A flock of Seagulls

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

28 September 2002

Brighton & Hove Albion 1 Grimsby Town 2

A cloudless, windless Indian summer day in the leafy suburbs of the happening metropolis that is Brighton. And oh what an odd stadium. More akin to those grounds that stage UEFA cup preliminary round games, it felt like a pre-season friendly in Vaduz. The Town fans were scrunched together in a temporary stand behind one of the goals (as seen to the right on TV). Around 30 yards from the pitch, to one side, with a lovely view across the verdant pastures (and running track). Tree-lined, with what looked like a clubhouse, pole vault runway and hammer cage out there in the dim distance behind the other goal. The ground is essentially three sided.

The sun blared down on the pitch, so the Town players warmed up in the narrow slit of shade near the hammer cage. The Town fans, in the open, squinted to see the amber artisans, but settled back to bathe in the sun. How pleasant. The section holding the Town fans was segregated from locals by some green netting over a couple of seats, we could almost hold hands with the Brightonians. Though, being northern, we wouldn't, of course.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Coyne, McDermott, Groves, Ford, Gallimore, Campbell, Coldicott, Pouton, Barnard, Robinson and Mansaram. The substitutes were Allaway, Raven, Cooke, Rowan and "Gorgeous George" Santos. Nothing more to add really, apart from the amazing world of the strange in the Town end. Err, why was David Crosby waddling in, along with the lead yodeller from Focus; Dutch experimental rockers from when the world was brown. It was still 1972, as far as these two were concerned. When was the last time you saw a walrus moustache support Town? Goo-goo, ga-joob.

While we're on the subject of hair, or should that be mad hair, the pictures of Brighton youngster Chris McPhee in the programme brought a smile to the face and a tear to the eye of many who remembered early 80s fopsters, Flock of Seagulls. How apt, and such a cheeky grin too.

First half

Brighton kicked off away towards the twilight zone, where only grass grew. They kicked the ball in the air, most inaccurately. Hands were rubbed, especially when Town easily passed around, over and through their defence following a free kick. Robinson's attempted scissors volley was charged down as he sought to finish off a Harlem Globetrotter bit of one touch passing. It was almost sweet, Georgia Brown. Brighton kicked the ball in the air again, Town got it back. Brighton kicked it in the air again, Town got it back. And how. Robinson turned, muscled and rolled past his marker, wriggling free about 30 yards out. He looked up and saw Barnard, not so much steaming as cruising down the left, unhindered by blue striped fowl. Robinson rolled the ball gently into that huge, huge gap, for one should never look a carthorse in the mouth. BARNARD controlled the ball, ambled into the area and, from about a dozen yards out and perhaps eight yards left of the goal, curled the ball around the 'keeper into the bottom right hand corner. The Town fans couldn't quite believe it, and the cheers were 80-20 laughter. The Town players threw themselves all over Barnard, who was strutting towards the Town fans. Oh joy spread amongst the believers "this was the day". A couple of minutes gone and already in the lead. There was no chicken counting going on, just yet.

And perhaps it was "the day", as Brighton persisted in their game plan of being very rubbish. It was quite embarrassing in a way. They seemed incapable of passing to each other and their modus operandi was "Give it to Bobby", the clearly unfit Zamora. Their passes didn't so much go astray as set off in search of the lost continent of Atlantis, without telling their parents (or the coastguard). Town could hardly believe their luck, and a few minutes later Mansaram received a pass in the centre just inside the Brighton half, turned, twisted, wiggled and waggled, slipped and shot from 25 yards, the ball slicing away from the 'keeper, smacking the inside of his right hand post and bouncing back across goal, to be cleared by their full back.

Brighton's response was a long shot that fizzed very wide of Coyne's left hand post. It was enough to wake their slumbering support, but of no real consequence. They then had another long shot which swayed way, way wide. Both were from incursions down the wings and a lay-back to a midfielder a few yards outside the penalty area. "My granny could do better than that" was the constant refrain from a Town fan, who wouldn't give up until someone laughed. I thought he said "My Galli could do better than that", which was debatable.

