Two home matches in five days. Manna from heaven for this blogger of course. After over a month without a live game, relying on dodgy streams and not being interrupted by the kids during a Sky broadcast, suddenly I could eat all the pies, drink all the beers and shout fairly much what I wanted without missing a minute of the action.
They were, on paper, two very different games and despite an unbeaten run coming in to them, the realistic expectation was three points from the two. Four would have been a bonus. That’s because we were playing a side that were rock bottom, without an away win or a manager, followed by Leicester, big spenders and new league leaders. Football games aren’t played on paper though. Perhaps they should be. You could spend almost the whole 90 minutes laughing at players in bright orange and green boots falling on their arses and, afterwards, the kids could draw on the pitch. Three points is exactly what we got. Just not in the right order.
I’m not going to dwell too much on Tuesday, except to say I should be more careful with my main twitter account. That morning I had almost the perfect commute for the first time since autumn arrived and I wondered what Tuesday had left up it’s sleeve. Immediately my mate Jamie tweeted back that perhaps it held a Barnsley win. Surely not? Tuesday continued to be lovely to me. I was able to leave work early, I met an old friend by accident on the way to the ground, The Swan had an absolutely amazeballs guest ale on and seemed to get my cheesy chips to me in about thirty seconds using their unique ordering system where everyone has number 31. All good. Then the game started.
I honestly haven’t seen a more spineless performance since before Poyet joined us. It was like a return to the bad old days. After about ten minutes Barnsley realised that we a) had no pace and b) had taken them far too much for granted and pushed on and caused us real problems. They kept the ball better and twice they walked through the middle of our defence to score soft goals. Matt Upson got a consolation from a corner but even though there was plenty of time left it always felt like a consolation. I felt for the sponsors having to choose a Brighton man of the match because there wasn’t one. Upson got it for his goal. Subjects covered during a very swift post match pint in the West Lower concourse included ‘why didn’t Ince play?’ ‘wasn’t JFC shit?’ ‘weren’t we shit?’ and ‘why didn’t we play two strikers against the bottom side?’ All perfectly fair, though I suspect Ince was still shattered from carrying the team by himself in the first half at Bournemouth.
Saturday morning dawned. At home games I sit with my very, very good friend Mark and it was his son’s birthday party in Burgess Hill. We were going to get the coach to the Amex straight afterwards. So it was I spent the morning being screamed at by eight year old boys and listening to someone called Ginger Phil play Gangnam Style and What Does the Fox Say while clearing up half eaten cheese sandwiches. The kids had a blast and we made the coach in plenty of time. Now it wasn’t What Does the Fox Say but How Will the Foxes Play? More to the point how will we play? We couldn’t be that bad again could we?
The game started with a minute’s applause for Nelson Mandela, a man who I admire more than almost any other, though I struggle to see the relevance to a Saturday afternoon football match in Southern England. It was a timely reminder, though, that anything is possible. It also reminded me of being herded through the truly uninspiring Nelson Mandela Park in the middle of Leicester after away games at Filbert Street.
Then Mark pointed out the obvious change that I had missed. There was no Pole in Goal. There was a Slovakian. Kuszczak had been injured in the warm up and replaced by Brezovan aka Sexy Pete. I looked at Mark and uttered the stupidest words of the whole of Saturday. “Well, it’s just a case of if we lose three, four or five nil now.”
This opinion didn’t change as Brezovan was called in to action early as Dean Hammond (yes him) started a move that ended with similar toothless challenges to Tuesday and a smart save from the Slovak. It was to be our last bit of toothlessness of the half and also the last time I noticed Hammond touch the ball.
Still early in to the game we broke with pace (yes pace) down the right and found Spanish Dave in space on the flank. He played an almost impossible, perfect, cross on the ground that sliced Leicester open like a particularly accurate and arrogant surgeon showing off to the sexy new nurse and Barnes simply couldn’t miss from about four yards. 1-0.
It got even better. Leicester attacked but we broke it up. They looked like winning it straight back but Barnes won a brilliant 50/50 challenge to get the ball to Spanish Dave and then picked himself straight up to provide a dummy run down the right. SD played an almost impossible, perfect, long ball to Conway who controlled it brilliantly and slotted in to the far corner. 2-0. Two fucking nil against the leaders and we deserved it too.
All over the pitch heroes were being made with the exception of poor Gordon Greer who had to go off injured. Replacement El Abd had one of his best games in a Brighton shirt alongside Upson who was having one of those ‘read everything and win everything’ games. Bruno was the OLD Bruno. You know the one that first joined us? Bridcutt and Ince were dominating midfield, interchanging between pushing up and breaking up. Crofts worried them. Barnes was putting in a shift and a half. Sexy Pete was solid.
Inevitably Leicester took off Hammond and replaced him with Knockaert at half time and 27000 people (ok probably about 24000) wondered why Knockaet hadn’t started as he caused us immense problems. Talking of immense problems though Conway was still targeting Waselweski at right back. Conway was also having his best game in the stripes and exposing some truly dreadfully inconsistent refereeing as the Leicester right back got last chance after last chance after last chance. He should have been off. Eventually Morgan had to come over and cover him.
Inevitably again Leicester had a very bright 10 minutes as we sat too deep and they pulled one back as we left Andy King totally unmarked at the back post. The nerves were jangling. Oscar to his credit brought on Lua Lua as a statement of intent and we began breaking on them again. Having had a clear penalty turned down when Upson was pushed in the box we then earned another one as Barnes was similarly shoved and Mr Inconsistent gave it. He smashed it straight down the middle, Schmeichel moving a fraction too early. I had been doing that ‘Sky Sports hand over mouth’ pose but as it went in The Amex went mental and so did we.
Man of the match? Could have been any of them. Barnes got it, presumably for his goal tally and he certainly worked for it. He’ll be black and blue this morning but hopefully delighted.
Subjects covered during a very long two post match pints in the West Lower concourse included ‘wasn’t Ince immense’ ‘wasn’t Barnes great’ ‘how worried were you during the shaky ten minutes’ ‘wasn’t it great putting on Lua Lua when he did’ and ‘what the fuck happened to Dean Hammond?’
I got the train home happy.