Sunday 18 December 2011

The Magnificent Nine

Albion 0, Burnley 1: Amex Stadium
Saturday 17th December

Did Barnes go over the top?

Well blimey, that was an eventful match yesterday. I don’t think I’ve heard quite so much noise from the Albion fans since the opening match at the Amex against Doncaster, the fans were simply brilliant.

After a recent resurgence in form with three wins out of the last four Albion were back up to the fringes of the play off zone and looking to push on. Brighton got off to a bright start against Burnley and seemed intent on winning a game that on paper looked like it might be a pretty even match. However, an even match is exactly what it wasn't going to be. After six minutes the referee Craig Pawson stopped play whilst he consulted with the fourth official, he then marched with purpose across the pitch and inexplicably showed a straight red card to Albion midfielder Romain Vincelot. The Albion players and fans were incensed as no one seemed to have a clue as to why a red card was shown. This early on in a game most refs would have perhaps given a verbal warning or shown a  yellow card, but oh no, not this ref. Albion down to ten men but worse was to come.

If the Albion players and fans were angry then four minutes later they were positively raging with fury as the ref again showed yet another red card, this time to Ashely Barnes for what was, to be honest, a fairly rash challenge. Having seen the tackle for a second time on TV I have to say that it did look a little ‘over the top’, however the Burnley player was all over Barnes and grabbing him viciously around the throat, most referees would have seen that as retaliation and booked him as well. But oh no, not this ref. Mr Pawson certainly seemed to lose control of the match from the moment he spoke with the fourth official in the sixth minute when he sent Vincelot off and his refereeing just went from bad to worse. A clear foul on Albion winger Craig Noone in the penalty area went unpunished, a slap around the face to Albion's Adam El Abd was also ignored and just to rub salt into the wound Albion full back Tarrico was booked for justifiably complaining to the ref. So Albion down to nine men after ten minutes, let battle commence.

Burnley finally made their numeric advantage count when Kieran Trippier scored a cracking goal from 20 yards out. However, the Albion fans were now really starting to make themselves heard and were quickly becoming the team's tenth and eleventh man. When the teams appeared for the start of the second half the Seagulls fans were just brilliant, especially when singing ‘The Great Escape’ for most of the half. It was now a very exciting match and even though Albion played most of the match with nine men their defence was outstanding, in particular the returning Adam El Abd who epitomised the strength and mentality of the whole team.

As much as Burnley tried they just couldn't find a way through and I thought that they looked pretty weak up front, if Brighton had a full compliment of players I'm convinced they would have dominated play and easily beaten a poor Burnley side. Brighton had a late goal disallowed (no surprise there I suppose) and in fact Albion very nearly sneaked a winner right at the death when Craig Mackail-Smith was through on goal and only a goal line clearance prevented a well deserved equaliser. The final whistle eventually blew and the fans chanted that it was 1-0 to the referee, and they weren't wrong.

There is no doubt that this ref spoiled the game with his one sided refereeing decisions and he seemed to have it in for Albion after the sixth minute sending off. The one good thing to come out of the game was the magnificent support from the Albion fans, it was truly remarkable. It must have lifted the players who gave absolutely everything and they came so close to getting something from this match. The debate can go on about the rights and wrongs of the early sendings off but the the referee must surely be even handed, this ref was not. Albion should have had a penalty at the very least and it could be argued that Burnley should also have had a player sent off. It wasn't to be and we move on.

The match was lost in the tenth minute went Barnes went off but Albion sure did give a good account of themselves after that, if they show that spirit and togetherness for the rest of the season then they will be fine. A full match report can be found on the official Seagulls website here.

A final word here for Gully's Girls who looked just great in their Santa outfits for their pre-match dance routine. At least the ref didn't send them off as well!

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