Sunday 17 July 2011

Oh Gary Hart, Gary Gary Hart...

Gary Hart and Steve Cook with the trophy (photo Simon Dack)

Sussex Senior Cup Final, Amex Stadium, 15th July 2011
Albion 2 - Eastbourne Borough 0

How fitting that the player to score the first ever goal at the new American Express Community Stadium should be Gary Hary. At 34 the man is a legend to Albion fans and although released at the end of last season he was made captain for the day in his last ever game in a Brighton shirt. Hart scored the first ever goal at the Withdean and is the only Albion player ever to have played at the temporary Priestfield home in Gillingham, Withdean and the Amex and the only one to have scored in all three stadiums. Gary Hart has created Albion history and no one deserves it more. The fans were absolutely delighted for him when he popped up in the 70th minute to score and give Albion a 1-0 lead. Up came the now familiar chorus of "Oh Gary Hart, Gary Gary Hart" for one last time. Thirteen minutes later the impressive Steve Cook heads in the winner and Brighton have won their first trophy of the season. This was effectively the Albion's reserve team/development squad playing to win the Sussex Senior Cup and although Eastbourne Borough put up a spirited defence I have to say that in my opinion the better team won.

The Amex - How Was It For You?
This was the first ever football match at the Amex and as such was a 'ramp up' event with the crowd limited to under 10,000 to see how effectively the people and traffic management systems that were in place were actually going to work. Generally quite good would be my opinion, particularly the traffic and rail management.

However, there were issues with the refreshment service from the food kiosks in the Upper West Stand and it wasn't long before huge queues were forming for the pies and pints (and I mean seriously long queues). I believe that these refreshment problems weren't just restricted to the Upper West Stand either.

Standing outside in a deluge of rain whilst waiting for the turnstiles to open meant that we probably got as wet as we ever did at Withdean before we could finally get inside the stadium and into the dry. I understand that there were ticketing issues with some fans not getting tickets in time and consequently large queues started forming outside the Amex club shop whilst people waited to get in to collect tickets, or perhaps just to get shelter from the pouring rain. Maybe signage around the ground and on roads leading up to it could be improved and surely a clock inside the stadium itself is a neccessity? I'm not moaning here you understand, they're just my observations.

So some lessons can be learnt from the day but that is what a ramp up event is for after all so we shouldn't get too concerned at this stage as I'm sure the club will iron out some of these issues for the next ramp up event, the friendly against Spurs in two weeks time. We look forward to that game when a near full house will test management systems to the max.

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