Monday 20 February 2012

Albion Hit For Six!

Liverpool 6, Albion 1
FA Cup 5th Round, Anfield
Sunday 19th February 2012

Gus Poyet said after this match that it was a reality check for the team and the fans. He’s not wrong. Not many teams can say they went to Anfield, scored four goals and came away with a 6-1 defeat. Three own goals, some absolutely outstanding classy play from Liverpool, in particular from Steven Gerrard and the lively Luis Suarez who was everywhere, saw off Albion’s attempt to reach the quarter finals for the first time since 1983. Not many teams could have lived with Liverpool when they play like this, they passed and moved so quickly and had a real quality about them. Albion tried to play their usual passing game but there was a distinct lack of movement and quality, which was the difference between these two sides. This is the first time I’ve seen my team concede six goals and whilst it was not a pleasurable experience you could not help but admire the way that Liverpool played. At times rampant and unstoppable their second half performance was outstanding and Albion just couldn’t live with them.

For the first forty two minutes it looked like Brighton might get something out of the game. Albion went 1-0 down within five minutes of the start after Martin Skrtel headed in from Steven Gerrard’s corner. The Seagull defenders seemed to be too busy looking after the imposing figure of Andy Carroll in the penalty area to notice the glancing header from the Slovakian. Having suffered that early setback, which is just what Albion didn’t need, they bravely fought their way back into the game with some patient build up play and played their passing game quite effectively at times. They got their just reward when on 17 minutes Albion were awarded a free kick on the edge of the Liverpool area. Up stepped Kasenga Lua Lua who thumped home a shot of such ferocity that Pepe Reina couldn’t hold on to it. A brilliant goal that seemed to me like a carbon copy of the late goal he scored against Millwall in the 2-2 draw at the Amex last Tuesday night. Game on and the Albion fans were in full voice cheering their team on towards half time. A terrific goal line clearance from Inigo Calderon convinced the Seagulls fans that maybe, just maybe, we could get something out of this game. Just when it looked as if a 1-1 half time score line was imminent we saw the first of what were to be many defensive mix ups that resulted in a bizarre own goal from Liam Bridcutt. Heartbreak for Albion so late in the half but still not a disaster, little did Albion and their fans know what was to follow.

Craig Noone was brought on for the ineffective Will Buckley at the start of the second half for Albion but Liverpool stepped up a gear and every time they were awarded a free kick or corner you could sense the anxiety in the Albion defence. Albion fans held their heads in their hands for much of the second half as the onslaught continued. A goal from Carroll, two more bizarre own goals from Bridcutt and Dunk and one more from Suarez finally killed off the game leaving Albion and their fans begging for the final whistle. Liverpool even had the luxury of a missed Suarez penalty as Peter Brezovan in the Albion goal did brilliantly to save the spot kick and prevent further humiliation.

Although well beaten I felt that the score line in a strange way flattered Liverpool just a little, after all three own goals had never been seen in the FA Cup before and to their credit the Seagulls did continue to try and play their passing football game, not convinced that shutting up shop and conceding defeat was an option. Albion had a ‘may as well get hung for a pig as for a lamb’ mentality which I liked. Outplayed and outclassed? Yes. Lessons learned? Yes, for sure. This game showed how large a gulf there is between a newly promoted and ambitious Championship side and a top six Premiership side. If we had played as well as we know we can and Liverpool had an off day then perhaps Albion might have got something out of this game. It wasn’t to be and you have to acknowledge that the best team on the day won.
Despite the game and it’s result the Albion fans were absolutely magnificent throughout and didn't stop singing all afternoon, I was proud to be there and to be one of them. Even though we got narrowly beaten in a very tight game (well that's how I choose to remember it) we still managed to have a good laugh on the NWSS coach on our way home. It was certainly a day to remember in more ways than one. A big thank you to Andy at NWSS for organising the coach for yesterday's trip to Anfield. Thanks also go to drivers Hugo & Clive who got us there and back safely despite spending most of the return trip trying to overtake the Albion team bus along the M40. We managed to finally overtake the team bus with a window wave from the Albion defenders but I somehow suspect it wasn't the first time that day that the back four had been passed with ease.
A decent cup run comes to an end. It's been emotional.