Ah, but such a move did eventually force Coyne to do something. One of their small, battling scufflers in midfield thwacked a right foot drive from just outside the penalty area, to the right of centre. The ball slowly swung away from Coyne, who leapt horizontally and parried the ball away from his top left hand corner, got up and flung himself on the bouncing ball as Zamora lurked. Let's not be churlish or condescending, it was an "Ooo"-some moment. You know, most of the half was hacking and tracking in midfield, with Town easily breaking up any attempt by Brighton to pass their way through. Ha, fools, don't they realise we don't like it up 'em, Captain Mainwaring. Tippy-tappy football at half pace is a Cornish pasty with a glass of milk stout to Coldicott and Pouton. And a lovely pub lunch was had by all.

There were a couple of less than magic moments, when several hearts were beating very fast. Brighton broke quickly down the Town right on a counter attack. Campbell didn't bother running back with one of the little scufflers, despite being stood next to him as they broke. From near the corner flag the cross was drilled low to the near post, about 10 yards out. Little Scuffler opened up his body and steered the ball with his right foot past Coyne's left hand post. Towards the end of the half Brighton broke away down the Town left, and fizzed a hard cross into the six yard box. McDermott did a magnificent diving header to send the ball whence it came, but Zamora had anticipated the flight of the ball and attempted to divert it back in to the now unguarded goal. Fortunately, the ball skimmed off the top off his head and out for a goal kick.

Apart from a dropped cross by Coyne (free kick given for, ahem, "pushing" by Zamora), another couple of dreadfully wayward long shots which were attracted to the hammer cage like a starry eyed suitor, that was Brighton in the first half. Let's ignore those long throws which didn't seem to cause many difficulties. Town didn't do anything really after Mansaram hit the post, they were content to scrap about in midfield, with the occasional foray into the dark continent that is sometimes known by lawyers as the "opposition half".

Barnard did cause a moment of outrage/panic when he intercepted one of many woeful passes by Brighton, surged down the centre, drifted to the right, waited for a foot, then fell over it, about 20 yards out. The referee spent an age getting the wall back, then making Barnard put the ball in exactly the wrong spot, then moved the wall again. Some people's tea had gone cold by the time Barnard delicately flipped the ball over the wall and over the bar to a land far, far away. Perhaps the land of chocolate.

The ball seemed strangely attracted to the slow growing area of darkness around McDermott. Fine by us, as it kept going out of play in the area of shade. At half time all was well in the world, for a change. Very poor opposition, the sun was up, the sky was blue, it was beautiful. There were great big holes everywhere, with Brighton holier than thou. Town were getting away with a few ropey performances, with Campbell, the ghost train on the right wing, Pouton still sluggish and the Barnard/Gallimore combination boiler still only simmering gently.

Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk

"You're more entertaining than a foam man fulminating".
"I'd only heckle Santos from 50 yards. Well, maybe 75".
"If they're like this, we'll have no trouble in the Second Division."
"He's promiscuous with his shrub movements."
"It's his first game and it's not like anything he's ever seen before."

Second half

The teams walked back on the pitch to the kind of music that Pathe News used to play under News Of Great Importance. Which was that no changes were made by either team at half time. Brighton had clearly had a rollicking roasting at half time, for they came out playing much more quickly and aggressively. They eschewed passing for whacking, so the game lost much of its prettiness. You don't have to read 13 layers of irony and sarcasm in to that statement, but it helps.

A couple of minutes into the half Ford fouled a striker near the left corner of the penalty area. The ball was curled in towards the far post, whereupon Coyne gracefully glided through the autumnal sunshine to tip the ball away as it arced towards his top right hand corner. The next 20 or so minutes were, for the average bear, quite boo-boo-boring. The football was atrocious, as Town kept launching high balls up to Mansaram and Robinson, neither of whom won more than a handful of headers all afternoon. When they did it was a waste of time as they were never very close to each other and certainly didn't have any midfield support.

