Lopez set piece was met by Hammond’s head but he was offside and it was kept out by Speroni. The second period was much more even, one side attacked then the other would in turn. Palace nearly got the opener from Danny Gabbidon’s header, however Kuszczak was alert to it and got it away with the help of Orlandi on the line. Set pieces were the only way of conjuring shots on target. With twenty-five minutes to go Glenn Murray seriously injured his knee twisting in the box, he fell down in agony under no challenge and had to be stretchered off. The incident kept him out for the rest of the calendar year and beyond. Several long stoppages for injuries resulted in six minutes of added on time. Alas, nothing could separate the Eagles and the Seagulls tonight, as the First Leg came to a goalless close. Brighton would be the happier side ahead of the Second Leg, aware of their excellent home record. There wasn’t long to wait for the rematch; just three nights until the conclusion at The Amex on Monday. If you can bear it.

CPA Coming Up

CRYSTAL PALACE 0 BRIGHTON 0

CPA Replay

PREVIOUS; #44 BRIGHTON 1-0 HULL 09/02/2013

NEXT; #46 BRIGHTON 0-2 CRYSTAL PALACE 13/05/2013

#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

#16: Swindon 0-1 Brighton 16/05/2004

#16 SWINDON 0-1 BRIGHTON Division Two Play Off Semi Final 1st Leg
Sunday 16th May 2004 Image result for

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PRESENTER George Gavin GUEST Brian Little
COMMENTATORS Ian Crocker & Tony Gale REPORTER Fraser Robertson
4pm Kick Off; County Ground, Swindon     3.55-6.30pm Football League Live on Sky Sports 1

swi ident sky bet sponsor swi intro

Context of the Match: This was Brighton’s first foray into the end of season Play Offs since 1991 and that Final defeat at Wembley to Notts County. Whilst that match only featured in ITV highlights with Brian Moore’s commentary, today’s Semi Final at Swindon was given the full Sky Sports Live treatment. The Albion had finished fourth in Division Two, six points off QPR’s 2nd automatic promotion place, with Swindon in fifth place and four points worse off. As a result of the higher finish, Brighton would be at home in the second leg and supposedly have the advantage. Swindon possessed the most potent attack of the four Play Off teams and surprised most pundits by even getting to this stage. The Seagulls had dropped down from Division One after last season’s relegation and were looking for an immediate return. Leon Knight was the Division’s top scorer with 25 goals, joint with Stephen McPhee from a Port Vale side who missed out on this on just goal difference. The head to head record this season for the Robins and the Seagulls read as a draw at Withdean and a Brighton loss here at the County Ground, and going back further Swindon hadn’t lost to us in ten meetings. However as we’d already beaten the two sides who gained promotion, Plymouth and QPR, and both victories coming Live in front of the Sky Sports cameras, the mood was quietly confident ahead of this Sunday 4pm clash. As with all Live opportunities, fans used this to remind everyone about the club’s desperate need for the new stadium with chants and banners proclaiming Falmer as the only option – “One Site in Brighton”.  Whatever happened today it would only effectively be ‘half-time’ with the second leg to come on Thursday back in Sussex. It was sure to be a very close tie as the last of this season’s Play Off Semi Final 1st Legs got underway.

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The Teams: Mark McGhee made just one change from the side which won comfortably at Wrexham on the final day of the regular season, with midfielder Richard Carpenter returning in place of long-serving Gary Hart who dropped down to the bench. Top-scorer Leon Knight was leading the line with Scotsman Chris Iwelumo who joined in March. The core of the side that won back to back promotions under Micky Adams and Peter Taylor remained despite relegation last season, with Nathan Jones, Charlie Oatway and Danny Cullip starting whilst Michel Kuipers and Kerry Mayo were amongst the substitutes. Experience and strength at the back in the form of Guy Butters was complemented by skill and pace in midfield via new Australian signing Paul Reid for the Seagulls, who joined a few weeks ago initially until the end of this season. Ben Roberts in-goal had kept five successive clean sheets. Knight and Cullip were both in the PFA Division Two Team of the Season. The home side named former Premiership striker Tommy Mooney and Chelsea graduate Sam Parkin in their starting eleven. They provided a formidable 42 goal partnership up front, the best pairing in the Division. Defender Matt Heywood returned after an ankle injury. Andy King’s side look to cross at any opportunity so Brian Howard and Sammy Igoe on the wings would be ones to look out for. On the bench for Swindon was Grant Smith, son of Albion Cup Final striker Gordon. Premiership referee Neale Barry was in the middle.

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Presentation Team: George Gavin was Sky’s host. Presented from the studio, his guest this Sunday afternoon was Brian Little; a regular over the past two seasons but appearing slightly less now he’s back in management at fellow Division Two side Tranmere, whom he joined in October last year. He knows the League well, the Play Offs even better and it’s always a pleasure when he’s on punditry duty. You’re under the impression he and Gavin get on well which makes for much easier viewing. Little’s Tranmere had faced these two sides this season; beating both 1-0 at home but losing away. In the commentary box were Ian Crocker and Tony Gale. Crocker was firmly established now as the Football League number one, covering the vast majority of matches and only really missing out when logistics are against him. His fondness for a pun or a tabloid-style line make his goal calls all the more memorable and perfect for use on promos and clips. His partner today was one of Sky’s three regulars this season in Tony Gale. He’s a former West Ham defender who had been involved with Sky for a couple of years. He’s established as the League number three this season behind Chris Kamara and Garry Birtles. Reporting on the match was Fraser Robertson. He became Sky’s League reporter around November last season and covers the vast majority of the Live matches. Prior to this he reported for Sky Sports News and has also covered FA Cup Finals from the team hotels.

