Sometimes the words for these reports just pop in to my head. It can be a curse, because it can happen at four in the morning or when I’m out on a run, miles away from a laptop but more often then not I know what I’m going to say. Today however it’s not happening because I have a massive hangover writer’s block.
The cursor has been blinking at me for approximately forty two minutes and thirty seven seconds while I ingest Berroca (other vitamin type supplements are available) and coffee and ponder a bacon sandwich.
The thing is, I write this sort of report far too regularly now and people are going to start suspecting me of mild, functioning alcoholism. In my defence, this was the game nearest to my birthday and a boys’ night out had been in the diary for some time. The Boy also has his birthday around the same time and he had his mates round for X-Box and the game on the telly, leaving the adults free to do a bit of guilt-free drinking. And that’s where we’ll begin, not because I want to dazzle you with the thirty fourth different synonym that I’ve thought of for beer drinking, but because the atmosphere in town was proper.
Five o’clock, the time that most people pile out of the office on a Friday, and the pub we were in was heaving. Brighton shirts, people I recognised from the Amex and Goldstone, and a big group of Villa fans who appeared to have been drinking since last Thursday. A proper night at the football was on the cards.
After a couple of beers we decided to get the bus to the ground for a change, a wise move given the reported “train carnage”, and then headed to the Student Union bar. The bar itself had no queue at all, or so we thought, until someone pointed out the queueing system where you order from one place and pick up from another. The “order” line was considerably busier and your reward at the end seemed to be a pint of one of those weak lagers brewed under licence by a bloke called Dave from Romford. We left again. An hour before kick off we disgorged ourselves out to the perimeter of The Amex and there were people everywhere. Yep, a proper atmosphere was definitely on the cards.
So, not bad for a bloke with a massive hangover writer’s block. Nearly four hundred words describing our journey to the game, hopefully setting the scene nicely for you. You’ll have got the impression it was busy and that the majority of fans were well oiled. Now I have to write about the game and that’s where the problems begin.
It’s not that I don’t remember anything. In fact, if at any point during it I made an observation through Albion tinted beer goggles, my old friend Mark would gently correct me and I’d make a mental note of the reality of the situation. It’s just that the reality of the situation was that we were being snuffed out.
Villa knew our weaknesses. They closed us down very well and were organised throughout. Much of our passing was careless as a result. The understandably subdued Knockaert was well martialled by the impressive Amavi. Even Gary Gardner looked vaguely ok. It was almost like someone close to our first team had tipped Steve Bruce off on how to play against us. Hmm.
And they took the lead with the first real chance of the game, Adomah swinging in a wicked free kick and Baker glancing in a header that Stockdale might have done better with. We’d offered nothing up to that point and neither had they. Just a cancelling out and a lot of chasing. Their fans had been noisy up to that point and now they went in to overdrive and we went silent. It desperately needed a pick up.
Luckily we got in to the game and spent twenty or so minutes playing like the real Brighton. At the end of the half it paid off. We broke quickly and Sidwell fed Murray whose one-two with Baldock gained him some space. A low shot from twenty yards and we were level. A lot of craziness up in the WSU.
“A great time to score” I mused, thinking we’d kick on from there, but no. If anything Villa were even more impressive in the second half. We had a couple of headed chances, while Sidwell put a well worked corner over with the ball just behind him and that was that. The rest was all Villa. They took off Gardner and put on Grealish, which was really taking the piss, They had corner after corner after corner and should have scored from one of them. Adomah and Kodija combined to set up the best chance of the half but Stockdale atoned for his earlier error. And that was that. Easily the best side to come to The Amex this season and, for me, a point gained for the Albion.
And then the night went downhill, or uphill, depending on your point of view. A beer kitty. A very large Villa fan who we christened “Tiny”. Jaeger shots. Some sort of rambling conversation about God Knows What, over and over again. Good friends, good times, a typical Friday night out with the boys. I needed it. The previous ninety minutes had shown how much work we still have to do.