So the ball kept being returned towards Coyne. Mansaram had a twisting turning run, followed by a careful curling left foot shot 10 yards wide. Barnard volleyed so far wide and high it was off the richter scale and there was a major surprise when a Town player went down the left and crossed through the middle of the six yard box. It was so surprising that no-one was paying much attention, neither fan nor footballer, so the moment passed by like a sneeze in a forest.

There was a farcical football moment very early on when the Brighton 'keeper ponced about with a back pass, attempting to jink his way past Campbell, who for one brief moment was visible. I suppose you could say Kuipers tried to jink the unjinkable. He pirouetted thrice past, around and near Campbell, only to turn into the path of Mansaram. A couple more twizzles and Mansaram nicked the ball away, but Kuipers plunged on the ball as it rolled towards the bye-line wide of goal on the right. You know how some "forward thinking" clubs blast out music when they score? Why don't they play appropriate music during the game? This cried out for the Benny Hill saxophone chase music. You can picture it now, can't you.

Pressure built slowly upon Town, with Brighton getting closer and closer. They pumped it up, and we anticipated a gathering second division storm. Coyne was forced to plop on a low cross from their right, after Gallimore was duped, perhaps the least surprising description you have read this week. A bit of the old in-out, in-out just outside the Town box resulted in one of their little scufflers dragging a low shot a foot or so wide of Coyne's right hand post. More pressure. More crosses. More blocks and headers out. Barnard bundled a Brighton player to the floor out on the Town left, near the corner flag, and started to rub himself all over his opponent, all testosterone and trousers. Free kick, flung in, cleared, no danger.

Although no clear chances had been created, Brighton just looked like they'd score. The ball was bound to fall for them in the box eventually, a little shove unnoticed, a little luck with a ricochet, that's all it would take. And here it was, oh, no it wasn't. The ball was flicked up into the Town box, Zamora helped Ford to the ground with a little shove in the back, turned and whacked a shot at Coyne, who parried wonderfully, but it was wasted, as the referee gave Town a free kick. Ah, here it was, that little fortune that would favour the homesters. No! Stacy's on the pitch, how could it. Zamora was played through in a big, big space behind the Town defence. He bore down on goal, just to the right of centre, about 15 yards out. Just as he was about to shoot Coldicott slid in from behind to knock the ball away with his right boot, somehow managing to avoid handballing, then hooked the ball away, all in one movement, whilst swivelling on his bottom. His clearance went to a Brighton player, who swayed inside and curled the ball straight into Coyne's arms. The tackle was magnificent, Mooresque in it's grace and perfection. Those few, those happy few, that were in the Withdean will be able to say "I was there when the greatest Town tackle ever told was made".

Still Brighton pressed, long throws, corners, free kicks, wellies, everything. All relatively easily dealt with though. Then a significant moment. No, not when Robinson was replaced by Rowan (or Gro-an as he should be called, as the Town fans, almost in unison, groaned when he ran on the pitch) with about 25 minutes left, but five minutes later, when Groves stretched to clear a simple punt down the right touchline. Zamora challenged, Groves grimaced and immediately signalled to the bench that he should come off. The throw in had already been taken, was knocked into the middle of the Town half and a short pass was played through the centre of the Town defence between Groves and McDermott. ZAMORA spun round Groves, who was unable to move freely, and smashed a drive past Coyne from near the penalty spot. In celebration a firework banged somewhere. Or was it the Town club cat being kicked?

Groves was immediately replaced by Raven the Rock, who I understand is a character in a new Playstation game. The Brighton goal had a curious effect upon the game, as it failed to act as a catalyst for a stirring, surging bravura performance from the home team. They continued to pump up high balls, but Raven has no truck with such simple things. They took Zamora off. Fine, have it your way, their only player who had a clue what to do was now off the pitch. Around this time Pouton had a shot which went two hoardings' wide. And they were big hoardings. Is that a further euphemism for the manic midfielder? Two hoardings wide of a goal.