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The Coverage: The programme was due to begin half an hour before kick off but had to be cut right back until 3.55pm due to the overrunning programme preceding it. Sky Sports 1 had Live coverage of the 1pm kick off Conference Play Off Final between Aldershot and Shrewsbury which went all the way to penalties at Stoke’s Britannia Stadium. This meant there was just enough time to show the winning moments and trophy lift before coming off air in time for the start here. It would have been interesting to have seen what was planned to be featured during the proposed thirty minute build up, most likely a review of the Play Off action so far this week. There was still another match going on, in the Division Three Semi Final between Northampton and Mansfield, of which goals were being shown as they went in during coverage of our match. The five-minute build up included just a brief comment from Little and the only goal of the match thus far from Sixfields before our commentary team took over. Coverage was being presented from Sky’s Studios in Isleworth, allowing George Gavin to host all Play Off matches during this busy period. Sky increased their commitment to the end of season extras by broadcasting all four Division Two Semi Final matches Live this season – a first for the Third Tier. Previously only the four Division One Semis were shown Live, with the first dip into this level last year when the second leg of Bristol City v Cardiff was on. Titles and graphics remained as they had been for the regular season, with the red, black and white scoreboard style intro and The Skids’ catchy ‘Into the Valley’ instrumental theme tune. The replay transition was a very quick flash of the two team badges one after the other instead of the trophy that was used in the League season.

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Half time analysis fed on the scraps we saw in the first half, with chances mainly falling Swindon’s way. After reviewing those, the goals from the Division Three Play Off match were shown. With that a 3pm kick off the match was now over, finishing two nil to Mansfield. In the second half at Swindon Sky briefly pulled the plug on the match, losing pictures around the 66 minute mark, with Gavin and Little having to fill for a minute by showing one or two bits of match action until the engineers fixed the connection. Once the pictures were back it took another minute or so before the commentary line was restored too. Thankfully the problems here were nothing like the repeated interference on our previous Live match against Rushden in 2001! After the game, reporter Fraser Robertson interviewed goalscorer Richard Carpenter alongside Man of the Match Danny Cullip, who was awarded a big bottle of champagne courtesy of League sponsors Nationwide. Gavin and Little talked us through the key moments of the match, with particular focus of course on the deflected goal itself as well as Brighton’s excellent defending to keep yet another clean sheet. We heard from winning boss Mark McGhee who admitted “there was a certain amount of fortune” for his team with Swindon hitting the frame of the goal twice. He was pleased with the shape, giving Swindon limited options. He also confirmed Brighton would be going out for the first goal in the Second Leg to kill off the tie, rather than sit back and defend from the off like here. Swindon manager Andy King thought his “were the better side by far”, disagreeing with McGhee’s assessment. He was understandably frustrated by the loss and having more chances but just one on target was the crucial factor. The Town fans interviewed afterwards were very confident they could go to Brighton and overturn the scoreline. The final few minutes of the half hour post match was devoted to the Play Off picture as a whole before, soundtracked by the excellent ’77 Strings’ by Chamonix, signing off for the afternoon with all First Leg matches now complete.

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Story of the Match: Play started fairly tamely with very little goalmouth action either end. The atmosphere was the liveliest part of the first half, with Brighton fans behind the goal to the right of camera packing out the away end and Swindon fans in full voice elsewhere. Leon Knight was proving a bit of a handful for the defence, even managing to win flick ons and headers despite his 5ft5 frame. After the half hour mark Andy Gurney jinked past a couple of Brighton defenders before unleashing a shot which flew well wide and very high. And that summed much of the opening 45 up; a little promise but no end product. At the other end, Nathan Jones was looking particularly lively down the left-wing and managed to provide a couple of really decent crosses which came to nothing. With ten minutes remaining before the break Tommy Mooney was presented with a golden chance with a header at the back post which he put wide when it seemed like the goal was gaping. A covering defender’s lunging body was enough to put him off to keep it goalless. Sammy Igoe had the first effort on target after forty minutes for the home team, his long-range effort very comfortable for Ben Roberts in-goal. But three minutes later he came the closest of anyone when his neat one-two on the edge of the box gave him a shooting opportunity which flew past the ‘keeper only to be thwarted by the post. By the time the whistle went for half time Swindon were looking the better of the two. This didn’t carry on when the second half got underway, with Brighton on the front foot. But still the cutting edge was lacking and chances were frustratingly rare. Swindon grew back into the game and after 63 minutes hit the woodwork again! Igoe and Smith linked up on the left flank, with the latter crossing a very dangerous ball in for Mooney’s volley six yards out to crash against the bar, whilst Parkin’s follow-up was tipped over. The home side would really rue these missed opportunities as with eighteen minutes remaining it was Brighton who took the lead. Iwelumo held the ball up strongly in the area, laying it off for substitute Gary Hart on the edge. He couldn’t find space for a shot but did find Richard Carpenter twenty yards out who hit it first time and, via a slight deflection off (would you believe) Grant Smith, the ball ended up in the net. Breakthrough! The Albion gameplan for this Leg was all about defending resolutely and grabbing a chance on the break or from set pieces, and that’s exactly how it played out. Cullip and Butters were solid at the back, ably assisted in front by Oatway and Carpenter. Swindon couldn’t find a way through as the Seagulls completed the shut out for six clean sheets in a row. Advantage Brighton ahead of the decisive Second Leg in four days time.

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SWINDON 0 BRIGHTON 1
Carpenter

swi replay 1 swi replay 2

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

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