Friday 17 February 2012

Liverpool Here We Come!

Liverpool vs Brighton & Hove Albion
FA Cup 5th Round
Anfield, Sunday 19th February 2012

6,000 Albion fans will be heading north towards Liverpool this Sunday as Brighton & Hove Albion take on the might of Premiership side Liverpool in the 5th round of the FA Cup. It's a dream tie for the Seagulls and their followers who are hoping for a repeat of the 1983 cup run that saw Albion reach the final itself.

With a near fully fit squad plus two recent new loan signings from Manchester City (Abdul Razak & Gui Assulin) to choose from it will be very interesting to see which eleven players manager Gus Poyet picks for his starting team. Fortunately FA Cup rules allow seven substitutes rather then the usual five that are allowed for normal league games so Gus will be able to have some decent players sitting on the bench. I cannot predict his team selection, even the ever present Craig Mackail Smith has lost out in the last couple of games. Liam Bridcutt and captain Gordon Greer will surely start and the prolific Will Buckley must be considered but after that it's anyone's guess. The manager has such strength in depth now that it makes his team selection a double edged sword. He has an abundance of choice but some players will no doubt feel very disappointed and unhappy at missing out on such a big match, especially if it's scousers Alan Navarro and Craig Noone.

This is probably the biggest cup game in years for Albion and the fans cannot wait to get up there. It's going to be a massive day with brilliant atmosphere and all the Brighton fans will be decked out in their favourite Blue & White colours for a terrific afternoon. I only hope that the team play as well as they can and put up a decent performance, if they do play at their best then who knows what can happen. That's the magic of the FA Cup. 

I'll be travelling up on the North West Sussex Seagulls coach with my usual coach buddies and we are so looking forward to a big day out. My Albion scarf, shirt and lucky pants have all been washed and are laid out ready for the big day, match ticket has been purchased and the coach seat booked. Yep, I'm definitely ready. Anfield here we come.

Friday 10 February 2012

I Know That Voice

Paul Carrack In Concert
Theatre Royal
Tuesday 31st January, 2012
Only I could manage to buy a ticket for a concert on the same day that Albion play away at arch rivals Crystal Palace. That match ended in a 1-1 bore draw but this concert was far more entertaining. A well packed Theatre Royal welcomed Paul Carrack and his band of musicians to Brighton.

Whilst Paul Carrack may not yet be a household name his voice and songs are instantly recognisable. Whilst he is a solo artist he has also had spells in bands such as Ace, Squeeze and more recently as lead singer in the excellent Mike & The Mechanics. He's written and collaborated for artists such as the Eagles and been a session musician for many bands including The Smiths and The Pretenders. He has a voice that is distinctly unique, its so rich, soulful and expressive. 

Paul Carrack is an extraordinarily talented songwriter and a gifted musician, a real find for those that haven't seen or heard him before. It doesn't matter if he is singing up tempo soulful dance music with saxophone sitting beautifully in the background or performing a heartbreaking ballad, he sings with such consummate ease and plays keyboard and guitars in the same exemplary fashion. 

During this concert we heard some classic songs such as The Living Years, How Long, Tempted, Another Cup Of Coffee, Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying, an achingly beautiful Eyes Of Blue, Love Will Keep Us Alive, Looking Back Over My Shoulder and What's Going On. All great songs, really well played and sung.

If you haven't got any Paul Carrack in your music collection you should be ashamed. Go out and borrow a CD from your local library or buy some of his music from your online store right now. Believe me, you won't regret it.

Set list:
It Ain’t Over
Just A Little Lie
Another Cup Of Coffee
I Don’t Want To Hear Anymore
Better Than Nothing
Long Ago
Love Will Keep Us Alive
I’m Gonna Make It Right For You
Without You
Eyes Of Blue
Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying
The Living Years
Every Time That You Walk In The Room
That Girl Of Mine
Time To Move On
How Long
Looking Back Over My Shoulder
What’s Going On