Last night I had the joy of coming on twitter after a defeat and not really feeling down. Even though many Town fans knew Simon Grayson’s first half tactics had cost us, nobody was calling for his head or messaging the players insults like we saw last season. Why? Well I can only assume like me Town fans are just happy to be playing decent stuff in the Championship after years of obscurity.
Then I went on to read tweets about Mark Hughes and Lee Clark who are both struggling at their clubs even though both have been backed financially. There were tweets calling for their heads, berating their tactics and signings, all I could feel was relief that we weren’t in that position. I must admit some of the #clarkout tweets are comedy genius.
So anyway, yesterday was the first time Grayson had cocked up with his formations. His decision to stick with 4-4-2 with Adam Clayton playing an inside right wing role just invited pressure from Brighton in the first half and we were firmly outclassed by a very good footballing side.
Their first goal I missed as I was answering natures call and I must admit it was quite eerie as I walked up the stairs to hear Brighton’s distant celebrations and all Town fans as quiet as mice in shellshock. Looking back at the highlights of Will Buckley’s goal, you can only blame the entire defence for falling asleep and it’s not the first time this season that our players have dozed off from a set piece.
Town were behind, looking to get back in the game, but Brighton continued their dominance. We weren’t quick enough in closing down Brighton’s players and in the first 25 minutes Gus Poyet’s team looked a class above. As Grayson said “We lost today’s game in the first 20 minutes – we didn’t start the game well enough… you can’t switch off and make the mistakes we did against a team like Brighton.”
Despite Town finally waking up and having some possession, we looked impotent in front of goal unlike Brighton. Ashley Barnes header was rightfully chalked off for being offside, before Buckley made it 2-0 with what I will call an embarrassing goal to concede. Keith Southern gave the ball away cheaply whilst trying to turn in midfield; Craig Mackail-Smith’s through ball caught Joel Lynch in two minds which only led to him falling flat on his arse, whilst Buckley mocked Peter Clarke turning him inside out before finishing past Smithies.
Why did it have to be Buckley? Three years ago he was firmly on our radar whilst ripping up League Two with Rochdale, such a shame we never brought him here. The lad oozes class and if Brighton don’t go up this season, Buckley surely will.
Town’s only chance of real note in the first half fell to one of our many loanee strikers Simon Church, who managed to miss a free header from point blank range. He definitely should have buried it.
The half-time entertainment certainly proved to be a lot better than Town’s first half performance. Good old Rambo making the “everyone knows you have to keep the back shut against Brighton” comment before talking to a German Brighton fan in his tongue as he took part in dizzy penalties. I must say the Brighton fan was a good sport and a testament to the club, just like other Brighton fan I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
Second half Grayson reverted to 4-3-3/4-5-1 which managed to stifle Brighton, the formation he should have stared with. We started to look more composed on the ball and Clayton started to pull the strings in the centre of midfield. Chances were still hard to come by, but a guilt edged one fell to Lee Novak who poked wide. You couldn’t help but feel if that had fell to Church or one of our injured contingent that we would have back in with a shout.
As Brighton sat back, Town went more direct bring Alan Lee on for the ineffectual Lee Novak. It proved worthwhile as we started to create more, but still nothing came out of it until the 90th minute and the goal was soft. A Danny Ward shot was spilled by the last minute replacement Brezovan and Church converted the rebound. Four minutes, surely not time for an equaliser.
Well there was time for Buckley to take advantage of us pushing for an equaliser as he broke, but failed to convert a one-on-one with Smithies. A fine save and the second time Buckley was denied his hat-trick by Alex. At the other end Town had a huge penalty claim turned town as Clarke was pushed by Brighton sub Calderon, stonewall penalty not given.
Brighton did deserve their victory, but I can’t but help feel aggrieved that we didn’t get a penalty for the challenge on Clarke at the end or when Clarke was pulled down in the area in the first half. Of course when you lose people say fans always blame the ref, but I’d have given both challenges as penalties to Brighton if our players had fouled them so obviously. The referee’s performance was poor, mainly due to a lack of consistency. Twice Brighton players committed cynical fouls when Town were in attack and received no booking, whilst Ollie Norwood was harshly booked for blocking Buckley when he turned him. If I was on Football Manager the referee’s performance would read “Simon Hooper had an average game, but was seen as favouring the away side”.
Ultimately it was Grayson’s first half tactics and Town’s failure to start the game until after 20 minutes that cost us. Playing Adam Clayton out wide nullified his best attributes and failed to attack one of Brighton’s weak points, Marcos Painter. Of course without Beckford and Vaughan we lack two class strikers, but yesterday it was our poor service that cost us as we relied too much on Danny Ward to provide that spark.
Ah well another reminder that in this division you have to be on your game for 90 minutes to get a result and if you’re not, you will be punished. Onwards to Charlton to try and get back on track, only 23 points away from safety!
P.S will someone tell Gus Poyet that throwing yourself about on the floor exaggerating an injury is pathetic and an awful tactic. Honestly, any player doing this needs to MAN UP.