With about 10 minutes left, Mansaram shielded the ball with his back to goal, wiggled and waggled through a couple of hefty challenges and was scythed down near the right edge of the Brighton penalty area. Free kick to Town. "Don't let Galli near it" shouted the terrace wag, or was that terrace wig, for there was some curious hair amongst the town folk today. "Oh no, don't let Pouton take it" shouted another, as Pouton curled a terrific shot into the goalkeeper's top left hand corner. We were up again laughing at another Town goal, but lo, something weird was going on down in the valley below. The Town players, surrounded the referee, going bananas, as did the management team. The referee disallowed it, booked Coldicott, walked over to the dug-outs and sent Wilkinson off (which distressed his daughter so much she had to phone her mum up immediately).

After an age, the free kick was taken again, with Pouton's whack being deflected over the bar for a corner. Of course, the Town fans were dumbstruck, as there appeared no logical reason for the goal to be erased from history. It was only after the game that word spread that it was disallowed for encroachment by the Brighton wall. So, clearly, no logical reason, especially as the referee didn't book any of the wall for encroaching.

This fired up Town no end, and especially Pouton, who had previously been most slumbersome. A couple of minutes after the "goal" Pouton received a pass in midfield, just inside the Brighton half on the Town left. He surged forward through a couple of tackles, a step over, a further surge, a couple of manly barges, and POUTON from about 20 yards smashed a low, hard drive, just inside the 'keeper's right hand post. We didn't laugh now, we roared, and roared and roared in anger and happiness. Much arm waving, fist shaking, growling "yesssses".

Brighton had just one chance after that, and boy what a chance. Zamora's replacement was set free inside the Town area, beating the offside trap (which had foundered frequently upon the benevolence displayed to Brighton by Mr Ives with the yellow flag, 'Orrible Ives, as Norman Stanley Fletcher once perceptibly observed). Just a dozen yards out, with Raven desperately racing back, the young floppy-haired Brightonian sliced a shot ecstatically wide. Well, ecstatically for us.

Three minutes of added time ticked away with not a care in the world for the Town fans, as the ball was up at the Brighton end, with a series of throw ins won by Mansaram and Barnard. For once, Town's time wasting in the corner looked efficient and professional. As Brighton finally attacked, with a long throw, the referee ended the game, and started Town's season. The players walked off with huge smiles across their faces, as had we as we walked out of the ground. We've finally found a team worse than us. Brighton seem a one trick pony, Zamora or nothing, and he was dealt with effectively today, until Groves was injured. Their defence was easily shredded by Town! Nothing more needs to be added to that sentence.

So a good day for us, with a fightback from injustice, the triumph of the little man. Pouton was energised by the disallowed goal for a few minutes; ninety minutes would be nice, Mr P. The defence mostly coped, though the Gallimore/Barnard left side was very dodgy at times, with both of them leaving the right winger, who hugged the touchline in the second half, to the other. It wasn't as though they hadn't seen him, as they both kept turning round and pointing at him. Up front, Robinson and Mansaram didn't link very well, but they didn't get too many chances, as the ball was in the air a lot. Mansaram was quite effective at holding the ball and turning dangerously. He looks like a player that will score several goals a season from outside the penalty area, with twisting instant hook shots. An interesting player, with extendable arms and legs, like a useful ladder.

So, there we are then. Some goals, a Town win and Groves on the manager's bench. Happy now?

Nick0's Man of the Match

Well Danny Butterfield was up there in the reckoning, as he gave a faultless performance at the back of the stand, never putting a foot wrong. He was just where the Town fans wanted him. Mansaram showed enough to justify his place and hope for the future; Groves coped well with the unfit Zamora, until he hobbled; and Coyne made a couple of good stops (as people say about that difficult second album). But today, there can be only be one, and that is STACY COLDICOTT. I don't care about that misplaced pass in the second half, nothing happened. What about that tackle! Sheer brilliance, a goalsaver if ever there was one.

Official Warning

Mr M Warren

He was doing so well, gaining bonus points for mistakes in Town's favour. A bit officious, especially at free kicks, he suddenly plummeted towards the festering cesspit of refereeing scoredom with that frankly daft decision. Which one? THAT one! He turned up, he didn't send anyone off. He gets a point for each of those things. So 2.61. He lost 6 for THAT decision.